Friday, February 16, 2007

The Castle

From Kafka's The Castle.

'Come with me,' said the gentleman, not really as a command, for the command lay not in the words, but in a slight, studiedly indifferent gesture of the hand which accompanied them. 'I'm waiting here for somebody,' said K., no longer in the hope of any success, but simply on principle. 'Come,' said the gentleman once more quite imperturbably, as if he wanted to show that he had never doubted that K. was waiting for somebody. 'But then I would miss the person I'm waiting for,' said K. with an emphatic nod of his head. In spite of everything that had happened he had the feeling that what he had achieved thus far was something gained, which it was true he only held now in seeming, but which he must not relinquish all the same merely on account of a polite command. 'You'll miss him in any case, whether you go or stay,' said the gentleman, expressing himself bluntly, but showing an unexpected consideration for K.'s line of thought. 'Then I would rather wait for him and miss him,' said K. defiantly; he would certainly not be driven away from here by the mere talk of this young man. Thereupon the gentleman closed his eyes for a few minutes, as if he wanted to turn from K's senseless stupidity to his own sound reason again, ran the tip of his tongue round his slightly parted lips, and said at last to the coachman: 'Unyoke the horses.'

Obedient to the gentleman, but with a furious side-glance at K., the coachman had now to get down in spite of his fur coat, and began very hesitatingly – as if he did not so much expect a counter-order from the gentleman as a sensible remark from K. – to back the horses and the sledge closer to the side wing, in which apparently, behind a big door, was the shed where the vehicles were kept. K. saw himself deserted, the sledge was disappearing in one direction, in the other, by the way he had come himself, the gentleman was receding, both it was true very slowly, as if they wanted to show K. that it was still in his power to call them back.

Perhaps he had this power, but it would have availed him nothing; to call the sledge back would be to drive himself away. So he remained standing as one who held the field, but it was a victory which gave him no joy. Alternately he looked at the backs of the gentleman and the coachman. The gentleman had already reached the door through which K. had first come into the courtyard; yet once more he looked back, K. fancied he saw him shaking his head over such obstinacy, then with a short, decisive, final movement he turned away and stepped into the hall, where he immediately vanished. The coachman remained for a while still in the courtyard, he had a great deal of work with the sledge, he had to open the heavy door of the shed, back the sledge into its place, unyoke the horses, lead them to their stalls; all this he did gravely, with concentration, evidently without any hope of starting soon again, and this silent absorption which did not spare a single side-glance for K. seemed to the latter a far heavier reproach than the behaviour of the gentleman. And when now, after finishing his work in the shed, the coachman went across the courtyard in his slow, rolling walk, closed the huge gate and then returned, all very slowly, while he literally looked at nothing but his own footprints in the snow - and finally shut himself into the shed; and now as all the electric lights went out too - for whom should they remain on? - and only up above the slit in the wooden gallery still remained bright, holding one's wondering gaze for a little, it seemed to K. as if at last those people had broken off all relations with him, and as if now in reality he were freer than he had ever been, and at liberty to wait here in this place usually forbidden to him as long as he desired, and had won a freedom such as hardly anybody else had ever succeeded in winning, and as if nobody could dare to touch him or drive him away, or even speak to him; but – this conviction was at least equally strong – as if at the same time there was nothing more senseless, nothing more hopeless, than this freedom, this waiting, this inviolability.

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