FRANZ KAFKA AND HIS DISORDERLY DESK
(Through the pages of his diary)
December 24 I have now examined my desk more closely and have seen that nothing good can be done on it.
There is so much lying about, it forms a disorder without proportion and without that compatibility of disordered things which otherwise makes every disorder bearable. Let disorder prevail on the green baize as it will, the same is true of the orchestras of old theatres. But that (December 25) wads of old newspapers, catalogues, picture postcards, letters, all partly torn, partly open, should stick out from the standing-room— the open pigeonhole under the centre- piece in the shape of a staircase, this unseemly state of affairs spoils everything. Individual, relatively huge things in the orchestra appear in the greatest possible activity, as though It were permissible for the merchant to audit his books in the theater, the carpenter to hammer, the officer to brandish his saber, the cleric to speak to the heart, the scholar to the reason, the politician to the sense of citizenship, the lovers not to restrain themselves, etc. Only the shaving mirror stands erect on my table, in the way it is used for shaving, the clothes brush lies with its bristles down on the cloth, the wallet lies open in case I want to make a payment, from the key ring a key sticks out in readiness and the tie still twines itself partly around the collar I have taken off. The next higher open pigeonhole, already hemmed in by the small closed drawers, is nothing but a lumber room, as though the first balcony of the auditorium, really the most visible part of the theater, were reserved for the most vulgar people, for old men-about-town in whom the dirt gradually moves from the inside to the outside, rude fellows who let their feet hang down over the balcony railing.
Families with so many children that one merely glances at them without being able to count them here set up the filth of poor nurseries (indeed, it is already running into the orchestra), in the dark background sit the incurably sick, fortunately one sees them only when one shines a light in there, etc. In this pigeonhole the old papers that I should long ago have thrown away if I had a waste-paper basket, pencils with broken points, an empty match-box, a paperweight from Karlsbad, a ruler with an edge the unevenness of which would be awful even for a country road, a lot of collar buttons, used razor blades (for these there is no place in the world), tie clips and still another heavy iron paperweight. In the pigeonhole above-- —
Wretched, wretched, and yet with good intentions. It is midnight, but since I have slept very well, that is an excuse only to the extent that by day I would have written nothing. The burning electric light, the silent house, the darkness outside, the last waking momenis, they give me the right to write even if it be only the most miserable stuff. And this right I use hurriedly. That’s the person I am.
December 26. Two and a half days I was, 'though not completely, alone, and already I am, if not transformed, at any rate on the way. Being alone has a power over me that never fails.My interior dissolves (for the time being only ' superficially) and is ready to release what has deeper. A slight ordering of my interior begins to take place and I need nothing more, for disorder is the worst thing in small talents.