A bit of singing on the floor below, an occasional door slamming in the corridor, and all is lost.
—Franz Kafka, February 15, 1922,
from Diaries: 1910–1923
I can’t find my way back to the library. I’ve heard of this happening, that if you leave even for just one day and for a very good reason, as good a reason as mine, you may not find your way back. Now why should this be so? I do not understand this library. It houses books, yes, but people as well, like a very old boardinghouse, only nobody borrows the people the way people borrow the books, and neither does anybody open up and read a person the way a person opens up and reads a book. There is a densely empty quality to this space that has always attracted me, and yet now the space rejects me. So here I shall stand forever on Monk Street. I am staring at the empty block that should be housing the library. I can hear its various noises ringing out—the creaking of the floors, the locking of doors, books being opened, ever-mirrored worlds being sifted through, reverberating, distorting. I stand on this curb with my hand out, for I know it is here, the library, right here. And for no clear reason, I think of the rows of pencils laid out on my desk in a corner of my room, always sharpened first thing every morning, even the ones not yet needed. A writer must keep his tools ready and able, in good supply—this is the lesson I have learned today, and I won’t forget it anytime soon, not with my dry eyes fixed on the empty block and my hand so close to finding the library’s door.
(I have been neglectful of my library project and am a bit rusty. Forgive me.)