Franz Kafka is one of those rare literary figures who have an entire genre named for him: “Kafkaesque.” Much of his work is about alienation in a world without meaning. As an example, his novel, “The Metamorphosis,” is about a man who wakes up in the morning, only to find he has been turned into a giant roach. Abandoned by his family, he dies alone in his apartment, only to be thrown out with the trash.
Therefore, it is surprising, to say the least, that he is the subject of a beautiful story about a lost doll. His friend, Dora Diamant, tells the story of their walking together and coming upon a little girl crying because she had lost her doll. Kafka felt sympathy for the child and told her that her doll was not lost but was away on a trip. Over three weeks, he sent her letters daily, supposedly, from the doll.
There are several versions of the story, but in the one, I found on the “Kafka Project” website, Kafka needed to find a way to finish the story for the little girl. Here is how he handled it as told by Ms. Diamant:
“He (Kafka) searched about for a long time and finally decided to have the doll marry. he first described the young man, the engagement. . . , the preparations for the wedding, then in great detail the newlyweds’ house.” [Because of this] the doll could understandably no longer visit her former mistress.Dor
In another version, he brought the girl a new doll and told her it was her old one. When the child said it didn’t look like her doll, Kafka explained that due to her travels, she had changed. Many years later, the doll broke open, and the girl, then a woman, found a note inside that read:
“Everything you love will probably be lost, but in the end love will return in another way.”
No one has ever found another source for the story other than Dora Diamant. I hope it’s true.
Did Franz Kafka Invent Letters from a Missing Doll to Comfort a Little Girl?