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L., B.D. (1949). Diaries 1910–1913: By Franz Kafka. Edited by Max Brod. New York: Schocken Books, Inc., 1947. 345 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 18:97-98.
(1949). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 18:97-98
Diaries 1910–1913: By Franz Kafka. Edited by Max Brod. New York: Schocken Books, Inc., 1947. 345 pp.
Review by: B. D. L.
Psychoanalysts are rarely much enlightened by the diaries which patients bring them to read. At best, as in detective stories, they serve to substantiate an alibi, prove what the diarist was not doing. Kafka's notations are less actual alibis than a mixture of various sorts. They contain a record of his interests, particularly the theater, as well as various comments he has to make about himself, his family and friends, his reading and writing. Interspersed are some preliminary sketches of tales, several beginnings that he did not use and, rarely, a dream that impressed him.
Kafka was an isolated man. He preserved an unusual detachment from his parents and siblings with whom he lived, sometimes not speaking with them for days, and he was capable of ruthless criticism of them and of his attitude toward them. He was no less unsparing of himself, recognizing his apathy in all directions except writing. 'When it became clear in my organism that writing was the most productive direction for my being to take', he writes, 'everything rushed in that direction and left empty all those abilities which were directed toward the joys of sex, eating, drinking, philosophical reflection and above all music. I atrophied in all these directions. This was necessary because the totality of my strengths was so slight that only collectively could they even halfway serve the purpose of my writing.'
This hypochondriacal note is repeated, often in remarkable phrases. 'The auricle of my ear felt fresh, rough, cool, succulent as a leaf, to the touch'; and he notes: 'Custom, immediately after awakening, to dip the fingers three times in water, as the evil spirits have settled during the night on the second and third joints of the fingers. Rationalist explanation: to prevent the fingers directly touching the face, since, uncontrolled during sleep and dreams, they could after all have touched every possible part of the body, the armpits, the behind, the genitals.'
Kafka's extraordinary efficiency and power over words appears in all these recordings, particularly in the brief preliminary and usually discarded sketches of tales, which have all the vigor of his best style. As for any psychoanalytic insight into Kafka that might throw light on him as an author, the diaries are naturally disappointing. As in the story of the pathologist who autopsied a Dyak from the hills of Borneo and found a little arteriosclerosis
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