A Moment of Mastery

In The Castle Kafka writes of an uncommon moment of mastery:

Memories of his home kept recurring and filled his mind. There, too, a church stood in the market-place, partly surrounded by an old graveyard which was again surrounded by a high wall. Very few boys had managed to climb that wall, and for same time K., too, had failed. It was not curiosity which had urged them on. The graveyard had no mystery to them. They had often entered it through a small wicket-gate, it was only the smooth high wall that they had wanted to conquer. But one morning – the empty, quiet marketplace had been flooded with sunshine, when had K. ever seen it like that before or since? – he had succeeded in climbing it with astonishing ease; at a place where he had already slipped down many a time he had clambered with a small flag between his teeth right to the top at the first attempt. Stones were rattling down under his feet, but he was at the top. He stuck the flag in, it flew in the wind, he looked down and round about him, over his shoulder, too, at the crosses mouldering in the ground, nobody was greater than he at that place and that moment.

It is a moment of beautiful lucidity, in the middle of a dreamlike journey. The detail that moves me most is that he clambered with a small flag between his teeth. Did that flag accompany every attempt to climb this smooth wall? I suspect not, just the one that he instinctively knew would succeed, before he started to climb.

These moments of transcendence are uncommon, we recall them for the remainder of our lives. I suspect this incident is autobiographical.

3 thoughts on “A Moment of Mastery

  1. >Great to come across your site – I like the detail in your posts. Rereading The Castle was very important to me about 2 years ago – my micro fiction blog emerged from that reading.Incidentally, looking back at your more recent posts I saw that you have been reading some Josepovici. I recently read his novel Moo Pak and found a reference in it to a quotation supposedly from Proust's Contre Sainte-Beuve that begins: 'We have pushed against all the doors and not one of them has yielded…' I re-read my copy of Contre Sainte-Beuve and couldn't find it – and then thought for a time the quote came from Kafka – from The Trial – (and also one of J M Coetzee's Elizabeth Costello novels, in the form of a deliberate echo), but today found it in Le Temps retrouvé… cheers,

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  2. >Thank you, JAAC. I've learnt something new about micro fiction, which until today I hadn't come across.It can become quite an obsession, trying to track a phrase down, particularly when it is not where you expected.

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