The Castle by Franz Kafka - HTML preview
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A NEW TRANSLATION, BASED ON THE RESTORED TEXT
Translated and with a preface by
This translation first published in 1998
IV. First Conversation with the Landlady
V. At the Chairman's
VI. Second Conversation with the Landlady
VII. The Teacher
VIII. Waiting for Klamm
IX. The Struggle Against the Interrogation
X. On the Street
XL In the Schoolhouse
XII. The Assistants
XIV. Frieda's Reproach
XV. At Amalia's
XVII. Amalia's Secret
XVIII. Amalia's Punishment
XX. Olga's Plans
Afterword to the German Critical
Edition, by Malcolm Pasley
"Dearest Max, my last request: Everything I leave behind me... in the way of diaries, manuscripts, letters (my own and others'), sketches, and so on, [is] to be burned unread.... Yours, Franz Kafka"
These famous words written to Kafka's friend Max Brod have puzzled Kafka's readers ever since they appeared in the postscript to the first edition of _The Trial__, published in 1925, a year after Kafka's death. We will never know if Kafka really meant for Brod to do what he asked; Brod believed that it was Kafka's high artistic standards and merciless self-criticism that lay behind the request, but he also believed that Kafka had deliberately asked the one person he knew would not honor his wishes (because Brod had explicitly told him so). We do know, however, that Brod disregarded his friend's request and devoted great energy to making sure that all of Kafka's works--
his three unfinished novels, his unpublished stories, diaries, and letters--would appear in print. Brod explained his reasoning thus:
My decision [rests] simply and solely on the fact that Kafka's unpublished work contains the most wonderful treasures, and, measured against his own work, the best things he has written. In all honesty I must confess that this one fact of the literary and ethical value of what I am publishing would have been enough to make me decide to do so, definitely, finally, and irresistibly, even if I had had no single objection to raise against the validity of Kafka's last wishes. (From the Postscript to the first edition of The Trial)
In 1925, Max Brod convinced the small avant-garde Berlin publisher Verlag Die Schmiede to publish _The Trial__, which Brod prepared for publication from Kafka's unfinished manuscript.
Next he persuaded the Munich publisher Kurt Wolff to publish his edited manuscript of _The Castle__, also left unfinished by Kafka, in 1926, and in 1927 to bring out Kafka's first novel, which Kafka had meant to entitle _Der Verschollene__ (The Man Who Disappeared), but which Brod named _Amerika__. Wolff later noted that very few of the 1,500 copies of _The Castle__ he printed were sold. The first English translation of _The Castle__, by Edwin and Willa Muir, was published in Britain in 1930 by Secker & Warburg and in the United States by Alfred A. Knopf. Though recognized by a small circle as an important book, it did not sell well.
Undeterred, Max Brod enlisted the support of Martin Buber, Hermann Hesse, Heinrich Mann, Thomas Mann, and Franz Werfel for a public statement urging the publication of Kafka's collected works as "a spiritual act of unusual dimensions, especially now, during times of chaos."
Since Kafka's previous publishers had closed during Germany's economic depression, he appealed to Gustav Kiepenheuer to undertake the project. Kiepenheuer agreed, but on condition that the first volume be financially successful. But the Nazi rise to power in 1933 forced Kiepenheuer to abandon his plans. Between 1933 and 1938 German Jews were barred from teaching or studying in
"German" schools, from publishing or being published in "German" newspapers or publishing houses, or from speaking and performing in front of "German" audiences. Publishers that had been owned or managed by Jews, such as S. Fischer Verlag, were quickly "Aryanized" and ceased to publish books by Jews. Kafka's works were not well enough known to be banned by the government or burned by nationalist students, but they were "Jewish" enough to be off limits to
When the Nazis introduced their racial laws they exempted Schocken Verlag, a Jewish publisher, from the ban against publishing Jewish authors on condition that its books would be sold only to Jews. Founded in 1931 by the department store magnate Salman Schocken, this small publishing company had already published the works of Martin Buber and Franz Rosenzweig as well as those of the Hebrew writer S. Y. Agnon as part of its owner's interest in fostering a secular Jewish literary culture.
Max'Brod offered Schocken the world publishing rights to all of Kafka's works. This offer was initially rejected by Lambert Schneider, Schocken Verlag's editor in chief, who regarded Kafka's work as outside his mandate to publish books that could reacquaint German Jewry with its distinguished heritage. He also doubted its public appeal. His employer also had his doubts about the marketability of six volumes of Kafka's novels, stories, diaries, and letters, although he recognized their universal literary quality as well as their potential to undermine the official campaign to denigrate German Jewish culture. But he was urged by one of his editors, Moritz Spitzer, to see in Kafka a quintes-sentially "Jewish" voice that could give meaning to the new reality that had befallen German Jewry and would demonstrate the central role of Jews in German culture. Accordingly, Before the Law, an anthology drawn from Kafka's diaries and short stories, appeared in 1934 in Schocken Verlag's Bucherei series, a collection of books aimed to appeal to a popular audience, and was followed a year later--the year of the infamous Nuremburg Laws--by Kafka's three novels. The Schocken editions were the first to give Kafka widespread distribution in Germany. Martin Buber, in a letter to Brod, praised these volumes as "a great possession" that could
"show how one can live marginally with complete integrity and without loss of background." (From The Letters of Martin Buber |New York: Schocken Books, 1991], p. 431) Inevitably, many of the books Schocken sold ended up in non-Jewish hands, giving German readers--at home and in exile--their only access to one of the century's greatest writers. Klaus Mann wrote in the exile journal Sammlung that "the collected works of Kafka, offered by the Schocken Verlag in Berlin, are the noblest and most significant publications that have come out of Germany."
Praising Kafka's books as "the epoch's purest and most singular works of literature," he noted with astonishment that "this spiritual event has occurred within a splendid isolation, in a ghetto far from the German cultural ministry. " Soon after this article appeared, the Nazi government put Kafka's novels on its blacklist of "harmful and undesirable writings." Schocken moved his production to Prague, where he published Kafka's diaries and letters. Interestingly, despite the ban on the novels, he was able to continue printing and distributing his earlier volume of Kafka's short stories in Germany itself until the government closed down Schocken Verlag in 1939. The German occupation of Prague that same year put an end to Schocken's operations in Europe.
In 1939, he reestablished Schocken Books in Palestine, where he had lived intermittently since 1934, and editions of Kafka's works in the renewed Hebrew language were among its first publications. In 1940, he moved to New York, where five years later he opened Schocken Books with Hannah Arendt and Nahum Glatzer as his chief editors. While continuing to publish Kafka in German, Schocken reissued the existing Muir translations of the novels in 1946 and commissioned translations of the letters and diaries in the 1950s, thus placing Kafka again at the center of his publishing program. Despite a dissenting opinion from Edmund Wilson in The New Yorker (where he nonetheless compared Kafka to Nikolai Gogol and Edgar Allan Poe), a postwar Kafka craze began in the United States; translations of all of Kafka's works began to appear in many other languages; and in 1951 the German Jewish publisher S. Fischer of Frankfurt (also in exile during the Nazi period) obtained the rights to publish Kafka in Germany. As Hannah Arendt wrote to Salman Schocken, Kafka had come to share Marx's fate: "Though during his lifetime he could not make a decent living, he will now keep generations of intellectuals both gainfully employed and well-fed." (Letter, August 9, 1946, Schocken Books Archive, New York) Along with the growing international recognition of Franz Kafka as one of the great writers of our century, scholars began to raise doubts about the editorial decisions made by Max Brod. The notebooks in which Kafka had written The Castle, for instance, contained large crossed-out sections with the last part in a fragmentary state, forcing Brod to make editorial decisions. Intent on securing an audience for his friend, Brod sought to improve the readability of the unfinished novel by normalizing spelling, introducing standard High German punctuation, changing the way Kafka's chapters were broken, and deleting the final chapters (although by 1951 this material had been reinserted into the German edition, and in 1954 was translated by Eithne Wilkins and Ernst Kaiser and placed in the English edition with the final paragraphs in an appendix). Brod's main concern was to make the novel appear as a unified whole, although Kafka had not supplied an ending; indeed, he appears to have broken off the novel in mid-sentence.
Salman Schocken was among the most eager for new, critical editions of Kafka's works.
"The Schocken editions are bad," he wrote in an internal memo. "Without any question, new editions that include the incomplete novels would require a completely different approach."
(September 29, 1940, Schocken Archives, Jerusalem) However, Max Brod's refusal to give up the Kafka archive in his Tel Aviv apartment or to allow scholars access to it made such new editions impossible until 1956, when the threat of war in the Middle East prompted him to deposit the bulk of the archives, including the manuscript of The Castle, in a Swiss vault. When the young Oxford Germanist Malcolm Pasley learned of the archives' whereabouts, he received permission from Kafka's heirs in 1961 to deposit them in Oxford's Bodleian Library, where they were subsequently made available for scholarly inspection.
Since the 1970s an international team of Kafka experts has been working on German critical editions of all of Kafka's writings, which are being published by S. Fischer Verlag with financial support from the German government. The first of these editions, The Castle, appeared in 1982, edited by Malcolm Pasley in two volumes, one for the restored text of the novel drawn from Kafka's handwritten manuscript, the second for textual variants and editorial notes. (See the afterword to the German critical edition in the appendix to this volume for Pasley's discussion of his work.) Our new English translation of The Castle, by Mark Harman, is based on the restored text in the first volume of the Pasley German critical edition, which corrected numerous transcription errors in the earlier editions and removed all of Brod's editorial and stylistic interventions. Although many of the novelties of the German critical text (such as Kafka's unorthodox spelling and his use of an Austrian German or Prague German vocabulary) cannot be conveyed in translation, the fluidity and breathlessness of the sparsely punctuated original manuscript have been retained, as Mark Harman explains in his preface. We decided to omit the variants and passages deleted by Kafka that are included in Pasley's second volume, even though variants can indeed shed light on the genesis of literary texts. The chief objective of this new edition, which is intended for the general public, is to present the text in a form that is as close as possible to the state in which the author left the manuscript. Thus, for the first time, English-speaking readers will be able to read Kafka's haunting novel as he left it.
ARTHUR H. SAMUELSON Editorial Director, Schocken Books, New York TRANSLATOR'S PREFACE
W. H. Auden once said that anybody who presents a new translation of a literary classic ought to justify the endeavor--a task, he adds, "which can only be congenial to the malicious."1 I have no desire to malign the translations of the Muirs, a gifted Scottish couple who were in Prague learning Czech while Kafka was in Silesia writing Das Schloß. Their elegant translations, beginning with The Castle (1930), quickly established Kafka's reputation in the English-speaking world.
Yet translations eventually do show their age and the Muirs' Kafka is no exception. The literary sensibility of Edwin Muir, the primary stylist, was molded by nineteenth-century figures such as Thackeray and Dickens, and he had little sympathy with contemporary writers such as Virginia Woolf and James Joyce. He had this to say about Ulysses: "its design is arbitrary, its development feeble, its unity questionable."2 Small wonder, then, that he and Willa Muir should have toned down the modernity of The Castle.
The datedness of the Muirs' translations has not gone unnoticed. In 1983, the centenary of Kafka's birth, the critic Siegbert Prawer summarized the case in favor of new translations: "Scholar after scholar has told us of the Muirs' tendency to tone down Kafka's ominousness and make his central figures more kindly than they are in the original.... They misunderstood some of Kafka's phrases and sentences... [and] tended to obscure Kafka's cross-references by elegant variation.... At other times, the Muirs import connections where there are none in the original.... "3 Moreover, the Muirs' translation furthers the rather simplistic theological interpretation proposed by Brod, who saw the Castle as the seat of divine grace. Edwin Muir even outdid Brod by stating bluntly that "the theme of the novel is salvation"; he also suggested that it was a kind of updated version of Bunyan's seventeenth-century prose allegory, The Pilgrim's Progress. That allegorical reading, which dominated the critical debate about the novel for several decades, is now widely discredited. Muir himself was firmly convinced that literature could not survive the demise of religious belief: "If...
that belief were to fail completely and for good, there would be no imaginative art with a significance beyond its own time. But it is inconceivable that it should fail, for it is native to man."
Those strong convictions leave their mark on the Muirs' translation, which fits a religious mould more neatly than does the original.
Literary translators must forge a prose style that mimicks the original. How best to describe Kafka's style in The Castle? Thomas Mann speaks of its "precise, almost official conservatism." Yet that is only part of the story. The writers in Kafka's eclectic pantheon mirror his oscillation between conservative-classical and modern styles. Among his favorites were Goethe, Kleist, the nineteenth-century Austrian novelist Adalbert Stifter, the rustic Alemannic moralist Johann Peter Hebel, Dickens (though Kafka disliked his verbosity), Flaubert, Dostoevsky, and the quirky Swiss modernist Robert Walser.4 The prose style of The Castle reflects its origins as a first-person novel.
Kafka changed his mind while working on the third chapter and went back, crossing out each "I"
and replacing it with "K." Nevertheless, that original conception left an imprint on his style. As in much first-person fiction, the tempo of the prose charts the state of the central character. When K. is agitated, it is choppy. When K. loses himself in the labyrinth of his paranoid logic, it is tortuous and wordy. When the emphasis is on K.'s actions rather than on his thoughts, the prose becomes terse.
At such moments--chapters 2 and 3 are striking instances--the stark prose becomes a miracle of precision. Kafka can be both taut and fluid. His prose seems meticulously chiseled, but he did not labor over it. The flowing handwriting in the manuscripts with relatively few corrections suggests the intuitive certainty of a somnambulist. Perhaps that is why there is so much life in his extraordinarily compact sentences.
At times, however, the prose slows downs and is almost asphyxiated by clotted passages of opaque verbosity. That wordiness may well parody the prolixity of Austro-Hungarian officials, which, incidentally, occasionally amused Kafka, who once embarrassed himself by erupting in uncontrollable laughter during a speech by the president of the Workers Accident Insurance Company in Prague. In the course of one key chapter in The Castle an official called Bürgel drones on in almost impenetrable pseudo-officialese, which I have tried to keep as murky in English as it is in German.
In the second half of the book Kafka chooses to narrate the story largely through conversations and reported speech. As a result, his prose becomes increasingly fluid, culminating in a breathless monologue by a barmaid called Pepi. One can sense the pleasure that he takes in mimicking the envious, spiteful voice of Pepi. And indeed, though a notoriously severe critic of his own work, he himself notes in a letter to Max Brod (September 11, 1922) that he is quite pleased with the last chapters he has written. Yet this uncharacteristic sense of satisfaction does not prevent him from announcing in the very same letter that he is giving up on the book for good. It therefore seems only fitting that the new edition of this unfinished but seminal modern novel should halt, tantalizingly, in mid-sentence. Kafka lifts his pen from the paper, and his words fade into the page.
It is difficult to discuss translation without giving specific examples, which I shall now do.
First I shall compare three versions--my translation, the Muirs', and the German original, in that order--of a central, if rather dense, passage in the novel, in which K. compares the church tower in his hometown with the tower of the Castle: And in thought he compared the church tower in his homeland with the tower up there. The church tower, tapering decisively, without hesitation, straightaway toward the top, capped by a wide roof with red tiles, was an earthly building--what else can we build?--but with a higher goal than the low jumble of houses and with a clearer expression than that of the dull workday. The tower up here--it was the only one in sight--the tower of a residence, as now became evident, possibly of the main Castle, was a monotonous round building, in part mercifully hidden by ivy, with little windows that glinted in the sun--there was something crazy about this--and ending in a kind of terrace, whose battlements, uncertain, irregular, brittle, as if drawn by the anxious or careless hand of a child, zigzagged into the blue sky. It was as if some melancholy resident, who by rights ought to have kept himself locked up in the most out-of-the-way room in the house, had broken through the roof and stood up in order to show himself to the world.
And in his mind he compared the church tower at home with the tower above him. The church tower, firm in line, soaring unfalteringly to its tapering point, topped with red tiles and broad in the roof, an earthly building--what else can men build?--but with a loftier goal than the humble dwelling-houses, and a clearer meaning than the muddle of everyday life. The tower above him here--the only one visible--the tower of a house, as was now evident, perhaps of the main building, was uniformly round, part of it graciously mantled with ivy, pierced by small windows that glittered in the sun--with a somewhat maniacal glitter--and topped by what looked like an attic, with battlements that were irregular, broken, fumbling, as if designed by the trembling or careless hand of a child, clearly outlined against the blue. It was as if a melancholy-mad tenant who ought to have been kept locked in the topmost chamber of his house had burst through the roof and lifted himself up to the gaze of the world. (Muirs, 12)
Und er verglich in Gedanken den Kirchturm der Heimat mit dem Turm dort oben. Jener Turm, bestimmt, ohne Zögern, geradenwegs nach oben sich verjüngend, breitdachig abschließend mit roten Ziegeln, ein irdisches Gebäude--was können wir anderes bauen?--aber mit höherem Ziel als das niedrige Häusergemenge und mit klarerem Ausdruck als ihn der trübe Werktag hat. Der Turm hier oben-es war der einzige sichtbare--, der Turm eines Wohnhauses, wie sich jetzt zeigte, vielleicht des Hauptschlosses, war ein einförmiger Rundbau, zum Teil gnädig von Epheu verdeckt, mit kleinen Fenstern, die jetzt in der Sonne aufstrahlten--etwas Irrsinniges hatte das--und einem söllerartigen Abschluß, dessen Mauerzinnen unsicher, unregelmäßig, brüchig wie von ängstlicher oder nachlässiger Kinderhand gezeichnet sich in den blauen Himmel zackten. Es war wie wenn irgendein trübseliger Hausbewohner, der gerechter Weise im entlegensten Zimmer des Hauses sich hätte eingesperrt halten sollen, das Dach durchbrochen und sich erhoben hätte, um sich der Welt zu zeigen. (Schloß, 18)
Catching the tone is particularly important in pregnant passages such as this, passages that
"foreground" language itself--a term coined by the Linguistic Circle in Prague--with the help of techniques more commonly encountered in poetry than in prose.5 The Muirs' version of this passage still reads well. Indeed, critics who regard smooth readability as the prime criterion in translation might prefer their version of this passage to mine. My English is stranger and denser than the Muirs'; it is also less vivid than theirs. But then so, too, is Kafka's German.
In the above passage the Muirs transform the cryptic original into a sermon about the gulf between the human and the divine. The words with which they characterize the church tower--"soaring unfalteringly,"
"loftier," etc.--have spiritual undertones that are more pronounced than those in the original.
They also lessen the negative implications of Kafka's description. In their translation the church tower is "graciously mantled" by ivy--a phrase I render as "mercifully hidden by ivy" ("gnädig mit Efeu verdeckt"). The voice we hear at such moments in the Muirs' translation is not so much Kafka's as Brod's.
Since the Muirs see K. as a pilgrim in search of salvation, they tend to overlook the criticism that Kafka directs at his namesake. I have sought to make K. as calculating and self-serving in English as he is in the original. For instance, in the first chapter Kafka uses the potentially ambiguous phrase "nach seinen Berechnungen" to describe K.'s thinking (Schloß, 30). The Muirs translate that phrase as "by his reckoning" (Muirs, 23); I render it as "according to his calculations"
because I hear in it a covert allusion to K.'s calculating nature. Besides, the phrase may be doing double duty here; it could also refer to the ostensible occupation of K., the surveyor, the would-be professional calculator, who is also calculating ("berechnend")--a charge, incidentally, that Kafka often leveled against himself.
Like other modernists, Kafka leaves it up to the reader to discern his transitions, which are often hidden under the surface. Sudden changes of tone, even within a single sentence, can catch the reader off guard. Take, for instance, the following sentence, with its puzzling final clause: He moved about more freely now, rested his stick here and there, approached the woman in the armchair, and was, incidentally, the biggest in the room.
He felt less constrained, poked with his stick here and there, approached the woman in the arm-chair, and noted that he himself was physically the biggest man in the room. (Muirs, 17) Er bewegte sich freier, stützte seinen Stock einmal hier einmal dort auf, näherte sich der Frau im Lehnstuhl, war übrigens auch der körperlich größte im Zimmer. (Schloß, 24) The first three elements describe a sequence of actions and clearly belong together; the fourth clause is in a different category since it describes an attribute of K.'s. The Muirs, in an effort to close this seeming gap in narrative logic, insert an explicit link such as one would find in a nineteenth-century novel--"and noted that he himself"--a linking phrase for which there is no counterpart in the original. As a result, their English sounds more conventional than the German.6
In The Castle the process of interpretation becomes an integral part of the novel. This obsession with meaning is most evident in the second chapter, where K. subjects a six-sentence letter from an official called Klamm--whose name could suggest secretiveness ("klammheimlich")--to a probing analysis that would satisfy even the most exacting of New Critics. Fittingly, that chapter ends with an explicit reference to interpretation:7 "But you're spending the night with us," said Olga in astonishment. "To be sure," said K., leaving it to her to interpret the words he had spoken.
Unlike the Muirs, who translate the last clause as "leaving her to make what she liked of it,"
I have retained Kafka's explicit reference to interpretation--"und überließ ihr die Deutung der Worte"--because it seems significant in a novel largely made up of K.'s endlessly proliferating interpretations.
Kafka's prose can also be laconically expressive. For instance, when K. attempts to locate Barnabas, his messenger, by shouting his name, we can almost hear the shout: Nevertheless, with full force K. shouted out the name, the name thundered through the night.
None the less K. yelled the name with the full force of his lungs. It thundered through the night. (Muirs, 36)
Trotzdem schrie K. noch aus aller Kraft den Namen, der Name donnerte durch die Nacht.
In German the instant repetition of "name" mimicks K.'s yell, an effect I echo in English. Of course it is always possible to quibble with a translator's solutions. To some ears, my placement of the phrase "with full force" may sound jarring. Yet it is the best compromise I could find. The ideal solution would be to re-create Kafka's wonderfully elastic syntax without making him sound less natural or more jarring--and he can be both--than he is in German. However, modern English shies away from inversions of word order, and this restricts the options available to the translator. One must simply strike the best balance one can.
Among the many such compromises I would like to single out a couple here. For instance, in the first pages we meet the "Wirt" and "Wirtin." Initially I experimented with "innkeeper"--the perfect match for "Wirt." But the "Wirtin" then became "the innkeeper's wife," which turned out to be misleading as well as cumbersome. She is no mere appendage to her husband. I therefore decided to use "landlord" and "landlady"--in their older and now infrequent meaning as proprietor of an inn or similar establishment.8 The English-language translator must also grapple with the often conflicting demands of Kafka's tone and style. Colloquial German, especially in the hands of a master like Kafka, can sound both colloquial and terse. Colloquial English tends to be less succinct.
For instance, at the end of the first chapter K. asks his two would-be assistants where they have put their surveying equipment, and they respond: "Wir haben keine." The translator must choose between a phrase such as "We have none," which captures the terse style of the original but introduces an inappropriately wooden tone, and the tonally accurate but somewhat less pithy English "We haven't any." In that particular case I selected the latter; at other times I chose less colloquial language in order to echo Kafka's terseness.
While Kafka generally plays off lofty and down-to-earth diction in his usual contrapuntal fashion, sometimes he simply piles one on top of the other. At such moments the translator must choose between preserving the tone and capturing the interpretative nuances under the surface. A simple instance: at one point K. tells the villagers that they have "Ehrfurcht" for the authorities.
While that word could mean something as lofty as "reverence" or even "awe," it can also be used in a more everyday sense, simply as "respect." The translator is obliged to choose between the colloquial and elevated tones. I hesitated a long time, since that particular choice could affect how readers interpret the mysterious Castle. Yet in the end I opted for the less lofty term "respect." The word "Ehrfurcht" occurs several times in the same conversation, and to have the characters speak repeatedly of "reverence" or "awe" seemed tonally inappropriate.
Punctuation is another thorny issue. In Germany some critics objected to Kafka's frugal use of punctuation in Das Schloß, which Malcolm Pasley respected in the critical edition. One could reasonably argue that Kafka might have gone through the manuscript and inserted conventional punctuation had he prepared the text for publication. Yet, as a diary passage of 1911 suggests, he was highly conscious of the impact punctuation--or its absence--can have on listeners: Omission of the period. In general the spoken sentence starts off in a large capital letter with the speaker, bends out in its course as far as it can towards the listeners and with the period returns to the speaker. But if the period is omitted, then the sentence is no longer constrained and blows its entire breath at the listener.9 The paragraphs in The Castle are extraordinarily long even by the standards of literary German. At the risk of trying the patience of English-speaking readers, I decided to retain them. For one thing it would be difficult to break up the paragraphs without making arbitrary decisions about which portions of dialogue to print in separate paragraphs and which to leave in the narrative.
Besides, Kafka's decision to embed the dialogue in the narrative and to omit most punctuation except for commas and an occasional period lends his prose a breathlessly modern tone.
The relentless momentum of Kafka's prose in The Castle was not lost on Samuel Beckett. In a rare 1956 interview with a journalist from the New York Times Beckett had the following to say about Kafka's style: "I've only read Kafka in German--serious reading--except for a few things in French and English--only The Castle in German.... You notice how Kafka's form is classic, it goes on like a steamroller--almost serene."10 Kafka himself could not always tell where his words would lead him: "Where, then, shall I be brought?"11 he asks himself in the diaries not long before sitting down to write The Castle. That is a question that we, too, constantly ask ourselves. Although we are often unsure what is happening in the strange world of the village and the Castle, Kafka holds us in thrall through a startling combination of breathless intensity and ironic--and at times even drily humorous--detachment.
I should like to thank Lina Bernstein and David Kramer for graciously hosting readings from the translation-in-progress, and other participants--too numerous to name individually--whose responsiveness spurred its gestation. I am especially indebted to David Kramer's keen ear and linguistic acumen. A grant from the Austrian Ministry of Education and Art provided needed support for the translation. I am also grateful to Fred Jordan, who gave the original commission, to Melanie Richter-Bernburg for her fruitful suggestions and patience with my many revisions, and to Arthur Samuelson, who supported the project and shepherded it into print.
A related essay "Digging the Pit of Babel: Retranslating Franz Kafka's Castle," which appeared in New Literary History 27, no. 2 (1996): 291-311, and also, in somewhat different form, in Lenore A. Grenoble and John M. Kopper, eds., Essays in the Art and Theory of Translation (Lewiston, N.Y., 1997), 139-64, contains a more complete bibliography than can lie included here.
1. W. 11. Auden, "Lame Shadows," in forewords ami Afterwords, selected by Edward Mendelson (New York, l973), 404.
2. Edwin Muir, The Structure of the Novel (London, l928), 127.
3. S. S. Prawer, "Difficulties of the Kafkaesque," Times Literary Supplement, October 14, 1983, 1127-28.
4. See Kafka's letter about Walser in Mark Harman, ed., Robert Walser Rediscovered: Stories, Fairy-Tale Plays, and Critical Responses (Hanover, N.H., 1985), 139-40.
5. The term "foregrounding" was developed by the Prague Linguistic Circle only a few years after Kafka's death. See Jan Mukarovsky, "Standard Language and Poetic Language," in A Prague School Reader on Esthetics, Literary Structure, and Style, ed. Paul L. Garvin (Washington, D.C., 1964).
6. In German this sentence sounds more convincing if one reverts to Kafka's initial wording and reads it in the first person. However, that is an isolated instance. Usually, the lingering presence of that erased yet still audible "I" makes K.'s voice all the more compelling. For a comparable phenomenon in Robert Walser, see Mark Harman, "A Secretive Modernist: Robert Walser and his Microscripts," in Review of Contemporary Fiction 12, no. 1 (1992): 114-17.
7. Around the time Kafka was writing the "letter chapter" in The Castle, he confided the following to Milena Jesenska: "All my misfortune in life... derives from letters or from the possibility of writing letters" (late March 1922). Kafka, Letters to Milena, trans. Philip Boehm (New York, 1990), 223.
8. Another possibility I considered for "Wirt" and "Wirtin" was "proprietor" and
"proprietress"; however, they are too Latinate and emphasize possession in a way that Kafka--who could have chosen the German equivalents, "Inhaber" and "Inhaberin"--does not.
9. Franz Kafka, Diaries 1910-1923 (New York, 1988), 45.
10. New York Times, May 6, 1956, 25. 11. Kafka, Diaries, 399.
It was late evening when K. arrived. The village lay under deep snow. There was no sign of the Castle hill, fog and darkness surrounded it, not even the faintest gleam of light suggested the large Castle. K. stood a long time on the wooden bridge that leads from the main road to the village, gazing upward into the seeming emptiness.
Then he went looking for a night's lodging; at the inn they were still awake; the landlord had no room available, but, extremely surprised and confused by the latecomer, he was willing to let K.
sleep on a straw mattress in the taproom, K. agreed to this. A few peasants were still sitting over beer, but he did not want to talk to anyone, got himself a straw mattress from the attic and lay down by the stove. It was warm, the peasants were quiet, he examined them for a moment with tired eyes, then fell asleep.
Yet before long he was awakened. A young man in city clothes, with an actor's face, narrow eyes, thick eyebrows, stood beside him with the landlord. The peasants, too, were still there, a few had turned their chairs around to see and hear better. The young man apologized very politely for having awakened K., introduced himself as the son of the Castle steward and said: "This village is Castle property, anybody residing or spending the night here is effectively residing or spending the night at the Castle. Nobody may do so without permission from the Count. But you have no such permission or at least you haven't shown it yet."
K., who had half-risen and smoothed his hair, looked at the people from below and said:
"What village have I wandered into? So there is a castle here?"
"Why, of course," the young man said slowly, while several peasants here and there shook their heads at K., "the Castle of Count Westwest."
"And one needs permission to spend the night here?" asked K., as though he wanted to persuade himself that he hadn't perhaps heard the previous statements in a dream.
"Permission is needed" was the reply, and this turned into crude mockery at K.'s expense when the young man, stretching out his arm, asked the landlord and the guests: "Or perhaps permission is not needed?"
"Then I must go and get myself permission," said K., yawning and pushing off the blanket, as though he intended to get up.
"Yes, but from whom?" asked the young man.
"From the Count," said K., "there doesn't seem to be any alternative."
"Get permission from the Count, now, at midnight?" cried the young man, stepping back a pace.
"Is that not possible?" K. asked calmly. "Then why did you wake me up?"
The young man now lost his composure, "The manners of a tramp!" he cried. "I demand respect for the Count's authorities. I awakened you to inform you that you must leave the Count's domain at once."
"Enough of this comedy," said K. in a remarkably soft voice as he lay down and pulled up the blanket: "You are going a little too far, young man, and I shall deal with your conduct tomorrow.
The landlord and those gentlemen there will be my witnesses, should I even need witnesses.
Besides, be advised that I am the land surveyor sent for by the Count. My assistants and the equipment are coming tomorrow by carriage. I didn't want to deprive myself of a long walk through the snow, but unfortunately lost my way a few times, which is why I arrived so late. That it was too late then to report to the Castle is something that was already apparent to me without the benefit of your instructions. That's also the reason why I decided to content myself with these lodgings, where you have been so impolite--to put it mildly--as to disturb me. I have nothing further to add to that statement. Good night, gentlemen." And K. turned toward the stove.
"Land surveyor?" he heard someone asking hesitantly behind his back, and then everyone was silent. But the young man soon regained his composure and said to the landlord, softly enough to suggest concern for K.'s sleep, yet loudly enough to be audible to him: "I shall inquire by telephone." So there was even a telephone in this village inn? They were certainly well equipped.
True, certain details took K. by surprise, but on the whole everything was as expected. As it turned out, the telephone hung from the wall almost directly above his head, in his sleepiness he had overlooked it. If the young man had to use the telephone, then even with the best intentions he could not avoid disturbing K.'s sleep, it was simply a matter of deciding whether or not to let him use the telephone, K. decided to allow it. But then of course it no longer made sense to pretend he was asleep, so he turned over on his back again. He watched the peasants gathering timidly and conferring, the arrival of a land surveyor was no trifling matter. The door to the kitchen had opened; filling the doorway was the mighty figure of the landlady, the landlord approached her on tiptoes in order to report to her. Then the telephone conversation began. The steward was asleep, but a substeward, one of the sub-stewards, a Mr. Fritz, was there. The young man, who introduced himself as Schwarzer, said that he had found K., a man in his thirties, rather shabby-looking, sleeping quietly on a straw mattress, with a tiny rucksack for a pillow and a knobby walking stick within reach. Well, he had of course suspected him, and since the landlord had obviously neglected his duty, it was his, Schwarzer's, duty to investigate the matter. K.'s response on being awakened, questioned, and duly threatened with expulsion from the Count's domain had been most ungracious but perhaps not unjustifiably so, as had finally become evident, for he claimed to be a land surveyor summoned by the Count. He was duty-bound to check this claim, if only as a formality, and so Schwarzer was asking Mr. Fritz to inquire at the central office whether a land surveyor of that sort was really expected and to telephone immediately with the answer.
Then there was silence, Fritz made his inquiries over there while everyone here waited for the answer, K. stayed where he was, did not even turn around, seemed completely indifferent, stared into space. With its mixture of malice and caution Schwarzer's story gave him a sense of the quasi-diplomatic training that even lowly people at the Castle such as Schwarzer could draw on so freely.
Nor did they show any lack of diligence there, the central office had a night service. And obviously answered very quickly, for Fritz was already on the line again. Yet it seemed to be a brief message, since Schwarzer immediately threw down the receiver in a rage. "Just as I said," he shouted, "no trace of a land surveyor, only a liar and a common tramp, and probably worse still." For a moment K. thought that everybody, Schwarzer, the peasants, the landlord and landlady, was about to jump on him, and he crawled all the way under the blanket to escape at least the first assault, when--he was slowly stretching his head back out--the telephone rang again, especially loud, it seemed to K.
Although it was unlikely that this call also concerned K., everyone froze, and Schwarzer came back to the telephone. After listening to a fairly long explanation, he said softly: "So it's a mistake? This is most unpleasant. The department head himself telephoned? Odd, very odd! And how am I supposed to explain this to the land surveyor?"
K. listened intently. So the Castle had appointed him land surveyor. On one hand, this was unfavorable, for it showed that the Castle had all necessary information about him, had assessed the opposing forces, and was taking up the struggle with a smile. On the other hand, it was favorable, for it proved to his mind that they underestimated him and that he would enjoy greater freedom than he could have hoped for at the beginning. And if they thought they could keep him terrified all the time simply by acknowledging his surveyorship--though this was certainly a superior move on their part--then they were mistaken, for he felt only a slight shudder, that was all.
After waving aside Schwarzer, who was timidly approaching, K. rejected their insistent pleas that he move into the landlord's room, accepted only a nightcap from the landlord and a wash basin with soap and towel from the landlady, and did not even have to request that the room be cleared, for all rushed to the door, averting their faces so that he wouldn't recognize them tomorrow, then the lamp was extinguished and he finally had some peace. He slept soundly until morning, only briefly disturbed once or twice by scurrying rats.
After breakfast, which the landlord said would be covered by the Castle along with K.'s full board, he wanted to go immediately to the village. Recalling the landlord's conduct yesterday, K.
spoke to him only when strictly necessary, but since the landlord kept circling him in a silent plea, K. took pity on him and let him sit down for a moment beside him.
"I still haven't met the Count," said K., "they say he pays good money for good work, is that so? Anybody traveling as far from his wife and child as I am wants to have something to take home with him."
"The gentleman need have no worries in that regard, one doesn't hear any complaints about bad pay here."
"Well," said K., "I'm not at all shy and am quite capable of saying what I think, even to a Count, though it is naturally far better if one can remain on friendly terms with those gentlemen."
The landlord sat opposite K. on the edge of the window seat, not daring to sit more comfortably and keeping his large, anxious brown eyes fixed on K. At first he had thrust himself on K., but now it seemed as if he wanted to run away. Was he afraid of being questioned about the Count? Was he afraid that the "gentleman" whom he saw in K. was unreliable? K. had to distract him. He looked at the clock and said: "Well, my assistants will be here soon, can you put them up?"
"Certainly, sir," he said, "but won't they be staying with you at the Castle?"
Was he parting that easily and that gladly with his guests, especially K., whom he was quite determined to transfer to the Castle?
"That hasn't been settled," said K., "first I must find out what kind of work they have for me.
For instance, if I'm to work down here, then it would make more sense for me to live here, too. And I fear that the life up there at the Castle wouldn't appeal to me. I want to be free at all times."
"You don't know the Castle," the landlord said softly.
"Of course," said K, "one shouldn't judge matters too hastily. All I can say about the Castle for now is that they know how to choose the right land surveyor. There might be other advantages there, too." And he stood up in order to release the landlord--who kept anxiously biting his lips--
from his presence. It certainly wasn't easy to win the confidence of this man.
On the way out, K. observed on the wall a dark portrait in a dark frame. He had already noticed it from his bed, but unable to discern any details from that distance, he had thought that the actual picture had been taken from the frame, and only the dark backing was to be seen. But it was indeed a picture, as now became evident, the half-length portrait of a man around fifty. He held his head so low over his chest that one barely saw his eyes, the drooping seemed to be caused by the high, ponderous forehead and the powerful, crooked nose. His beard, pressed in at the chin owing to the position of his head, jutted out farther below. His left hand was spread out in his thick hair but could no longer support his head. "Who is that," asked K., "the Count?" K. stood before the picture and did not even turn to glance at the landlord. "No," said the landlord, "the steward."
"They do have a handsome steward at the Castle, that's for sure," said K., "what a pity his son turned out so badly."
"No," said the landlord, drawing K. down and whispering in his ear, "Schwarzer exaggerated yesterday, his father is only a substeward, and one of the lowest at that." Just then the landlord seemed like a child to K. "The rascal," said K., laughing, but the landlord said without laughing:
"Even his father is powerful."
"Come on!" said K., "you consider everyone powerful. Me too, perhaps?"
"No," he said, timidly but gravely, "I do not consider you powerful."
"Well, you're very observant, then," said K., "for, speaking in confidence now, I'm really not powerful at all. And so I probably have no less respect for those with power than you do, only I'm not as honest as you are and don't always care to admit it." K. tapped the landlord on the cheek in order to comfort him and to gain his affection. And now he even gave a little smile. He was really a boy with his soft, almost beardless face. How had he come by his stout, older wife, whom one could see through a small window, bustling about with her elbows sticking out? Yet K. did not want to question him any further and risk chasing away the smile he had finally elicited, so he merely signaled to him to open the door and stepped out into the beautiful winter morning.
Now he saw the Castle above, sharply outlined in the clear air and made even sharper by the snow, which traced each shape and lay everywhere in a thin layer. Besides, there seemed to be a great deal less snow up on the hill than here in the village, where it was no less difficult for K. to make headway than it had been yesterday on the main road. Here the snow rose to the cottage windows only to weigh down on the low roofs, whereas on the hill everything soared up, free and light, or at least seemed to from here.
On the whole the Castle, as it appeared from this distance, corresponded to K.'s expectations. It was neither an old knight's fortress nor a magnificent new edifice, but a large complex, made up of a few two-story buildings and many lower, tightly packed ones; had one not known that this was a castle, one could have taken it for a small town. K. saw only one tower, whether it belonged to a dwelling or a church was impossible to tell. Swarms of crows circled round it.
Keeping his eyes fixed upon the Castle, K. went ahead, nothing else mattered to him. But as he came closer he was disappointed in the Castle, it was only a rather miserable little town, pieced together from village houses, distinctive only because everything was perhaps built of stone, but the paint had long since flaked off, and the stone seemed to be crumbling. Fleetingly K. recalled his old hometown, it was scarcely inferior to this so-called Castle; if K. had merely wanted to visit it, all that wandering would have been in vain, and it would have made more sense for him to visit his old homeland again, where he had not been in such a long time. And in thought he compared the church tower in his homeland with the tower up there. The church tower, tapering decisively, without hesitation, straightaway toward the top, capped by a wide roof with red tiles, was an earthly building--what else can we build?--but with a higher goal than the low jumble of houses and with a clearer expression than that of the dull workday. The tower up here--it was the only one in sight--the tower of a residence, as now became evident, possibly of the main Castle, was a monotonous round building, in part mercifully hidden by ivy, with little windows that glinted in the sun--there was something crazy about this--and ending in a kind of terrace, whose battlements, uncertain, irregular, brittle, as if drawn by the anxious or careless hand of a child, zigzagged into the blue sky. It was as if some melancholy resident, who by rights ought to have kept himself locked up in the most out-of-the-way room in the house, had broken through the roof and stood up in order to show himself to the world.
Again K. stood still, as if he had greater powers of judgment at a standstill. But he was distracted. Behind the village church, beside which he had stopped--it was actually only a chapel with a barnlike annex to accommodate the congregation--was the school. A long, low building, an odd combination of makeshift and ancient features, it lay behind a fenced-in garden, which was now a field of snow. Just then the children came out with their teacher. Bunched about the teacher, the children all had their eyes on him, there was constant chatter from all sides, K. could not follow their rapid speech. The teacher, a small narrow-shouldered young man but also, without thereby seeming ridiculous, quite erect, had fixed his eyes from afar on K., who was the only person anywhere around, aside from the teacher's group. As a stranger, K. was the first to say hello, especially faced with such a domineering little man. "Good day, Teacher," he said. All of a sudden the children fell silent, having this sudden silence before he spoke must have pleased the teacher.
"You're taking a look at the Castle?" he asked, more gently than K. had expected, but as though he did not approve of what K. was doing. "Yes," said K., "I'm a stranger here, I only arrived in the village yesterday evening."
"You don't like the Castle?" the teacher said quickly. "What?" countered K., somewhat baffled, but then, rephrasing the question more delicately, he said: "Do I like the Castle? What makes you think I don't like it?"
"Strangers never do," said the teacher. To avoid giving offense then, K. changed the subject and asked: "You must know the Count?"
"No," said the schoolteacher, and he was about to turn aside, but K. did not give up and asked again: "So you don't know the Count?"
"How could I know him?" the schoolteacher said softly, adding loudly in French: "Keep in mind that there are innocent children present." To K. this was sufficient justification for asking:
"Teacher, could I call on you? I'll be staying for some time and already feel a little isolated, I don't belong among the peasants nor in all likelihood at the Castle."
"There is no difference between the peasants and the Castle," said the teacher. "Maybe so,"
said K., "but that has no effect on my situation. May I call on you?"
"I live in Swan Street at the butcher's." Though this sounded more like an address than an invitation, K. said: "Very well, I shall come." The schoolteacher nodded and moved on with his little bunch of children, who instantly resumed their shouting. They soon disappeared down a steep side street.
But K. was distracted, the conversation had irritated him. For the first time since coming here, he felt truly tired. At first, the long journey hadn't seemed like much of a strain to him--how he had kept wandering through the days, steadily, one step at a time!--but the consequences of those exertions had to go and make themselves felt now, at the worst possible time, of course. He felt an irresistible urge to seek out new acquaintances, but each new acquaintance had only increased his weariness. In his present state, if he could force himself to prolong this walk to the Castle entrance, that would be more than enough.
So he set off again, but it was a long way. The street he had taken, the main street in the village, did not lead to the Castle hill, it only went close by, then veered off as if on purpose, and though it didn't lead any farther from the Castle, it didn't get any closer either. K. kept expecting the street to turn at last toward the Castle and it was only in this expectation that he kept going; no doubt out of weariness he was reluctant to leave this street, what amazed him, too, was the length of this village, which wouldn't end, again and again those tiny little houses and the frost-covered windowpanes and the snow and not a living soul--finally he tore himself away from this clinging street, a narrow side street took him in, the snow here was even deeper, lifting his sinking feet was hard work, he broke out in perspiration, suddenly came to a stop and could go no farther.
Well, he certainly wasn't abandoned, there were peasant cottages right and left, he made a snowball and threw it at a window. The door opened right away--the first door to open on his way through the village--and standing there was an old peasant in a heavy brown fur jacket, head tilted sideways, friendly and weak. "May I join you for a little while?" said K., "I'm very tired." He didn't hear anything the old man said, but gratefully accepted the plank being pushed toward him, which immediately rescued him from the snow, and after taking a few steps he stood in the room.
A large dimly lit room. At first, the new arrival from outdoors could not see a thing. K.
stumbled against a washtub, a woman's hand held him back. From one corner came the sound of children crying. From another, smoke billowed, turning the dim light to darkness, K. remained standing there as if in the clouds. "He must be drunk," someone said. "Who are you?" cried an imperious voice, and then, probably to the old man: "Why did you let him in?"
"Can we let in everything that is slinking through the streets?"
"I am the land surveyor of the Count," said K., trying to justify himself in front of these as yet invisible people. "Ah, it is the land surveyor," a woman's voice said, and then there was complete silence. "You know me?" asked K. "Of course," the same voice said, curtly. Their knowing K. did not seem to recommend him.
Finally the smoke dispersed a little, and K. was gradually able to get his bearings. It seemed to be washday. By the door, clothes were being washed. Yet the smoke had actually come from the left-hand corner, where in a wooden tub, larger than any K. had ever seen, it was about the size of two beds, two men were bathing in steaming water. But even more surprising, though one still couldn't make out the exact nature of the surprise, was the right-hand corner. Through a large garret window, the only one in the back wall, came pale snow-light, surely from the courtyard, which lent a luster as of silk to the dress of a woman who almost lay wearily in a tall armchair set deep in the corner. She held an infant at her breast. A few children were playing around her, peasant children by the looks of them, but she seemed out of place among them, though illness and weariness can make even peasants seem refined.
"Sit down!" said one of the men, who had a full beard in addition to the mustache over his mouth, which he kept open, snorting, and pointed--a comical sight--with one hand over the rim of the bath at a trunk, splashing warm water all over K.'s face. Seated on the trunk, already dozing off, was the old man who had let K. in. K. was glad he could finally sit down. No one was paying the slightest attention to him now. The woman at the washtub, blond, youthfully ample, sang softly as she worked, the men in the bath stomped their feet and thrashed about, the children tried to approach them but were repeatedly driven back by great splashes of water, from which not even K.
emerged unscathed, the woman in the armchair lay there as if lifeless, without even glancing down at the infant on her breast, merely gazing vaguely upward.
K. must have spent a long time looking at them, at this unchanging, beautiful, sad picture, but then he must have fallen asleep, for when a loud voice called out to him he awoke with a start, his head was resting on the shoulder of the old man beside him. The men were finished with the bath--in which the children now romped under the blond woman's supervision--and stood before him fully clothed. The loudmouthed man with the full beard turned out to be the slighter of the two.
The other one, no taller, but with a smaller beard than that of his full-bearded colleague, was a silent, slow-witted man, of stout build, with an equally stout face, he kept his head lowered.
"Surveyor," he said, "you cannot stay here. Forgive the impoliteness."
"I didn't want to stay," said K., "I simply wanted a rest. Now that I have had it, I am leaving."
"This lack of hospitality may surprise you," said the man, "but there is no custom of hospitality here, we do not need guests." Somewhat refreshed after his sleep, somewhat keener of hearing than before, K. was glad to hear such frank words. He moved about more freely now, rested his stick here and there, approached the woman in the armchair, and was, incidentally, the biggest in the room.
"Certainly," said K., "what would you need guests for? But every now and then someone is needed, such as me, the land surveyor."
"I don't know about that," the man said slowly, "if they summoned you, then they probably need you, this may be an exception, but we little people go by the rule, you shouldn't blame us for that."
"No, no," said K., "I simply want to thank you, you and all the others here." And, to everyone's surprise, K. turned around almost in one bound and stood before the woman. With tired blue eyes she looked at K., a transparent silk kerchief had slipped down to the middle of her forehead, the infant was sleeping at her breast. "Who are you?" asked K. Dismissively, it was unclear whether the contempt was meant for K. or her own answer, she said: "A girl from the Castle."
All this had taken no more than an instant; now two men, right and left, seized K. and pulled him to the door, silently but with full force, as if there were no other means of communication.
Something about this pleased the old man, who clapped his hands. The washerwoman laughed over near the children, who suddenly began making noise like mad.
Yet K. soon stood outside on the street, the men watched him from the threshold, it was snowing again, although it now seemed a little brighter outside. The man with the full beard cried impatiently: "Where do you want to go? Here's the way to the Castle, this way to the village." K.
did not answer, but turned rather to the other man, who, despite his superiority, struck him as the more congenial of the two: "Who are you? Whom should I thank for the visit?"
"I am Master Tanner Lasemann," came the reply, "but you needn't thank anybody."
"Fine," said K., "perhaps we shall meet again."
"I do not think so," said the man. Just then the man with the full beard, raising his arm, cried: "Good day, Artur, good day, Jeremias!" K. turned around, so other people were showing up on the streets of this village! Coming from the Castle were two young men of medium height, both quite slender, in tight-fitting clothes, with very similar, dark-brown faces and strikingly black goatees. They were going astonishingly fast for the state of these roads, flinging out their slender legs in step. "What's the matter?" cried the man with the full beard. One had to shout to make oneself heard, they were going so fast and did not stop. "Business," they shouted back, laughing.
"At the inn."
"That's where I'm going," K. cried all of a sudden, louder than everyone else, he so wanted these two to take him along; though he did not consider this acquaintanceship all that rewarding, they were good traveling companions and could cheer one up. Yet, though they heard K.'s remark, they simply nodded and were gone.
K. was still standing in the snow, he had no great desire to lift his foot out of the snow only to sink it back in a little farther on; the master tanner and his colleague, satisfied at having finally rid themselves of K., slowly pushed their way, eyes still fixed on him, through the barely open door into the house, leaving K. alone in the blanketing snow. "Cause for a slight attack of despair," was the thought that came to him, "if I were only here by accident, not on purpose."
Just then in the cottage to the left a tiny window opened; closed, it had seemed deep blue, perhaps in the reflection from the snow, and so tiny now that it was open that one couldn't see the full face of the onlooker, only the eyes, old brown eyes. "There he is," K. heard the tremulous voice of a woman saying. "It's the surveyor," a man's voice was speaking. Then the man came to the window and asked, not in an unfriendly way but as if he wanted everything to be in order on the street in front of his house: "Who are you waiting for?"
"For a sleigh to take me," said K. "No sleighs come along here," said the man, "no traffic comes through here."
"But this is the road that leads to the Castle," objected K. "Even so, even so," the man said rather implacably, "no traffic comes through here." Then the two of them fell silent. But the man was obviously contemplating something since he still hadn't closed the window, from which smoke was pouring. "A bad road," K. said to help him out. But all he said was: "Yes, indeed." After a little while, however, he said: "If you like, I will take you on my sleigh."
"Please do," said K., delighted, "how much do you want?"
"Nothing," the man said by way of explanation. K. was astonished. "You are after all the surveyor," said the man, "and you belong to the Castle. So where do you want to go?"
"To the Castle," K. said quickly. "Then I will not go," the man said at once. "But I belong to the Castle," K. said, repeating the man's own words. "Maybe so," the man said dismissively. "Then take me to the inn," said K. "Very well," said the man, "then I'll be out right away with the sleigh."
This did not leave the impression of any great friendliness but rather of an extremely egotistical, anxious, almost pedantic effort to get K. away from the street in front of his house.
The courtyard gate opened and let out a small sleigh, made for light loads, quite flat, without any seats, pulled by a small weak horse, and then the man himself, not old, but weak, bent, limping, with a lean red congested face, which seemed especially tiny because of the woolen shawl wrapped tightly round his neck. The man was clearly ill and had obviously only come out to carry K. away.
K. said something to that effect, but the man shrugged it off. K. learned only that he was Coachman Gerstäcker and that he had simply chosen this uncomfortable sleigh because it happened to be ready and it would have taken too long to pull out another one. "Sit down," he said, pointing with his whip to the back of the sleigh. "I shall sit beside you," said K. "I will walk," said Gerstäcker. "But why?"
asked K. "I will walk," repeated Gerstäcker, so shaken by a fit of coughing that he had to brace his feet in the snow and grasp the side of the sleigh with both hands. Without saying another word, K.
sat down in the back of the sleigh, his coughing gradually eased, and they set off.
The Castle up there, oddly dark already, which K. had still been hoping to reach today, receded again. Yet as though he still had to be given a cue for this temporary parting, a bell up there rang out cheerfully, a bell that for a moment at least made one's heart tremble as if it were threatened--for the sound was painful too--with the fulfillment of its uncertain longings. Yet this large bell soon fell silent and was followed by a faint, monotonous little bell, perhaps still from up there, though perhaps already from the village. This tinkling was better suited to this slow journey and this wretched but implacable coachman.
"You there," K. cried suddenly--they were already near the church, the inn wasn't far off, K.
could now afford to take a risk--"I'm very surprised you risk driving me around like this, on your own responsibility. Are you allowed to?" Gerstäcker ignored him and continued walking along quietly beside his little horse. "Hey," K. cried, then, rolling some snow from the sleigh, he threw it at Gerstäcker, hitting him right on the ear. Now Gerstäcker stopped and turned around; but when K.
saw him standing so close by--the sleigh had slid forward a little--his bent and almost maltreated figure, with the red lean face and cheeks that were somehow different, one flat, the other sunken, and his rapt open mouth with only a few scattered teeth, he was obliged to repeat what he had just said out of malice, only this time out of compassion, and to ask Gerstäcker whether he might not be punished for conveying K. "What do you want?" asked Gerstäcker, baffled, but without waiting for further explanation, he called his little horse, and they moved on.
When they were almost at the inn--K. could see this from a curve in the road--it was, much to his astonishment, quite dark. Had he been away that long? But it was only about an hour or two, by his calculations. He had set out in the morning. And he hadn't needed to eat. And till a moment ago there had been steady daylight, then just now darkness. "Short days, short days," he said to himself as he slid off the sleigh and walked toward the inn.
Standing above on the small front steps of the inn, a welcome sight for K., was the landlord, raising a lantern and shining it at him. Suddenly remembering the coachman, K. stopped, someone coughed in the dark, it was he. Well, he would be seeing him again soon enough. Not until he was on the steps with the landlord, who greeted him deferentially, did he notice the two men, one on either side of the door. He took the lantern from the landlord's hand and shone it at them; these were the men he had already met whose names had been called out, Artur and Jeremias. They saluted.
Thinking of his time in the army, those happy days, he laughed. "Who are you?" he asked, glancing from one to the other. "Your assistants," they answered. "Those are the assistants," said the landlord softly in confirmation. "What?" asked K., "you are the old assistants whom I told to join me and am expecting?" They said yes. "It's a good thing," said K., after a little while, "it's a good thing that you've come."
"By the way," said K., after another little while, "you're very late, you've been most negligent!"
"It was such a long way," said one of the assistants. "A long way," repeated K., "but when I met you, you were coming from the Castle."
"Yes," they said, without further explanation. "Where did you put the instruments?" asked K.
"We haven't any," they said. "The instruments I entrusted you with," said K. "We haven't any," they repeated. "Oh, you're a fine sort!" said K., "do you know anything about surveying?"
"No," they said. "But if you are my old assistants, then you must know something about it,"
said K. They remained silent. "Well, come along, then," said K., pushing them ahead into the inn.
They then sat together rather quietly over beer in the taproom, at a small table with K. in the middle and the assistants on either side. Only one other table was occupied, by peasants, as on the previous evening. "This is difficult," said K., comparing their faces as he had often done before, "how am I supposed to distinguish between you? Only your names are different, otherwise you're as alike as--"
he hesitated, then went on involuntarily--"otherwise you're as alike as snakes." They smiled.
"People usually can distinguish quite easily between us," they said in self-defense. "I can believe that," said K., "for I witnessed it myself, but I can only see with my eyes and cannot distinguish between you with them. So I shall treat you as one person and call you both Artur, that's what one of you is called--you perhaps?" K. asked one. "No," he said, "my name is Jeremias."
"Fine, it doesn't matter," said K., "I shall call you both Artur. When I send Artur somewhere, both of you must go, when I give Artur a task, both of you must do it, the great disadvantage this has for me is that I cannot use you for separate tasks, but the advantage is that the two of you bear undivided responsibility for carrying out all my instructions. How you divide up the work is immaterial to me so long as you do not try to excuse yourselves by blaming each other, I consider you one person." They thought this over and said: "That would be quite unpleasant for us."
"Why, of course!" said K., "it must indeed be unpleasant for you, but that's how it's going to be." For some time now K. had been watching one of the peasants slinking about the table; at last the peasant came to a decision, approached an assistant, and was about to whisper something in his ear. "Excuse me," said K., banging his hand on the table and standing up, "these are my assistants, and we are having a meeting. Nobody has the right to disturb us."
"Oh sorry, oh sorry," the peasant said anxiously, walking backward toward his companions.
"One thing above all else you must keep in mind," said K., sitting down again, "you're not to speak to anyone without my permission. I'm a stranger here, and if you are my old assistants, then you are strangers, too. We three strangers must stick together, give me your hands on that." All too eagerly they stretched out their hands. "Drop your paws," he said, "but my order stands. I shall go to bed now and suggest you do likewise. We have lost a full workday and have to start work very early tomorrow. You must get hold of a sleigh for the journey to the Castle and have it ready at the door at six o'clock."
"Fine," said one, but the other broke in: "You say 'fine,' though you know it's impossible."
"Be quiet," said K., "you're simply trying to show you're different." But now the first one, too, said: "He's right, that's impossible, no strangers are allowed into the Castle without permission."
"Where must one apply for permission?"
"I don't know, at the steward's, perhaps."
"Then we shall apply there by telephone, telephone the steward at once, both of you." They ran to the telephone, obtained a connection--how they jostled each other there, outwardly they were ridiculously obedient--and inquired whether K. could go with them tomorrow to the Castle. The
"No" of the answer reached K. at his table, but the answer was more explicit, it went, "neither tomorrow nor any other time."
"I myself shall telephone," said K., getting up. While K. and his assistants had attracted little attention up to now, aside from the incident with the peasant, his last remark attracted general attention. They all stood up with K., and though the landlord tried to push them back, they gathered round him in a tight half-circle at the telephone. The majority thought that K. would get no answer.
K. was obliged to ask them to be quiet, he had no desire to hear their opinion.
From the mouthpiece came a humming, the likes of which K. had never heard on the telephone before. It was as though the humming of countless childlike voices--but it wasn't humming either, it was singing, the singing of the most distant, of the most utterly distant, voices--
as though a single, high-pitched yet strong voice had emerged out of this humming in some quite impossible way and now drummed against one's ears as if demanding to penetrate more deeply into something other than one's wretched hearing. K. listened without telephoning, with his left arm propped on the telephone stand he listened thus.
He had no idea how long, not until the landlord tugged at his coat, saying that a messenger had come for him. "Go," shouted K., beside himself, perhaps into the telephone, for now someone answered. The following conversation came about: "Oswald here, who's there?" said a severe, arrogant voice with a slight speech defect, for which, it seemed to K., the speaker tried to compensate by sounding even more severe. K. was hesitant to give his name, against the telephone he was defenseless, the person could shout him down, lay down the mouthpiece, and K. would have blocked a path that was perhaps not insignificant. K.'s hesitation made the man impatient. "Who's there?" he repeated, adding, "I should be greatly pleased if less use were made of the telephone there, someone telephoned only a moment ago." K. did not reply to this remark and announced with sudden resolve: "This is the assistant of the gentleman who came as surveyor."
"What assistant? What gentleman? What surveyor?" K. recalled yesterday's telephone conversation. "Ask Fritz," he said curtly. It worked, to his own astonishment. Yet what amazed him even more than its working was the consistency of the official service there. The response was: "I know. The eternal land surveyor. Yes, yes. Go on? What assistant?"
"Josef," said K. Having the peasants mumbling behind his back was somewhat annoying, they evidently disapproved of his not giving his right name. But K. had no time to deal with them, for the conversation required all his attention. "Josef?" came the reply. "The assistants are called--"
a short pause, he was apparently asking somebody else for their names--"Artur and Jeremias."
"Those are the new assistants," said K. "No, those are the old ones."
"Those are the new ones, I'm the old one who came today to join the surveyor."
"No," the voice was now shouting. "Who am I, then?" K. asked as calmly as before. And after a pause, the same voice, which had the same speech defect but sounded like a different, deeper, more imposing voice, said: "You're the old assistant."
K. was still listening to the sound of the voice and almost missed the next question: "What do you want?" Most of all he would have liked to put down the receiver. He was no longer expecting anything from this conversation. Only under pressure did he quickly add: "When can my master come to the Castle?"
"Never," came the answer. "Fine," said K., replacing the receiver.
Behind him the peasants had already edged up extremely close to him. The assistants, who kept casting side glances at him, were busy keeping the peasants away. But this seemed no more than a comedy, and the peasants, satisfied with the outcome of the conversation, gradually yielded.
Just then their group was divided in two by a man who came from behind in rapid stride, bowed before K., and handed him a letter. K. held the letter in his hand and looked at the man, who seemed more important to him just then. He greatly resembled the assistants, was as slender as they, just as lightly dressed, had the same quickness and agility, and yet he was quite different. If only K. could have had him as an assistant! He reminded K. somewhat of the woman with the infant whom he had seen at the master tanner's. He was dressed almost entirely in white, the material could scarcely be silk, it was winter clothing like all the rest, but it had the delicacy and formality of silk. His face was bright and open, with enormous eyes. His smile was uncommonly encouraging; he brushed his hand across his face as though trying to chase away the smile, but he didn't succeed. "Who are you?" asked K. "My name is Barnabas," he said, "I am a messenger." As he spoke, his lips opened and closed in a masculine but gentle way. "How do you like it here?" asked K., pointing to the peasants, who still hadn't lost interest in him and who, with their bulging lips, open mouths, and almost tortured faces--their heads looked as if they had been beaten flat on top and their features shaped in the pain of the beating--were staring at him but then again not staring at him since their eyes sometimes wandered off and rested a while on some indifferent object before returning to him, and then K. pointed to the assistants, who were embracing each other, cheek to cheek, and smiling, whether in humility or mockery one could not tell, he pointed all this out as if introducing an entourage forced on him by special circumstances in the hope--this suggested familiarity, which was what mattered to K.--that Barnabas had the sense to tell the difference between these people and K.
Yet Barnabas completely ignored this, though in all innocence as one could see, letting the question pass, just like a well-trained servant faced with a comment only seemingly addressed to him by his master, and in response to the question merely looked about, greeting his acquaintances among the peasants with a wave and exchanging a few words with the assistants, all this freely and independently, without mingling with them. Rejected but not abashed, K. turned to the letter in his hand and opened it. It read as follows: "Dear Sir! As you know, you have been accepted into the Count's service. Your immediate superior is the village council chairman, he will furnish you with all further details concerning your work and terms of employment, and you, in turn, will be accountable to him. Nevertheless, I too shall keep you in mind. Barnabas, who brings you this letter, will occasionally call on you to ascertain your wishes and relay them to me. You will find that I am always ready, insofar as possible, to oblige you. Having satisfied workers is important to me." The signature wasn't legible, but printed beside it were the words: The Director of Bureau No. 10.
"Wait!" K. told Barnabas, who was bowing, then he asked the landlord to show him his room, since he wanted to spend some time alone with the letter. At the same time it occurred to him that regardless of his affection for Barnabas he was merely a messenger, so he had them bring him a beer. He observed him to see how he would accept it; he accepted it with seeming eagerness and drank it right away. Then K. left with the landlord. In that little house they had only been able to prepare a small attic room for K., and even that had caused problems, for the two maids who had slept there until then had had to be lodged elsewhere. Actually, they had only moved out the maids, aside from that the room was probably unchanged, there were no sheets on the one bed, just a few pillows and a horse blanket left in the same state as everything else after last night, on the wall there were a few saints' pictures and photographs of soldiers, the room hadn't even been aired, they were evidently hoping the new guest wouldn't stay long and did nothing to keep him. Yet K. agreed to everything, wrapped himself in the blanket, sat down at the table and in the light of a candle began to read the letter again.
It wasn't consistent, some passages treated him as a free man and conceded that he had a will of his own, such as the initial greeting and the passage concerning his wishes. There were other passages, though, that treated him openly or indirectly as a lowly worker who was barely noticeable from the director's post, the director had to make an effort to "keep him in mind," his superior was only the village chairman, to whom he was even accountable, his only colleague was perhaps the village policeman. Undoubtedly these were contradictions, so obvious they must be intentional. The thought--a crazy one in the case of such authorities--that indecision might have played a role here, scarcely occurred to K. He saw it more as a choice that had been freely offered him, it had been left up to him to decide what he wanted to make of the provisions in the letter, whether he wanted to be a village worker with a distinctive but merely apparent connection to the Castle, or an apparent village worker who in reality allowed the messages brought by Barnabas to define the terms of his position. K. did not hesitate to choose, nor would he have hesitated to do so even if he had never had certain experiences here. It was only as a village worker, as far from the Castle gentlemen as possible, that he could achieve anything at the Castle, these people in the village who were so distrustful of him would start talking as soon as he had become if not their friend then their fellow citizen, and once he had become indistinguishable from, say, Gerstäcker or Lasemann--this must happen very quickly, everything depended on it--all those paths would suddenly open up, which if he were to rely solely on the gentlemen above, on their good graces, would always remain blocked off and invisible too. Yet there was certainly a risk, and the letter stressed this and even dwelled on it with a certain delight, as though it were inevitable: it was his status as a worker. "Service,"
"terms of employment,"
"workers," the letter was crammed with such terms and even if it referred to other, more personal matters, it did so from the same point of view. If K. wanted to become a worker, he could become one, but then only in dreadful earnest, without any prospects anywhere else. K. knew that there was no threat of actual compulsion, he had no fear of that, especially not here, but the force of these discouraging surroundings and of the increasing familiarity with ever more predictable disappointments, the force of scarcely perceptible influences at every moment, these he certainly did fear, but even in the face of this danger he had to risk taking up the struggle. Indeed, the letter made no secret of the fact that if it came to a struggle, K. was the one who had been reckless enough to start, this was delicately put and could only have been noticed by a troubled conscience--
troubled, not bad--namely, the three words "as you know," concerning his being accepted into the Castle's service. K. had announced his presence and ever since then he had known, as the letter put it, that he was accepted.
K. took a picture from the wall and hung the letter on the nail, this is where he would be living, so the letter should hang here.
Then he went down to the taproom, Barnabas was sitting at a small table with the assistants.
"Ah, there you are," said K., for no reason, simply because he was glad to see Barnabas. He jumped up at once. K. had no sooner entered than the peasants rose to get close to him, they had already formed the habit of following him about constantly. "What is it you always want from me?" cried K. They did not take offense and slowly withdrew to their places. As one of them walked off, he said casually with an indecipherable smile, which several others adopted: "One always gets to hear some news" and he licked his lips as if the news were edible. K. didn't say anything conciliatory to him, it was good if they learned to respect him, but no sooner was he seated beside Barnabas than he felt a peasant's breath down the back of his neck, the peasant said he had come for the salt shaker, but K. stomped his foot in anger, and the peasant ran off without the salt shaker. It was really easy to get the better of K.; one simply needed, say, to set the peasants on him, their stubborn concern seemed more malicious to him than the aloofness of the others and it, too, was a form of aloofness, for if K. had sat down at their table, they would certainly not have remained seated. Only Barnabas's presence prevented him from making a commotion. Nonetheless, he swung around menacingly toward them, they were also facing him. Yet seeing them sitting there like that, each one on his own chair, neither conversing with one another nor visibly connected, connected only because all of them were staring at him, it seemed to him that they weren't pursuing him out of malice, perhaps they really wanted something from him but just couldn't say what it was, and if that wasn't it, perhaps it was merely childlike behavior on their part, the childlike quality that seemed very much at home here; wasn't it also childlike of the landlord to be standing there, holding in both hands a glass of beer, which he should have taken to some guest, gazing at K. and missing a cry from the landlady, who had leaned out of the kitchen hatch.
Calmer now, K. turned to Barnabas, he would have liked to remove the assistants but couldn't find a pretext, besides they were staring silently at their beer. "I have read the letter," K.
began. "Do you know the contents?"
"No," said Barnabas. His expression seemed to convey more than his words. Perhaps K. was being mistakenly positive now, just as he had been mistakenly negative with the peasants, but the presence of Barnabas remained a source of comfort. "There is also talk of you in the letter, you must carry messages back and forth between me and the director, that's why I assumed you knew the contents."
"I was simply instructed," Barnabas said, "to hand you the letter, wait until you had read it, and bring back a verbal or written reply, should you find this necessary."
"Fine," said K., "no letter is required, convey to the director--but what's his name? I couldn't read his signature."
"Klamm," said Barnabas. "Well then convey my thanks to Mr. Klamm for the acceptance and also for his exceptional kindness, which I, as one who still hasn't proved himself here, certainly appreciate. I shall act entirely in accordance with his intentions. I have no special wishes for today."
Barnabas, who had followed this closely, asked whether he could repeat the message in K.'s presence, K. gave permission, and Barnabas repeated everything word for word. Then he stood up in order to take his leave.
Throughout all this K. had been examining his face and now did so one last time. Though Barnabas was about as tall as K., his eyes seemed to look down on K., but almost deferentially; it was inconceivable that this man could ever put anybody to shame. Of course, he was only a messenger and wasn't familiar with the contents of the letters he had to deliver, but his expression, his smile, his gait, seemed to bear a message, even if he himself was unaware of it. And K. stretched out his hand, which clearly surprised Barnabas, for he had merely intended to bow.
As soon as he had left---before opening the door he had leaned against the door with his shoulder for a moment and looked around the taproom, with a glance no longer directed at anyone in particular--K. said to the assistants: "I shall get my notes from my room, then we'll discuss the next project." They wanted to go with him. "Stay here!" said K. They still wanted to go with him.
K. had to repeat the command in a more severe tone of voice. Barnabas was no longer in the corridor. But he had just left. And yet outside the inn--it was snowing again--K. could not see him.
He cried: "Barnabas!" No answer. Could he still be in the building? This seemed the only possibility. Nevertheless, with full force K. shouted out the name, the name thundered through the night. And from a distance a faint answer came, so Barnabas had already gone that far. K. called him back as he went toward him; where they met, they were no longer visible from the inn.
"Barnabas," said K., unable to suppress a tremor in his voice, "there is something else I must tell you. I see now that this is actually quite a bad arrangement, my having to depend entirely on your chance appearances whenever I need anything from the Castle. If I hadn't managed to catch you just now by chance--the speed at which you fly, I thought you were still at the inn--who knows how long I should have had to wait before you came again."
"Well," said Barnabas, "you can ask the director to ensure that I always come at times set by you."
"But that wouldn't do either," said K., "perhaps for a whole year I won't want to send any messages, and then only fifteen minutes after you're gone, something that cannot be delayed."
"Should I report to the director, then," said Barnabas, "that there needs to be another means of communication between him and you, other than through me."
"No, no," said K., "absolutely not, I'm only mentioning this in passing, for I had the good fortune to catch you just now."
"Should we go back to the inn," said Barnabas, "so that you can give me the new instructions?" He already had taken a step toward the inn. "Barnabas," said K., "that isn't necessary, I shall go part of the way with you."
"Why don't you want to go to the inn?" asked Barnabas. "Those people there keep disturbing me," said K., "you yourself have seen how intrusive those peasants are."
"We can go to your room," said Barnabas. "It's the maids' room," said K., "it's dirty and dank, I wanted to go a bit of the way with you so I wouldn't have to stay there, only," K. added in an attempt to overcome Barnabas's hesitation, "you must let me take your arm, your footing is surer than mine." K. took his arm. It was quite dark, K. couldn't see his face, his form was indistinct, a little while ago he had tried to grope about for his arm.
Barnabas gave in, they moved away from the inn. Still, K. felt that however hard he tried he couldn't keep up with Barnabas and was restricting his freedom of movement and that a little thing like that could ruin everything even under ordinary conditions, let alone in side streets like the one where K. had sunk into the snow that morning and from which he could extricate himself only if Barnabas lifted him out. Yet he put aside those worries for now, besides he found Barnabas's silence comforting; if they went on like this in silence, it meant that for Barnabas, too, the only reason for being together was to keep going.
They went on, where to K. had no idea, he couldn't recognize anything, didn't even know whether they had passed the church. Due to the sheer effort of walking he could no longer control his thoughts. Rather than remaining fixed on the goal, they became confused. His homeland kept surfacing, filling him with memories. On its main square, too, was a church, partly surrounded by an old cemetery, and it, in turn, by a high wall. Only very few boys had ever climbed this wall, K.