From a distance it's unmistakeable, up on the hill, shining in the sun, the largest castle in the world. Once you start approaching it though, you lose it in the maze of buildings. As you muddle your way through the narrow winding streets and up the long flights of steps, sometimes you catch a glimpse of just a small part of it. The closer you get to it, the more unreachable it becomes, it almost recedes into the distance. What goes on inside? Apparently the president has his office there, but how much government could you put in something that big? How many different, forgotten governments still have their offices in there? The tour guide this afternoon, his grandmother has lived in seven different countries and has never left her village. Maybe they're all still in there.
If you persist in trying to get there (but why are you persisting? what do you think you will find?), you finally arrive at the top of the hill, undisputably the top of the steps, but with only a wall, an iron fence through which you can see an odd-looking garden if you press your face to the bars and look sideways, and what might be a gate during normal hours (after all, it is eight in the evening and the sun set at least three hours ago), but there's no way to tell. Is this the way in? Is there a way in? At that moment I was certain that if I'd taken my cellphone out of my pocket and called the castle, I would have heard only
a humming, such as K. had never before heard on the telephone, emerged from the receiver. It was as if the murmur of countless childish voices--not that it was really a murmur, it was more like the singing of voices, very very far away--as if that sound were forming, as unlikely as that might be, into a single high, strong voice, striking the ear as if trying to penetrate further than into the mere human sense of hearing. K. heard it and said nothing; he had propped his left arm on the telephone stand, and listened like that.
I think I read The Castle ten years ago, maybe twenty, but it all came back to me as I climbed up those endless steps to that unreachable goal. Literature and life came together in that moment and it was overwhelming.
Of course, moments later, Frank texted me asking when I was coming home with the laptop, because the wifi on the desktop was too slow to watch videos on YouTube, and then the street was suddenly flooded with loud, drunk German tourists who tried to argue with the street musician who'd taken out his guitar and was blowing into his harmonica. Just to set that perfect moment into sharp relief.
I have to go to the Kafka museum tomorrow.