Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Kafka's Letters to Milena

Kafka's Letters to Milena was given to me 19 years ago by Danielle Gastall when we both worked at Books & Co on Madison Avenue and 75th Street. Danielle died in 2000. She was a brilliant and stormy classicist and a dear friend. We used to call ourselves "The Strong Twins" after The Starn Twins who were all the rage in the art world back in the late 80's. I miss her so much and think of her dazzling wit and intellect quite often. She inspires me to this day. When she gave me the book, she insisted that I read "The Devil at The Hearth" which is an essay that Milena Jesenska wrote that's included in Kafka's Letters to Milena. I read the essay again for the first time in a long while on the F train today while going into the city for a meeting. The essay made me cry--in a startlingly revelatory way. Here's a short excerpt:

"If marriage is to make sense it has to have a broader and more realistic basis than a longing for happiness. My God, let's not be afraid of a little bit of suffering, a little bit of pain and unhappiness. Try it, go out some night and stand face to face with the stars, look up carefully, sincerely, strain for at least five minutes. Or climb up some mountain where you can look down on the Earth almost as if you were in heaven. And after a while you'll find yourself believing in the importance of life, and the insignificance of happiness. Happiness! As if being happy depended on us alone!"

I shall savor this passage--and my dear friend Danielle Gastall--as I head into the night.



Blogger Carlo De Vito said...


My name is Carlo DeVito, and I attended Fordham with Danielle. She was a smart and gifted woman. I did not she had passed on until I read your post.

Can you tell me what happened to her?

10:56 PM  

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