The novelist Franz Kafka’s letters to a young girl showed that although one thing may be gone, something else can come in and fill the void.
The letters also showed that although the doll had to go, it was still remembered and loved.
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Franz Kafka was a German-speaking Bohemian novelist and short-story writer based in Prague, widely regarded as one of the significant figures of 20th-century literature. His work fuses elements of realism and the fantastic.
His best-known works include the novella Metamorphosis and the novels The Trial and The Castle. But few know one of his most underappreciated works. Learn more about how he wrote one of his most challenging assignments, the story of the traveling doll.
Why did Franz Kafka write the letters?
It is said that a year before Franz Kafka’s death in 1924, he stumbled upon a girl named Elsi in a park in Berlin. Elsi had lost her doll Brigett. Moved by her tears, Kafka introduced himself as a postman who delivered letters to children. So he embarked on an expedition to write a letter to Elsi from Brigett.
What starts as a letter eventually leads to a series of letters. This mission is a transformational journey for Kafka as a person and writer, as he gains a newfound purpose and vigor during the last few months of his life.
The book captures Franz Kafka’s dilemma of wanting to please the little girl. At the same time, it raises specific concerns about the repercussions of his actions on the girl. Nevertheless, his motive to see the girl’s happiness depicts a particular kindness that lies beneath his eccentric exterior of his.
Kafka’s brilliance in his imagination and lyrical style is seen in the letters he writes to the girl from her doll. It transports the readers to places around the globe, including London, Paris, Vienna, and Tanzania. In a way, Kafka creates an imaginary world, traversing into the realm of another reality.
Why were the letters so important?
Kafka placed himself in the doll’s shoes and explained why the child shouldn’t grieve despite losing it. This could mirror, in some way, what he wanted to say to potential loved ones should he depart to bring peace despite his leaving.
It was important because it was the beginning of many letters containing explanations and stories of the doll’s adventures. The letters comforted the child, who believed the doll was away on an experience and had gotten comfort from regularly receiving letters crafted by Kafka.
For several weeks, the writer continued to arrive every morning with new letters for the young girl, and inevitably, he knew that he had to prepare her for the news that the doll would not be coming back.
Despite knowing that it would lead up to revealing to the girl that the doll would not return, Kafka struggled with presenting this news to a child. He knew his spell would be destroyed once he revealed that the doll would no longer return. Kafka was terminally ill during this time and had just months to live.
Before leaving Berlin, Kafka gave the child another doll with a letter from the last doll, sharing how the doll was not coming back. “My travels have changed me.”
The impact of Franz Kafka’s letters
Franz Kafka’s letters beg the question, what is the proper way of saying goodbye? Kafka, although he was able to prolong saying goodbye to the child through the doll’s perspective, knew that in time, the doll would have to say goodbye ultimately.
Although the letters were influential as a form of comfort and could give a sense of communication between the departed doll and the girl, ultimately, the doll had to be replaced. The letters were helpful since they calmed the child and prepared her for grief by explaining why the doll had to let go.
When the girl was a grown-up, long after the passing of the famous Franz Kafka, a letter was found in the replacement doll with the last words coming from the supposed doll. “Everything that you love, you will eventually lose, but in the end, love will return to you in a different form.”
The power of grief
There is no easy way to deal with departure and the grief that comes with it. However, Kafka showed in his letters that despite the departure of one thing, another thing could go and fill in the gaps.
In such life, things come and go, and when one love fades, another may take its place. The letters showed that although the doll had to go, it was still remembered and loved. Kafka’s letters to the young girl were a beautiful way to show that although one thing may be gone, something else can come in and fill the void.
Kafka’s story of the traveling doll is a powerful reminder of the importance of grief and how it can be used to find comfort and solace in the face of loss. While it may be challenging to say goodbye to something we love, it is essential to remember that love can come in many forms and that there is always something new to look forward to.