An imaginary cafe conversation
Leo: Is this seat free? All the other tables are taken.
Franz: I’m sorry. Let me clear my stuff away.
Leo: Thanks. Haven’t I seen you here before? With your notebook?
Franz: I expect so. I come because it’s usually quiet. And the coffee’s good.
Leo: Forgive me asking, but you aren’t a fellow writer, are you?
Franz: I only play at it. I studied chemistry at university, changed to law, then ended up in an insurance office. Writing’s what I do to keep sane.
Leo: Tell me about it. I’m stuck in a bank, but dream of being a poet.
Franz: My working hours are a nightmare: eight at night until six the next morning. That’s why I escape here. Though I sometimes wonder why I bother.
Leo: Perhaps because of the people you’re going to inspire with your writing one day?
Franz: I can see why you’re a poet. With that active imagination…
Leo: I presume it’s fiction you write?
Franz: Usually. Though I’ve also dabbled with journalism. Not very successfully.
Leo: But you’re published?
Franz: A few short stories.
Leo: That’s great! Anything I might have read?
Franz: I doubt it. The publications were obscure. I had one single review.
Leo: Still, you mustn’t give up.
Franz: My friend, I’ve THREE separate novels in my desk drawer. Not one of them finished, never mind published. And my health’s not good, which is a trial. I’d be better off spending my free time in the steam baths at the sanitorium.
Leo: You must keep going. Think of all the creative effort you’ve invested.
Franz: That’s what my friend Max says. My father thinks I’m a waste of space, but at least someone encourages me.
Leo: Well, any time I see you in here I’d be honoured to do the same.
Franz: That’s generous of you. Now, I need to get going. But it’s good to meet another writer. Helps me feel less of an impostor.
Leo: I’m sure you’re not that. But let’s at least exchange names. I’m Leo.
Franz: And I’m Franz. Goodbye.
When Franz Kafka died of TB in 1924 in Prague, aged only forty, he was an unknown writer. His three novels were unfinished and unpublished. His few published stories had won no prizes and attracted a solitary review. It was only following his funeral that his writer friend, Max Brod, investigated his desk and unearthed genius.
We are unlikely to become Kafkas, but hopefully we won’t need to be discovered posthumously and hopefully we will find friends to encourage our efforts.
(The excellent photograph above was taken by Ed, our solitary male ‘voice’, who often visits Prague with his lovely wife, Jitka, and presumably polished off that gorgeous piece of cake after setting aside his camera…)