Guest Post: the kafka variations by Colin Campbell Robinson

These variations are based on the writings and life of Franz Kafka and in particular the Blue Octavio Notebooks.

The Blue Notebooks composed by Max Richter featuring Tilda Swinton also provided inspiration.

The process of composing variations involves reading the original text in a public place, a bar or a cafe or on a train etc. whilst making notes of the everyday events occurring in that place. These are mixed with reflections and questions inspired by the reading. These notes are collected and then typed for editing and arranging purposes. Photographs are then added but not as illustrations. They are stills from an unmade film that refers to the text yet the narrative remains uncertain.

The kafka variation are one of six short of variations produced by this method. The others are Wittgenstein, Blanchot, Dogen, Guy Debord and the ghost variations featuring a number of literary figures as well as members of my family.

the kafka variations

part 3

I am an end or a beginning.




Dread of night the dread of not night.


He fights an independent battle. Everyone is fighting amidst betrayal, sniping, stragglers, cavalry and the rest.

Therefore, who is independent in this fracas?

He believes he is fighting alone. For once he is independent, however, he doesn’t realise there are others fighting with him for they are hidden.  Not by necessity, but by chance.


Stumble along the way a little above the ground. Not a high wire trick for mountebanks.


He reports seeing people swarming like ants within a trench. It has been built in the main plaza for educational purposes. No one emerges any wiser.


To envelop –  enclose




cloak and wrap


On his desk is an envelope in which he keeps fragments. The aim, as always, is to collect until he has collected himself.

Another method he considers involves knife fighting and stone throwing but these are activities beyond his pale gift. How will he ever dream and touch totality at this rate? From sheer exhaustion after painting a corner, he explains.


Pulled out of the swamp by your own pig-tale; an ignoble fate or redemption?

Answers to be submitted in a plain brown envelope.


Angels don’t fly, according to the good doctor, because there is no gravity in the spiritual world.

This is beyond our conception, yet, we can know our surroundings. In fact we can know them better than ourselves as the inner world can only be experienced, not described.


Beyond knowing in all this distance, distance.


Quieter and fewer are those who speak whereas those who scream are legion.

Can this world be quiet and true?

Only when lying in a ditch on the side of the road, trembling.


The truth will out, he says, to no one in particular.


Idleness is the beginning of all vice, the crown of all virtues.


Not a thought, anywhere.


Everyday confusion: for example, the train, the time.

To reach B from A and for A to reach B, no matter how many times A calculates the hour needed to traverse what is, or what appears to be a relatively short distance [1], A’s projections never match B’s assumptions.

Of course they fell out over this little misunderstanding  (of no importance) and haven’t spoken since.


He has misunderstood the men with the wide eyes and round lips; the men with the dark hair and flashing teeth?

He who betrays you is the one who professed love.

No sympathy for those he misunderstood as they may mislead him still.

The good march in step. The others dance around them unaware, the dancers of time.


Sometimes it is better to break in rather than break out of the prison. Once inside you become one of us.

[1] ‘Relatively short distance’ refer to A. Einstein and space/time continuum et al, ibid, etc

© (Colin Campbell Robinson) 2017

Colin Campbell Robinson is an Australian writer and photographer currently living and working in the Celtic extremity of the Isle of Bute. Recently his work has appeared in Otoliths, BlazeVox 15, Ink, Sweat and Tears, Futures Trading, E-ratio, and Molly Bloom 11 among others. Knives Forks and Spoons Press will be publishing his collection Blue Solitude – a self-portrait in six scenarios in October 2017.

Colin also collaborates with the Move in Picture project where he has published Ryokan: The Artist Book.


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