In literature, colleagues are the ones who congratulate you for not writing too much and who will soon congratulate you for not writing at all. And I know that everyone loves the critical and devastating exercise of others, an exercise of malevolence that, if not carried out periodically, could cause disorders and torment. And I am not unaware that, if there is an exception to this rule, it is Samuel Beckett, who never spoke ill of others. According to his friend Cioran, to understand this unusual attitude of Beckett’s, one had to resort to the expression “stay apart”, a tacit motto of that type of writer who is essentially a being “outside of everything”, which leads him to relentlessly pursue a relentless and endless literary work.
An expert on writers and malevolence, WH Auden said that, if one day the poem of an important poet resisted us, we should be patient, because in reality what the poem wanted to tell us was:
—Read me and not the others.
Auden’s also comments that no poet or novelist wishes to be the only writer in all of history, but the majority, on the other hand, would love to be the only writer of their time, and a good number naively believe that this desire would make them happy. It has been granted.
And here comes Kafka, one of the most humble writers who have ever existed. Canetti was one of the first to detect it: “he really lacked the vanities typical of the writer, he never became conceited, and we would do well to follow in his footsteps, because we would become modest.”
Now, it is very difficult to be modest when you are nobody. A recent invitation to Cádiz, to the sessions of The Writers’ Couples (an attractive title for a cycle), has led me to discover a not very well-known side of that young Kafka who, lying on the grass, felt like an outcast of society. land.
In the Cádiz cycle they talked about the loves of Virginia Woolf, those of Nora and James Joyce, those of Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald. And in the session with Marta Carnicero and Antonio Soler we analyzed the correspondence between Felice Bauer and Franz Kafka.
Kafka was not sure what Felice meant by literature. He had sent him Contemplation, her first book, and after 17 days, she still didn’t tell him anything about it. But I think you have to understand Felice: she was a simple young woman who had the role of being the “first reader” of the monster. She had a great attack of jealousy when she found out who Felice was reading and wrote to her: “I feel jealous of Werfel, of Sophocles, of Ricarda Huch, of Lagerlöf, of Jacobsen. And I don’t like Schnitzler at all, with a sentimentality that I wouldn’t touch with the tips of my fingers.”
Two weeks later, he asked Felice for understanding for his insults, but Kafka was Kafka and, immediately afterwards, he shouted at him in writing: “But how right you were!” As for the offended writers, he ironically said that he saw them all “flying like angels over the valley in which I lie lying on the grass.” And how right he was! Or do we not wonder what became of those angels and all the invention they brought?
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