from kafka’s the zürau aphorisms

 

1.

 

The true path is along a rope, not a rope suspended way up in the air, but rather only just over the ground. It seems more like a tripwire than a tightrope.

 

2.

All human errors stem from impatience, a premature breaking off of a methodical approach, an ostensible pinning down of an ostensible object.

  

3.

There are two cardinal human vices, from which all the others derive their being: impatience and carelessness. Impatience got people evicted from Paradise; carelessness kept them from making their way back there. Or perhaps there is only one cardinal vice: impatience. Impatience got people evicted, and impatience kept them from making their way back.

 

 4.

Many of the shades of the departed busy themselves entirely with lapping at the waters of the Acheron, because it comes from us and still carries the salt tang of our seas. This causes the river to coil with revulsion, and even to reverse its course, and so to wash the dead back to life. They are perfectly happy, and sing chorus of gratitude, and caress the indignant river.

 

 5.

From a certain point on there is no more turning back. That is the point that must be reached.

 

6.

The decisive moment of human development is continually at hand. This is why those movements of revolutionary thought that declare everything preceding to be an irrelevance are correct—because as yet nothing has happened.

 

7.

One of the most effective seductions of Evil is the call to struggle. It’s like the struggle with women, which ends up in bed.

 

8/9.

A smelly bitch that has brought forth plenty of young, already rotting in places, but that to me in my childhood meant everything, who continue to follow me faithfully everywhere, whom I am quite incapable of disciplining, but before whom I shrink back, step by step, shying away from her breath, and who will end up—unless I decide otherwise—forcing me into a corner that I can already see, there to decompose fully and utterly on me and with me, until finally—is it a distinction?—the pus- and worm-ravaged flesh of her tongue laps at my hand.

 

—from Franz Kafka, The Zürau Aphorisms. Trans. Michael Hofmann.  New York: Schocken, 2006.

 

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