On The Tram
Apologies to Facebook friends and Twitter chums who might have already seen this but I wanted to share this here as well.
I was talking to a good friend (big reader) the other day about Kafka. His was the standard response to someone mentioning him, ie he quoted the first sentence from The Metamorphosis (When Gregor Samsa woke up one morning from unsettling dreams, he found himself changed in his bed into a monstrous vermin).
He didn’t know much else about him so I said I’d lend him my copy of his complete works. I found the book and, as I tend to do, I had a little flick through it. And I’m glad I did because I was reminded of how short a lot of his stories are. They’re short shorts. They’re pieces of flash fiction. And, mostly, they’re brilliant.
In the process of my flicking I came across a story I’d not read before. It’s called On The Tram and I utterly love it. And as I’m a sharing kind of person, here it is (courtesy of Walradio):
On the Tram
by Franz Kafka
Translated by Willa and Edwin Muir
I stand on the end platform of the tram and am completely unsure of my footing in this world, in this town, in my family. Not even casually could I indicate any claims that I might rightly advance in any direction. I have not even any defense to offer for standing on this platform, holding on to this strap, letting myself be carried along by this tram, nor for the people who give way to the tram or walk quietly along or stand gazing into shopwindows. Nobody asks me to put up a defense, indeed, but that is irrelevant.
The tram approaches a stopping place and a girl takes up her position near the step, ready to alight. She is as distinct to me as if I had run my hands over her. She is dressed in black, the pleats of her skirt hang almost still, her blouse is tight and has a collar of white fine-meshed lace, her left hand is braced flat against the side of the tram, the umbrella in her right hand rests on the second top step. Her face is brown, her nose, slightly pinched at the sides, has a broad round tip. She has a lot of brown hair and stray little tendrils on the right temple. Her small ear is close-set, but since I am near her I can see the whole ridge of the whorl of her right ear and the shadow at the root of it.
At that point I asked myself: How is it that she is not amazed at herself, that she keeps her lips closed and makes no such remark?