Page 108 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 46

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
illum ined in K afka’s le tte rs , fo r instance th e on e o f 8 Ju ly 1913
to Felice B aue r . D eba ting with h im se lf w h e th e r to m a r ry Felice,
Kafka con fessed his fea rs o f d e s troy ing h e r a n d his n e ed fo r
d istance from he r :
Can you not see by now that if disaster -— yours, your disaster,
Felice — is to be averted, I have to remain locked up within
myself . . . If need be, I can live as I am, my rage turned inward,
tormenting only by letter, but as soon as we lived together I
would become a dangerous lunatic fit to be burned alive.16
Tw o days la te r he w ro te:
I have a definite feeling that through marriage,
through the union,
through the dissolution
o f this nothingness that I am, I shall perish,
and not alone but with my wife, and that the more I love her
the swifter and more terrible it will be .17
Engaged to m a rry Felice in 1914 (he was, in fact, en g ag ed fo u r
times, to th re e w om en , an d each tim e was un ab le to b r in g h im ­
se lf to m arry ) , Kafka began an overly -in tim a te c o r re sp o n d e n c e
with h e r f r ien d , G re te Bloch. T o G re te he u n b u r d e n e d h im se lf
o f his fears ab o u t the im p e n d in g m a r r iag e . His le tte rs show
th a t d u r in g th e seven m on th s o f his en g ag em en t , Kafka was
seek ing C r e te ’s love. W hen G re te rea lized this, she was un ab le
to let th e m a r r iag e take place. T h e e n g ag em en t was cance lled ,
as Kafka h ad p robab ly hop ed .
T h e A gnon h e ro su ffe rs a d ilemm a sim ilar to th a t d e sc r ibed
by Kafka fo r he , too, is incapab le , o r a t least very m uch a f ra id ,
o f loving an d o f be ing loved on equa l te rm s with a wom an .
W h e th e r conscious o f it o r no t, he seems to look fo r, o r even
to c rea te , c ircum s tances in which his d e e p e r a tta chm en ts to
wom en a re likely to go u n re q u i te d o r to e n d in fa ilu re . A t any
ra te , he en su re s sa tisfactory d istance from his ‘be loved ’ o r wife,
usually th ro u g h love tr iang les o r th ro u g h his in te rm in ab le work .
I f his m e thod s c an n o t be em p loyed o r fail, he m igh t f ind som e
excuse to e ffec t a sep a ra tion , o r even to r e t r e a t in to m adness .
T h e very nam e ‘A g n o n ’, as th e a u th o r uses it, re fe rs to those
u n f o r tu n a te souls who have n o t fo u n d th e i r t ru e m a te s .18
16.
Letters to Felice,
tr. J. Stern & E. Duckworth, Penguin Books, 1978, p. 409.
17.
Ibid.,
pp. 411.
18. See Aberbach,
At the Handles o f the Lock, op. cit.