CAT AND MOUSE
O readers, dear readers! where does the time go? There is so much I wanted to tell you, and the things to write keep on filling up the time to write them in. My article on the Kafka papers controversy ran in Sunday’s New York Times magazine and, because of the many kind emails I received about the episode set in the heiress’s front yard, and in honor of the proliferation of alternate texts in the world of letters, I am posting a longer draft version of that scene, which includes more cats, more lawyers, more Kafka, more Brod, and more about Avi Steinberg’s hair.
Of the many incredible emails since Sunday (including the tale of Eva Hoffe’s erstwhile teenage cat-sitter, “a story for which,” as Dr. Watson would say, “the world is not yet prepared”), I would like to share two with you tonight.
1. Re: cats, from Jamie C.
My boyfriend, Itai, lives in Tel Aviv (a 10 minute drive from 23 Spinoza). I live in the United States. We meet via Skype during the long periods we aren’t together in the same time zone. During our Skype meet-ups, we find interesting articles to read aloud while simultaneously playing Scrabble. On Thursday of last week, your article was the featured read. Afterward, with your quotations in hand, my thoughtful and sweet Itai headed to Spinoza street to photograph the vignettes beautifully described in your article. I’m inserting the result here.
2. Re: mice, from Mitchell Halberstadt (Oakland, CA):
This past July, I visited the Kafka Museum in Prague, and purchased a mouse pad for my computer in the gift shop.
The mouse pad has a blue-gray background, and is illustrated with Kafka’s signature (in white) and various stick-figure drawings (in black, red, green, and dark blue).
Soon after I returned home to California, I began to notice that the cursor on my computer monitor was behaving erratically: as I moved the mouse, it would jump from one position to another, sometimes with the slightest movement of the mouse. I feared that my computer had become infected with a virus, or was being subjected to remote commands coming in over the Internet. In particular, I feared that my online account had been hacked during the two months I’d been away, and that some outside agent now had access to my computer and was controlling it.
I tried manipulating my firewall software and running all sorts of anti-virus programs, but nothing consistently solved the problem. My computer seemed to be out of my control.
Eventually, I realized that on returning home, as soon as I’d unpacked, I’d begun using the mouse pad I’d bought in Prague. I’d read that the behavior of an infrared mouse could be compromised by the surface over which it was moving—particularly if the surface was characterized by a contrasting pattern that could confuse the infrared sensor—but the “Kafka” mouse pad seemed to have fewer contrasts (or “reflectivity shifts”) than the one it replaced, so I hadn’t tried removing it in my efforts to resolve the jumping-cursor problem.
Nonetheless, I tried removing the Kafka mouse pad and replacing it with the one I’d been using before my trip.
Instantly, I regained control of my computer.
I’m keeping the mouse pad as an incredible, mysterious souvenir of my visit to Prague—an eerie, haunted object in which Kafka’s world lives on.
I would also like to take this opportunity to thank some of the many people whose help I wasn’t able to acknowledge in the published piece (which went through many, many cuts along the way). These include Shelley Frisch, the wonderful English translator of Reiner Stach’s wonderful three-volume Kafka biography. Shelley’s translation of Volume Two, The Decisive Years, came out in 2005, and Volume Three, tentatively titled The Revelatory Years (Die Jahre der Erkenntnis), is scheduled for 2012. (Reiner Stach is currently working on Volume One, while waiting for material from the Hoffe estate to be made public.) A big thanks is also due to valued super-readers Maya Arad, Peli Grietzer, Reviel Netz, Nurit Pagi, and Na’ama Rokem. You guys are the best! Finally, two of the really great printed sources that were consulted for, but not named in, the article: “Editions, translations, adaptations,” by Osman Durrani, in The Cambridge Companion to Kafka, and Kafka and Cultural Zionism: Dates in Palestine, by Iris Bruce.
I have to scurry back into my hole now, but you can always click here for Spinoza Street kitten footage.