by Franz Kafka
Translated by Annika Eder
(from the Octave Book D)
I am totally responsible for my own business. Two ladies with typewriters
and account books in the outer office, my room with desk, cash-box,
conference table, club chair and telephone, that is everything I work with.
So easy to survey, so easy to carry on. I am very young and business is
going well for me. I don't complain, I don't complain.
Since New Year's the small, empty flat, which I unfortunately hesitated to
rent for such a long time, has been rented by a young man right away. As
well a room with outer office, but besides that a kitchen. -Room and outer
office I could have used well - sometimes my ladies felt a bit overloaded -,
but how would I have used the kitchen? This little worry is to blame that I
didn't rent the flat myself. Now this young man is sitting there. Harras is
his name. What he is actually doing, I don't know. His door reads: "Harras,
bureau". I made inquiries, I've been notified that it is a business similar
to mine. You couldn't necessarily warn of guarantee for credit, since we are
dealing with a young, rising man, whose business may have a good future, but
you couldn't advice to credit either, since there doesn't seem to be any
fortune at the present. The common information you get, if you no one knows
Sometimes I meet Harras in the staircase, he always must be in an
extraordinary hurry, he formally scurries past me. I haven't seen him
completely yet, the keys to his office are always sitting ready in his hand.
In the matter of an instant he has opened the door. Like the tail of a rat
he slid in and again I am standing in front of the sign "Harras, bureau",
which I have already read more often than it deserves.
These awfully thin walls, which betray the honest man, but cover the
dishonest! My telephone is attached to the wall that separates me from my
neighbour. But I only emphasise that as a special ironic fact. Even if it
was hung on the opposite wall, you could hear everything in the neighbouring
flat. I gave up saying the names of clients on the phone. But through
characteristic, but unavoidable expressions it doesn't need much cunning to
guess the names. - Sometimes I wriggle, having the receiver close to my ear,
full of restlessness, around the telephone on my tiptoes, but still can't
prevent to reveal secrets.
Through that, my business decisions certainly get unsure, my voice starts
shaking. What is Harras doing while I am on the telephone? If I really
wanted to exaggerate - but you often have to, to make things clear -, I
could say: Harras doesn't need a telephone, he uses mine, he shifted his
sofa near the wall and listens, but I have to - when it rings - run to the
telephone, receive clients' wishes, make difficult decisions, perform great
prepared speeches - but before all during the whole time involuntarily
report to Harras through the wall.
Maybe he doesn't even wait until the end of the call, but rises after the
bit of conversation, which informed him enough about the case, scurries
habitual through the city and before I even dropped the receiver he might
already be busy working against me.
(from the Octave Book D)
by Franz Kafka
Translated by Tanya Ellerbrock
from the Octave Book D
My business rests entirely on my shoulders. Two ladies with typewriters and account books in the front room, my room with a desk, a cash box, a conference table, a lounge chair, and a telephone, that is everything I work with. So easy to survey, so easy to guide. I am quite young and business is going well for me. I don't worry, I don't worry.
Since the New Year a young man has just rented the small, vacant neighboring apartment, which I blunderingly hesitated too long to rent. It is also a room with a front room, and furthermore a kitchen. - I could have used the room and front room - my two ladies feel a bit overwhelmed sometimes -, but what would I have used the kitchen for? This petty misgiving was my debt, I let myself allow the apartment to be taken. Now this young man is sitting there. He is named Harras. What he actually does there I don't know. On the door it says "Harras, Office." I have made inquiries, I have been told it is a business similar to mine. I couldn't be alerted to credit loans, for it involves a young, up-coming man, whose business may have a future, so advice can't be given on credit, for at the moment no fortune appears to exist. The usual information which is given when nothing is known.
Sometimes I meet Harras on the steps, he must always be in an extraordinary hurry, he scurries carefully past me. I have never exactly seen him, he always has the office keys ready in his hand. In the blink of an eye he has opened the door. Like the tail of a rat, he has slipped in and I am standing again in front of the board "Harras, Office," which I have already read more often, that it deserves.
The woefully thin walls, which betray the honest, active man, cover the dishonest, however. My telephone is on the appropriate wall of the room, which separates me from my neighbor. But I emphasize that merely as an especially ironic fact.
Even if it were hung on the opposite wall, you could hear everything in the neighboring apartment. I have given up mentioning the names of clients on the phone. But of course it doesn't pertain much to shrewdness, guessing the names from characteristics, through unavoidable turns of the tongue. - sometimes I dance around, the receiver to my ear, spurred on by anxiety, on my tip toes, and still can not prevent that secrets are given away.
Certainly my business decisions will become insecure through that, my voice shaky. What is Harras doing while I am on the telephone? I would like to really exaggerate - but you must do that often, to make it clear -, so I could say Harras doesn't need a telephone, he uses mine, he moved his sofa against the wall and listens, I must run to the telephone when it rings, to accept clients' wishes, to handle difficult decisions, to perform large-scale persuasions - but above all involuntarily making a report to Harras through the wall of the room during the whole thing.
Maybe he doesn't even wait until the end of the conversation, but rather arises after the point of the conversation, which has cleared up the case enough for him, scurries through the city as is his habit and before I have hung up the receiver, he is might already be on it, counteracting me.