Kafka in Love

Luis Araújo


(In order of appearance)

An offstage VOICE

All roles may be performed by three actors and an offstage voice.


Happy sounds from the area of bathhouses along a river. Laughter, shouts, noises of children at play, splashing. Birds chirping. As the lights come up, FRANZ is immobile in the bright sunlight that comes through a small window in the changing booth. His big, terrified gray eyes stare into space.

(Pounding on the door. FRANZ recoils in alarm.)

VOICE:  May I ask what you’re doing? (More pounding on the door.) Will you get out of there? Or do I have to come in and get you? (Silence. More pounding on the door.) Franz. Get out here!

FRANZ (in a howl, like an animal in pain):  I’m coming, Father.

VOICE:  Son, come on out. We’re going to swim! I said, we’re going to swim. Get out of there, now!

(Silence. The light disappears from the little window.)

FRANZ:  Yesterday I saw the white horse for the first time. It came out of my head, went over me, jumped off the bed, and finally disappeared.

(MAX and FELICE at opposite sides of a table. In front of them, a briefcase filled with papers and an envelope.)

FRANZ:  I’d like to be able to explain the feeling of happiness that comes over me when I’m writing. It’s something effervescent that engulfs me, a slight tremor that makes me believe that I have talent.

(MAX closes the briefcase.)

MAX:  We’re going to leave it as is. Believe me, Franz, it’s marvelous.

FRANZ:  If you say so.

MAX:  Have you finally decided on a title?

FRANZ:  Meditation.

MAX:  I like it. Meditation. (Referring to the envelope.) And this? New texts?

FRANZ:  No. Those are photos from our trip to Weimar.

FELICE:  I’d like to see them!

(FELICE grabs the envelope from FRANZ.)

MAX:  Well, we have to decide which ones we can show.

(MAX takes the envelope away from FELICE, removes the photos, starts passing them to FRANZ who in turn passes them on to FELICE.)

FRANZ:  Miss Bauer, this is Goethe’s house.

FELICE:  I’ve gone to Weimar so many times on business and I’ve never visited Goethe’s house. What an impressive garden!

FRANZ:  He was a great naturalist. He personally grew all kinds of plants.

FELICE:  I can’t imagine him digging in the soil. I thought of him more as a statesman, possessed by the Muses.

MAX:  That he was.

FRANZ:  But he studied nature. Look, his favorite tree was the ginkgo. (Pointing to a photo.) This one. It’s a prehistoric tree. A living fossil that’s still there.

MAX (hiding a photo):  We found lots of interesting things in Weimar, didn’t we, Franz?

(FRANZ, on his guard, says nothing.)

FELICE:  What’s this?

FRANZ:  That’s his writing stand. He wrote standing up, facing the garden window.

FELICE:  He wrote standing up? Every writer is a world unto himself.

FRANZ:  Yes, a world.

(Brief silence.)

FELICE:  Well, I’d better be going. Tomorrow I’ll be traveling again. I have to catch an early train to Budapest.

FRANZ:  We’ll take you to your hotel, won’t we, Max?

FELICE:  I’d appreciate that. It’s still raining and this morning I left my umbrella on the train from Berlin.

FRANZ:  You must be exhausted. Ready, Max?

MAX:  What? Yes, yes, of course.

(FELICE gets up and stumbles as she pulls out her chair. Both men gesture as if to help her, but they are on the other side of the table. FELICE laughs.)

MAX:  I’m sorry, those are my mother’s slippers.

FRANZ:  Your mother’s slippers?

FELICE:  He lent them to me for inside, but my shoes have heels and I’m not used to walking without them.

(FELICE exchanges the slippers for elegant, high-heeled boots. FRANZ watches her. Then he takes a magazine out of his pocket.)

FRANZ:  Do you know Palestine?

FELICE:  No, but I’d love to.

FRANZ (ambiguously):  I’d love to, too.

(MAX looks at FRANZ in surprise.)

FELICE:  I’m ready. Let’s go.

MAX:  Father, we’re going with Felice.

VOICE:  I’ll catch up with you.


FRANZ:  We could plan a trip for next year.

FELICE:  That would be interesting!

FRANZ (holding his hand out to her):  You’re not saying that in jest, are you?

FELICE (shaking his hand):  Of course not.

(MAX looks on scornfully as they shake hands. With a resolute step, FELICE exits. MAX continues to look at FRANZ in scorn. FRANZ shows MAX the hand that has just touched FELICE.)

MAX:  You liked her from the first moment.

FRANZ:  She wasn’t very beautiful, right? A gaunt face, almost hollow . . . and that white blouse, without style. Straight, limp hair. When I got to your house that evening, I thought she was a servant.

MAX (laughing):  A servant? She’s the general counsel of a Berlin firm.

FRANZ:  I can’t stop thinking about her.

(MAX hands him the photo that he set aside.)

MAX:  So that blonde in Weimar is history?

FRANZ:  She didn’t pay any attention to me!

MAX:  Shall we go to the Trocadero? Maybe your Hansi will still be there.

FRANZ:  So tomorrow I’ll fall asleep at the office. This double life is going to drive me crazy.

MAX:  Crazy in your case would be a workplace accident. And you’d have to process your own workman’s accident insurance from your company office.

translated from the Spanish by Phyllis Zatlin