Dear Diary: ‘Exclusive’ Notes from Kafka

By Scott Jacobson

Published August 21, 2008, issue of August 29, 2008.
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After four decades, a 74-year-old woman in Tel Aviv who is the guardian of a treasure trove of documents that once belonged to literary icon Franz Kafka may soon reveal the records. To tide over Kafka scholars, the Forward offers these exclusive excerpts from the journal of the man who wrote “The Metamorphosis.”

June 15, 1912
Story idea: Man awakes to discover that his consciousness now resides in the body of his sassy teenage daughter. Story occurs on a Friday, and should be freaky.

August 2, 1912
Eyebrows growing in nicely. Thick. Luxuriant. Playful-but-brooding. Soon they shall be the toast of Prague.

August 23, 1912
Plague of turmoil and indecision. What should my adjective mean? For that matter, what will it be? Kafkaish? Kafka-y? Franz-like?

February 14, 1913
My mood is dark. Visited the café seeking pancakes. Rather, I was treated to a byzantine host of options: Whole wheat or regular? Flapjack or silver dollar? Syrup smiley and strawberry eyes, or bacon smiley and sausage eyes?

Trapped in this web of breakfast bureaucracy, I froze. Retreated in frustration and shame.

(Possible story title: “Flummoxed Franz and the Pancake Caper.” Damn fine.)

April 18, 1913
Have named Max Brod my literary executor and informed him of my wishes: After my death, my eyebrows are to be burned.

May 10, 1913
Jury duty summons. Ugh!

June 22, 1913
Revised story idea: Robot wakes up to discover itself transformed into a large motor truck. Fights other transforming robots. Marketing possibilities are exciting.


September 7, 1913
Eyebrow update: Lookin’ good, Kafka.

September 8, 1913
I have spoken too soon. Eyebrows suddenly limp, lifeless, shedding like a Pomeranian in summer. Alas, a man does not simply awake one day to find himself suddenly beetle-browed. (Though, possible story idea?)

December 10, 1913
It is settled: My adjective shall be Kafkaesque. Suggested by Mr. Brod, a true friend. In return I coined his new nickname: Max-Max-Bo-Bax-Banana-Fana-Fo-Fax. Perhaps a little long. Mr. Brod will edit.

April 6, 1914
More thoughts on my adjective. Again, meaning is unclear. A possibility: Kafkaesque (adj.) — Of or pertaining to a guy who’s really smart, lives in Prague and enjoys pancakes.

June 13, 1914
Revelation! Was it not obvious all along? Kafkaesque (adj.) — Of or pertaining to a pair of world-class, razzle-dazzle eyebrows.

And a story idea to boot: Bug wakes up to find itself transformed into a man. Calls itself Bug Guy. Fights crime and/or transforming robots.

Yes, today I am confident. My literary reputation is secure.


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