My Blue Chair
I sit down in a lively room.
Everyone is joyously talking in their individual groups while I bask in the comfort that is my blue chair. My favorite color. I know this chair well. Whenever others stand and talk, I’ll likely be in my chair because I fear losing it.
I take a deep breath, acknowledging where I am, and that I’m content here, but as people discuss I see no issue with listening in.
One voice shares, “I’d rather create my own robot than have a kid.”
That’s pretty interesting, I wonder why.
Another voice bitterly comments “Well how can you like Mr. I? Didn’t you hear about what he did?”
Mr. I is great…What did he do?
A third voice angrily says, “Why would anyone like Pandas? They are terrible animals.”
Who is slandering Pandas? Pandas are my favorite animal. I have to say something, I have to hear more.
I try to get up, to interject, and protect the Pandas. Being split between two of my favorite things until I feel pulled back down into my blue chair. I realize I almost left my chair, and I can’t do that. Even if I want to stand and talk about Pandas, it isn’t worth giving up my chair. Anyway, they probably don’t want to talk to me, they probably would be happier without me opening my mouth. So I resolve to enjoy my chair because that way everything stays the same. All of those voices are from acquaintances and all I know about them I’ve heard from their conversations. Like all other times, I have something to add, but a single statement won’t get me standing like them. They don’t have chairs as warm as mine.
Franz Kafka was born on July 3, 1883, in Prague, Bohemia, Austria-Hungary.
The son of an assimilated Jew who held only perfunctorily to the religious practices and social formalities of the Jewish community, Kafka was German in both language and culture. Inwardly, he rebelled against the authoritarian institution and the dehumanized humanistic curriculum of his high school. Kafka’s opposition to established society became apparent when, as an adolescent, he declared himself a socialist as well as an atheist. As a Jew, Kafka was isolated from the German community in Prague, but, as a modern intellectual, he was also alienated from his own Jewish heritage. He was sympathetic to Czech political and cultural aspirations, but his identification with German culture kept even these sympathies subdued. Thus, social isolation and rootlessness contributed to Kafka’s lifelong personal unhappiness.
Kafka did, however, become friendly with some German Jewish intellectuals and literati in Prague, and in 1902 he met Max Brod. This minor literary artist became the most intimate and solicitous of Kafka’s friends, and eventually, as Kafka’s literary executor, he emerged as the promoter, savior, and interpreter of Kafka’s writings and as his most influential biographer. The two men became acquainted while Kafka was studying law at the University of Prague.
Generally speaking, Kafka was a charming, intelligent, and humorous individual, but he found his routine office job at the Workers’ Accident Insurance Institute for the Kingdom of Bohemia and the exhausting double life into which it forced him (for his nights were frequently consumed in writing) to be excruciating torture, and his deeper personal relationships were neurotically disturbed.
In 1923 Kafka went to Berlin to devote himself to writing. During a vacation on the Baltic coast later that year, he met Dora Dymant, a young Jewish socialist. The couple lived in Berlin until Kafka’s health significantly worsened during the spring of 1924. After a brief final stay in Prague, where Dymant joined him, he died of tuberculosis in a clinic near Vienna.
Many of Kafka’s fables contain an inscrutable, baffling mixture of the normal and the fantastic, though occasionally the strangeness may be understood as the outcome of a literary or verbal device, as when the delusions of a pathological state are given the status of reality or when the metaphor of a common figure of speech is taken literally. Thus, in The Judgment a son unquestioningly commits suicide at the behest of his aged father. In The Metamorphosis the son, Gregor Samsa, wakes up to find himself transformed into a monstrous and repulsive insect; he slowly dies, not only because of his family’s shame and its neglect of him but because of his own guilty despair.
At the time of his death, Kafka was appreciated only by a small literary coterie. His name and work would not have survived if Brod had honored Kafka’s testament—two notes requiring his friend to destroy all unpublished manuscripts and to refrain from republishing the works that had already appeared in print. Brod took the opposite course, and thus the name and work of Kafka gained worldwide posthumous fame. This development took place first in France and the English-speaking countries during the regime of Adolf Hitler, at the very time when Kafka’s three sisters were deported and killed in concentration camps. After 1945 Kafka was rediscovered in Germany and Austria and began to greatly influence German literature. By the 1960s this influence became global and extended even to the intellectual, literary, and political life of Kafka’s place of birth, what had become communist Czechoslovakia.