Kafka is abused in the modern critique: A Novel

My problem, if you see it that way, is that I cannot seem to do anything. I suppose that you think I will have solved these problems by the end of this story, but I am afraid you are probably wrong.

My life is pleasant. I am satisfied from time to time with my work. I find it very difficult to do the things I love even though I certainly have the time, which may sound strange to you. The things I love most are to paint complicated things and to read complicated stories. I become fixated on ideas, and some of these ideas have stuck with me for many, many years. But that hasn’t really happened for a long time. In any case, I get the feeling that if I had pursued my artistic ambitions I would have been much unhappier than I am. I am satisfied, and I don’t need much to be so.

When you are tired, it is as if your body is a wet lump of clay. You are on the edge of a tall building and you cannot find any breath left in your lungs. It is good to sleep, but sleeping too much can give you a headache. It is hard to get to sleep. I am up now and it is very late. I had been lying in bed for an hour and a half before I started thinking up these lines. I didn’t even realise that much time had elapsed until I checked the clock just now. That makes me angry because I hate missing out on sleep. And I will have to get up at 8:30 sharp.

It is a shame when you think up something beautiful in the night and you can’t be bothered to get up. I wish my train of thought could be extracted from my head. It was flowing out of me like a leak from a busted pipe. But now that I start to write, and I see the flat screen in front of me, it is different somehow. I started off there, and now I am here. I cannot explain it. I cannot find the right words and I can’t remember what the central idea even was.

I looked up at the clouds earlier today. Some were bulbous billowing things like piles of fluffed rice. Others were like hair drawn across a face by the wind, or like light brushstrokes. I see my name on those clouds. I look at them, now, and the sun is so concentrated, so fierce and kindly shining on everything that I feel like it is talking to me. I’m just breathless. I cannot help but look at the subtly changing blue, and the falling down houses, and the green all around and the cracked pavements, that everything is beautiful.

My dog is getting old. We sometimes sit together, but he is beginning to annoy me with all of his strange sounds, his lips champing together as if his saliva is too thick. It takes him a long time to get up, and he doesn’t like being touched as much. I don’t like thinking about him dying, so I’d rather he wasn’t here to remind me all of the time. His only occupation is to guard his food, which he licks often, and then to tip over his bowl so that it spills over the floor.

Today I woke at 8.30 am. I was woken up by a fly that kept landing on my calf. I suppose I must have slept well, as I felt much, much better than yesterday. Yesterday was a day when I couldn’t walk or do anything. I felt like a vegetable, and I sat on the bed and my neck ached. In any case, once I am up I am up. There is nothing I can do about it. There is no going back to sleep, except on days like yesterday, when I gladly fell back to sleep for an extra three hours.

I like that the expression is to ‘fall asleep’, although the sensation is much more like travelling backwards in time, or being wrapped in downy pillows surrounded by the smell of your mouth.

I can’t remember if I drank coffee today. I know I am introverted, you can probably tell that by virtue of me writing this story, but I am so to the detriment of my memory of real life events. I forget things very easily. When I was a child I had to carry around a notepad to write events down in. My mother used to ask me what the weather was like yesterday, and she would get very angry if I couldn’t recall whether the sun was shining, whether there were clouds in the sky, whether there was traffic on the way to school (she sometimes expanded her testing parameters depending on her mood). Suffice to say I was not very good at this game. I used to give her a kiss on the cheek before heading out of the car through the school gates. One day, when I must have been about eight, she told me that I was too old for that sort of thing.

I know that there have been some things I recall well that have turned out to be manufactured by my mind. For this reason, I do not trust myself very much. People seem to trust themselves a lot, rather too much I think. I know I am not the only one that experiences these sorts of things. When we see something, what is that? I am looking at a shiny black chimney pipe. Now I am looking at a turquoise lamp. It has a stroke of yellow paint on the side. I am quite sure of these things, but my mind is not really looking at all of the object. I look at the lamp, and there are things going on such as these: 1. I have seen this lamp many, many times before, so I am not very interested in it. I know what it looks like; 2. I have a diagram of this sort of lamp in my mind, made up of all of the lamps I have seen before in my life. I see the distinguishing feature of the lamp – I even unconsciously made a note of it the first time I mentioned it (the fact that it is turquoise) – and the rest is left up to my mind to make up. Of course, I can go closer and study its etchings and idiosyncracies. Well, I know I won’t do that. I would never do that. Well, maybe now I will. Now I am on the floor (the lamp’s home is on the floor under the window, next to the woven string chest that my dog has chewed) looking at it. Now that I look closer there are actually several dots of paint and not a single brushstroke. I think I had brushstrokes in my mind from thinking about those immaculate clouds I saw earlier when I was sitting on the old bench on the village main road.

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