Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Bridge

Wanted to post one of my most favorite short stories of Franz Kafka called The Bridge. May seem a bit surreal, but so perfectly expresses the feelings and perceptions that are not strange to me and to a lot of people I guess! And of course Carl Köhler's woodblock print of F. Kafka that says a lot about the great master of literature of the XX century!

I was stiff and cold, I was a bridge, I lay across an abyss. My toes dug deep on one side, my hands on the other, I had sunk my teeth into crumbling clay. The tails of my coat fluttered at my sides. The icy trout stream roared below me. No tourist strayed to these rugged heights, the bridge was not yet marked on any map. Thus I lay and waited; I had to wait. Without collapsing, no bridge , once erected, can cease to be a bridge. Once, toward evening, whether it was first or thousandth I cannot tell, my thoughts were always confused and always going round in circles-towards evening in the summer, with the roar of the stream now deeper, I heard human footsteps. Come to me, to me. Stretch yourself bridge, prepare yourself, girder without rail, bear the one entrusted to you, steady unobtrusively his uncertain steps, but if he stubbles, show your mettle and like a mountain god hurl him to the other side. He came, he tapped me with the iron spike of his stick, with which he then lifted my coat-tails and folded them about me, he plunged his spike into my bushy hair and let it rest there for quite some time, doubtlessly gazing all around him. But then - I was just following him in reverie over mountain and valley- he jumped with both feet onto the middle of my body. I shuddered with wild pain, utterly uncomprehending. Who was it? A child? A gymnast? A daredevil? A suicide? A tempter? An annihilator? And I turned over to look at him. A bridge turns over! I had not yet fully turned, when I began to fall; I fell and in a moment I was ripped apart and impaled on the sharp stones that had always gazed so peacefully up at me out of the raging waters.

Franz Kafka

Translated by Richard Stokes


  1. .
    Thanks for posting this excerpt from the Bridge. These feelings and perceptions are not strangers to me. To understand Kafka's work is important to read Letter to father. There are the keys to all their literature.

  2. Which book did you get this from, if I may ask?