Kafka on silence.

Looking at the castle, K. felt at times as if he was watching a person who was sitting there quietly, staring straight ahead, not so much lost in thought and hence cut off from everything as free and unconcerned; as if the person had been alone, with no one watching him; he must be aware that he was being watched, but it did not affect his calm in the least and in fact – there was no telling whether this was cause or effect – the watcher’s gaze found no purchase and kept sliding away. This impression was reinforced today by the early dusk, the longer K. looked, the less he could make out, the deeper everything sank into semi-darkness. (89)


… Amalia turned up her mouth as if mildly annoyed, gave K. a wordless nod, clearly in dismissal, and lay back down. From a reclining position, she surveyed him as if surprised that he was still there. It was a cold, clear gaze, inflexible as ever, not quite aimed at what she was looking at but passing – this bothered him – slightly, almost imperceptibly, but without any doubt to one side, it was apparently not weakness, not awkwardness, not dishonesty that caused this but a constant yearning, more powerful than any other emotion, to be alone, a yearning that perhaps she herself became aware of only in this way. (150)


Amalia smiled, and that smile, although sad, lit up the darkly furrowed face, made the silence voluble, made the remoteness familiar, was the divulgence of a secret, the surrender of a hitherto protected possession, which though it might be taken back could never be so entirely. (151)


The man’s silent presence is itself an invitation to penetrate his wretched life, to look around in it as if one were the owner, and to suffer with him from his futile demands. That invitation, in the silence of night, is an enchantment. One accepts it and has actually ceased, then, to be an official. It’s a situation in which it quickly becomes impossible to turn down a request. To be precise, one is in despair, to be even more precise, one’s extremely happy. In despair, because the defenceless way one sits there, waiting for the party’s request and knowing that, once voiced, it must be granted, even if, so far as one’s own vision goes, at least, it literally rips the official organization apart – that is probably the worst thing one comes up against, doing this job. (238-239)


– Franz Kafka, The Castle



Some times people speak of the gold of silence and riots on empty streets.


But people also write each other badly rhymed love songs inspired by the 90s hair-gel plagued boybands ala Backstreet Boys about ‘fire’ and ‘desire’ and ‘heartache’ and ‘mistake’. 


But people also furiously type and edit and retype and reread and reedit Facebook statuses and Twitter nuggets to curate potentially ‘likability’ soliciting blue thumbs-up emoticons and template yellow stars.


But people also spend hours on end finding the right adjectives and verbs and academically invent complex, convulted, unusable, multi-syllabic nouns to characterize phenomena they want to reference in shorthand with a string of letters.


But people also search through their archive of life experience and emotive consolations to convey a condolence or shared anguish or empathy or encouragement to communicate to.


And yet, I cannot phantom any thing more intimate than sharing a physical proximity and radiating bodily warmth in an affectual silence that tells two people that you can have no words and still be one.

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