What you you think when a person starts talking about their father? For one thing, you don’t know who this person is, and the guy talking about him is anything but dispassionate. Well, it is his father after all. I don’t say he is not objective, just especially interested and with special access to the subject–which is his father. This is not calculated to inspire confidence in the person listening, that the person being talked about is going to come through. To put it lightly. In so far as he does, this father figure, come through, it probably would strike you as wrong, inaccurate, not the man, unfortunately, precisely because it would be a familiar figure, a cliche–one of those fathers authors concoct! For how could anyone’s real father, if known, not be . . . one of a kind? To the son, moreover. The very son! And just so, therefore inaccessible, in his uniqueness to others, like you, who are getting this spiel.
So what I am saying, Mondrago, to back up and calm down a bit here, is that it is precisely impossible to convey the truth about one’s own intimate relationships. So when you hear someone talking about their father, maybe the best you can do is think of your father and make comparisons. But that is also dumb, isn’t it? The point is the actual man that is, or was, the father of this maybe distraught elocutionist, is not only gone, but only your talker has even mental access to him. His father is living in another place now, in his son’s mind really. You can’t say, I wish I knew him; the point I am making is that when people start talking about their fathers, or their mothers, most of us just stop listening and wait it out. Unless by some miraculous literary or oratorical skill the talker manages to make them interesting, right off the bat, manages to make them so attractive you can actually imagine him, say the father, like from a quaint past, and imagine dealing with him in some context. Very sketchy, indeed. Like I wish I knew Franz Kafka and could go strolling through the twilit streets with him, or see him on a train like W.G. Sebald did.
Though actually I don’t wish I knew Franz Kafka, personally. Kafka’s father, on the other hand, I think I could deal with him! Portrayed in Kafka’s own “Letter to My Father”, well, he seems rather alot like my own father. So here I go, watch out. Apparently, to some sons, fathers are all alike. And I might be alot like Kafka, if I can believe this little manual (call it that) on his father. I would have to say from this “Letter to My Father”, which (if you can believe Max Brod) Kafka never even sent to his father–so the whole thing gets rather removed from reality, you might say–nevertheless I would like to meet, and can imagine meeting, Kafka’s father. One thing I would do is . . . compare him with my own father. Like I said, this is the usual procedure, when presented with someone’s father, or a tirade about him, one gets talking about their own, equally inaccessible, immortal father.