A new translation by Mark Harman, who writes, ‘I was mindful of the fact that Kafka often read his stories aloud with the “rhythmic sweep, dramatic fire, and a spontaneity such as no actor achieves” (Max Brod). I wanted to create a text that could be read aloud in English since the very sound of Kafka’s German and the pattern of his syntax evoke the at-first unimpeded progress of the emperor’s messenger and then the obstacles that begin to clog his path.

An excerpt:

The emperor—it is said—sent to you, the one apart, the wretched subject, the tiny shadow that fled far, far from the imperial sun, precisely to you he sent a message from his deathbed. He bade the messenger kneel by his bed, and whispered the message in his ear. So greatly did he cherish it that he had him repeat it into his ear. With a nod of his head he confirmed the accuracy of the messenger’s words. And before the entire spectatorship of his death—all obstructing walls have been torn down and the great figures of the empire stand in a ring upon the broad, soaring exterior stairways—before all these he dispatched the messenger.

(Click on the title of this post to read the rest of the story.)


from 'The Girl's Story'

Reina Maria Rodriguez

Other Letters to Milena

We were fortunate to have author Reina María Rodríguez make a recording for Asymptote in New York, with the help of her translator, Kristin Dykstra.. This is an excerpt from her memoir Other Letters to Milena, which we published in our second issue, in the original Spanish. You can read the piece here.

And here is an excerpt from Dykstra’s excellent translation, as a teaser:

I never figured out what kind of relationship there was between Kafka and Milena.  For many years I hadn’t read his letters.  Elis Milena (my Milena); Milena (you, the concentration camp Milena, his Milena).  My daughter was born on July 3, like Kafka.  Her first name would have been Milena, through him.  But I didn’t want to break with my family’s long tradition, its preference for names starting with the letter E.  In the end, when I began writing the first letter at the airport, the day the plane went off to Vienna with my luggage but not me, I thought about that name as the synthesis of many happenings connecting us.  I had read a biography of Milena and kept her photograph on the bookshelf, right by my bed.  I didn’t want that fate for you or her.  All the same I sensed the connection in a time when “the real” is always perverted by some dream of power.  Then I went looking for other letters.  I read the ones from Madame de Sevigne to her daughter.  I was not at court among princes, and we wouldn’t talk about your next hairstyle, but there’s always a court surrounding a woman even if monarchy doesn’t exist here.  On that trajectory, breaking off one journey in order to undertake another one, with different proportions, I found that time for the lost girl.  She’s also surprised, and from the inside of disaster, she sees the flower with the same eyes, the flower that begins to grow, even to its sorrow.  That flower is you, my tiny Elis, you who begins to grow inside disaster.