Letters to Kafka

Work is a release from the longing of dreams

“Work is release from the longing of dreams, which often only blind us and flatter us to death.”

Dear Franz

There was a big war in my dreams — I was gathering arms and ammunition and batteries; all this was stored in plastic boxes in my sister’s bedroom. We couldn’t find the guns — they were in boxes in the garden. The other side or team where on coffee break — one was sitting in my mother’s armchair watching daytime television. On the way through the kitchen to get the guns we stopped to get food. There was another part of my dream: where my friend A’s wife T was very ill and had her veins lifted out of her body and put on the surface so the toxic sickness would not get into her blood, so she could heal, which would take a month, she was telling me about the pain she was in, when someone at work came up behind her and squeezed her ribs as a joke (as I saw that guy in the new Five Guys burger bar do to another new female recruit, as they were outside distributing leaflets). In another part of the dream: I was consorting with standup comedians and was booked via social media for a gig in Edinburgh castle in October, a gig called Hearcry, with three attractive women all in skirts and sexy boots, all very funny but something unreal about it. It was a little like a comedy Hunger Games.


longing of dreamsI know, Franz, that dreams are complicated and also far less portentous than they seem. Yet do they not drive our daily lives, too? Do they not colour our living world with disappointment in comparison? “Work is release from the longing of our dreams,” you told Gustav Janouch. It is our dreams, you carried on, “which often only blind us and flatter us to death.”

Not so in the world of Ashthe of Ursula K Le Guin’s The Word for World is Forest. There, the Ashtheans live in two realities, the dream and the world; imagination is the great dream and dreams are the means to make sense of what takes place in the waking world. Even if our dreams are not symbolic as such, they are still picture puzzles, distortions of the daily narrative we try to process into meaningful memories. They are, in that, messages that tell us what we have considered meaningful, even if we’ve not been aware of that during the waking world.

But why those veins on the outside of my friend T’s body? If I am she, what toxic sickness is in me? She seemed, in fact, a lot like A, my old supervisor, whom I met for tea (T!) yesterday — who has lot a lot of weight due to illness — in fact, the same illness as my mother suffered from all her life — do you suppose, then, Franz, that┬áthis gathering of arms and ammunition was a show of my defences, which were useless anyway without the guns, and in fact the house was not under attack — it only felt like it — perhaps it was only a┬álonging, a fantasy?

Perhaps. I must go to work now! (Ah, the release from longing of dreams!)


Picture of dreams (cc) nerosunero

About Alex R Lockwood

I learn as much about the the art of living through literature (especially Kafka) as I do through other people. I read and write fiction and non-fiction, and research the cultural value of the creative writer; the ways that literature impacts our lives; the craft of writing, particularly what it means to be a non-anthropocentric (vegan) writer; the representation of animals; and the ethics of human-animal relations in literature, media and culture since 1945. This site is a platform for capturing the threads of different literary projects and, I hope, offers something to those thinking through the value of reading and writing in their lives.

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