Franz Kafka (1883 - 1924)
The cares of a family man
hast mich letzthin einmal gefragt, warum ich behaupte,
ich hätte Furcht vor Dir
say the word Odradek is of Slavonic origin, and try to account
for it on that basis. Others again believe it to be of German
origin, only influenced by Slavonic. The uncertainty of both
interpretations allows one to assume with justice that neither
is accurate, especially as neither of them provides an intelligent
meaning of the word.
one, of course, would occupy himself with such studies if
there were not a creature called Odradek. At first glance
it looks like a flat star-shaped spool for thread, and indeed
it does seem to have thread wound upon it; to be sure, they
are only old, broken-off bits of thread, knotted and tangled
together, of the most varied sorts and colors. But it is not
only a spool, for a small wooden crossbar sticks out of the
middle of the star, and another small rod is joined to that
at a right angle. By means of this latter rod on one side
and one of the points of the star on the other, the whole
thing can stand upright as if on two legs.
is tempted to believe that the creature once had some sort
of intelligible shape and is now only a broken-down remnant.
Yet this does not seem to be the case; at least there is no
sign of it; nowhere is there an unfinished or unbroken surface
to suggest anything of the kind; the whole thing looks senseless
enough, but in its own way perfectly finished. In any case,
closer scrutiny is impossible, since Odradek is extraordinarily
nimble and can never be laid hold of.
lurks by turns in the garret, the stairway, the lobbies, the
entrance hall. Often for months on end he is not to be seen;
then he has presumably moved into other houses; but he always
comes faithfully back to our house again. Many a time when
you go out of the door and he happens just to be leaning directly
beneath you against the banisters you feel inclined to speak
to him. Of course, you put no difficult questions to him,
you treat him--he is so diminutive that you cannot help it--rather
like a child. "Well, what's your name?" you ask him. "Odradek,"
he says. "And where do you live?" "No fixed abode," he says
and laughs; but it is only the kind of laughter that has no
lungs behind it. It sounds rather like the rustling of fallen
leaves. And that is usually the end of the conversation. Even
these anwers are not always forthcoming; often he stays mute
for a long time, as wooden as his appearance.
ask myself, to no purpose, what is likely to happen to him?
Can he possibly die? Anything that dies has had some kind
of aim in life, some kind of activity, which has worn out;
but that does not apply to Odradek. Am I to suppose, then,
that he will always be rolling down the stairs, with ends
of thread trailing after him, right before the feet of my
children, and my children's children? He does no harm to anyone
that one can see; but the idea that he is likely to survive
me I find almost painful.
qu'on fait n'est jamais compris mais seulement loué ou blâmé.
Nietzsche, Gay Science