Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Kafka / Up in the Gallery

Up in the Gallery
by Franz Kafka
Translated by Ian Johnston

If some frail tubercular lady circus rider were to be driven in circles around and around the arena for months and months without interruption in front of a tireless public on a swaying horse by a merciless whip-wielding master of ceremonies, spinning on the horse, throwing kisses and swaying at the waist, and if this performance, amid the incessant roar of the orchestra and the ventilators, were to continue into the ever-expanding, gray future, accompanied by applause, which died down and then swelled up again, from hands which were really steam hammers, perhaps then a young visitor to the gallery might rush down the long stair case through all the levels, burst into the ring, and cry “Stop!” through the fanfares of the constantly adjusting orchestra.

But since things are not like that—since a beautiful woman, in white and red, flies in through curtains which proud men in livery open in front of her, since the director, devotedly seeking her eyes, breathes in her direction, behaving like an animal, and, as a precaution, lifts her up on the dapple-gray horse, as if she were his grand daughter, the one he loved more than anything else, as she starts a dangerous journey, but he cannot decide to give the signal with his whip and finally, controlling himself, gives it a crack, runs right beside the horse with his mouth open, follows the rider’s leaps with a sharp gaze, hardly capable of comprehending her skill, tries to warn her by calling out in English, furiously castigating the grooms holding hoops, telling them to pay the most scrupulous attention, and begs the orchestra, with upraised arms, to be quiet before the great jump, finally lifts the small woman down from the trembling horse, kisses her on both cheeks, considers no public tribute adequate, while she herself, leaning on him, high on the tips of her toes, with dust swirling around her, arms outstretched and head thrown back, wants to share her luck with the entire circus—since this is how things are, the visitor to the gallery puts his face on the railing and, sinking into the final march as if into a difficult dream, weeps, without realizing it.

Illustration by Picasso
On the Gallery 
by Franz Kafka
Translated by Maja Sinn

If some decrepit horse riding artist sick of tuberculosis were driven around in circles in the circus arena on a swaying horse by a whip-swinging merciless boss for months without pause, whirring on the horse, blowing kisses, swaying with her waist, and if this play continued under the never-ending roaring of the orchestra and of the fans until the ever-opening gray future, accompanied by dying and newly rising applause of hands which actually are steam hammers maybe a young gallery visitor would hurry down the long stairs through all the aisles, would hurl himself into the circus arena, would call Halt! through the sounds of the fanfares of the ever-adapting orchestra.

However, since it is not so; since a beautiful lady, white and red, is coming flying in, in between the curtains, which the proud uniformed servants are opening up before her; since the director, looking devotedly for her eyes, is breathing towards her; lifts her precautiously onto the dapple-gray horse, as if she were his beloved granddaughter who is wandering on perilous paths; cannot decide to give the sign with the whip; finally gives it loudly in self-conquest ; runs along the horse open-mouthed; follows the riding girl’s jumps with attentive eyes; can hardly comprehend her skill; tries to warn with English exclamations; furiously admonishes the wheel-holding grooms to minutious attentiveness; conjures the orchestra with raised hands to be silent before the grand somersault; finally lifts the little girl off the trembling horse, kisses her on both cheeks and does not deem any praise of the audience sufficient; while she herself, supported by him, high on the tips of her feet, fanned by dust, her arms spread, her head laid back, wants to share her happiness with the whole circus ­ since it is so, the gallery visitor lays his face on the balustrade and, getting lost in the final march like in a deep dream, cries without knowing it.

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