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Eleven Sons

I have eleven sons.

The first is outwardly very unsightly, but serious and clever; nevertheless, although I loved him like everyone else as a child, I don't value him very highly. His thinking seems too simple to me. He does not see to the right or to the left and not into the distance; in his little circle of thoughts he keeps walking around or rather spinning.

The second is beautiful, slim, well-built; it is delightful to see him in a fencing position. He, too, is clever, but also experienced in the world; he has seen a lot, and that is why even the native nature seems to speak to him more intimately than to those who stayed at home. But this advantage is certainly not only, and not even essentially, owed to travel, it is rather one of the inimitable features of this child, who is recognized, for example, by everyone who wants to imitate his often overturning and yet almost wildly mastered leap into the water . The courage and the desire are enough until the end of the diving board, but instead of jumping, the copycat suddenly sits down and raises his arms apologetically. - And in spite of all of this(I should really be happy with such a child) my relationship with him is not unclouded. His left eye is a little smaller than the right one and twinkles a lot; just a small mistake, certainly, which makes his face even more daring than it would otherwise have been, and no one will notice that smaller, winking eye reproachfully compared to the unapproachable seclusion of his being. I, the father, do. It's not this physical flaw, of course, thatit hurts me, but rather a small irregularity in his mind that somehow corresponds to him, some poison eroding in his blood, some inability to complete the plan of his life that is only visible to me. On the other hand, it is precisely this that makes him my true son again, because this mistake of his is at the same time the mistake of our entire family and is only abundantly clear in this son.

The third son is beautiful too, but it's not the beauty that I like. It's the singer's beauty: the curved mouth; the dreamy eye; the head, which needs a drapery behind it to be effective; the excessively bulging chest; the easily rising and far too easily sinking hands; the legs that are graceful because they cannot carry. And moreover: the tone of his voice is not full; deceive for a moment; makes the connoisseur sit up and take notice; but shortly afterwards exhaled. - Nevertheless, in general everything is tempting,to put this son on display, I prefer to keep him hidden; he himself does not impose himself, but not because he knows his shortcomings, but out of innocence. He also feels strange in our time; as if he belonged to my family, but also to another family, lost to him forever, he is often uncomfortable and nothing can cheer him up.

My fourth son is perhaps the most sociable of them all. A true child of his time, he is understandable to everyone, he stands on common ground and everyone is tempted to nod to him. Perhaps through this general recognition his nature gains something light, his movements something free, his judgments something unconcerned. One would like to repeat some of his sayings often, but only some, because in his entirety he suffers from all too great lightness. He is like someone who jumps off admirably, divides the air like a swallow, but then ends hopelessly in the dreary dust, a nothing. Such thoughts spoil the sight of this child.

The fifth son is kind and good; promised much less than he kept; was so insignificant that one practically felt alone in his presence; but it has achieved some reputation. If you asked me how that happened, I could hardly answer. Innocence is perhaps the easiest to penetrate through the romp of the elements in this world, and he is innocent. Maybe too innocent. Kind to everyone. Maybe too friendly. I confess: I don't feel well if someone praises him to me. It means making praise a little too easy for yourself to praise someone as obviously praiseworthy as my son is.

My sixth son seems, at least at first glance, the most profound of them all. A head hanger and yet a babbler. Therefore it is not easy to get over it. If he is defeated, he falls into invincible sadness; If he gains the preponderance, he maintains it by chattering. But I am not denying him a certain self-forgotten passion; in broad daylight he often fights his way through thinking as in a dream. Without being sick - on the contrary, he is in very good health - he sometimes stumbles, especially at dusk, but does not need any help, he fallsnot. Perhaps his physical development is to blame for this appearance, he is far too tall for his age. That makes it unattractive as a whole, despite strikingly beautiful details, for example the hands and feet. Incidentally, his forehead is also unattractive; both in the skin and in the bone formation somehow shrunk.

The seventh son belongs to me perhaps more than anyone else. The world does not know how to appreciate him; she does not understand his particular kind of joke. I do not overestimate him; I know he's minor enough; if the world had no other fault than not knowing how to appreciate it, it would still be flawless. But within the family I didn't want to miss this son. He brings both unrest and awe of the tradition, and he adds both, at least for my feeling, to an incontestable whole. Of course, he himself knows least what to do with this whole; the wheel of the futurewon't get it rolling; but this disposition of his is so encouraging, so hopeful; I wish he had children and those children again. Unfortunately, this wish does not seem to want to come true. In a self-satisfied complacency, which I understand, but which is just as undesirable, but which is in great contrast to the judgment of those around him, he drifts around alone, does not care about girls and will still never lose his good mood.

My eighth son is the child I suffer from, and I don't really know why. He gives me a strange look, and yet I feel a fatherly close bond with him. Time has made a lot of things good; but in the past I sometimes trembled just thinking about him. He goes his own way; broke all ties with me; and will certainly be with his hard skull, his small athletic body - only his legs were quite weak as a boy, butthat may have evened itself out by now - get through wherever he likes. Often I felt like calling him back, asking how things are with him, why he closes himself off from his father and what he basically intends, but now he's so far and so much time has already passed, now like it stay the way it is. I hear that he is the only one of my sons with a full beard; It's not nice with such a short man, of course.

My ninth son is very elegant and has the cute look that is meant for women. So sweet that on occasion he can even seduce me, who I know that a wet sponge is enough to wipe away all this unearthly sheen. What is special about this boy, however, is that he does not go for seduction at all; it would be enough for him to lie on the sofa all his life wasting his eyes on the ceiling, or much betterto let it rest under the eyelids. If he is in this preferred position, then he likes to speak and does not speak ill; compact and vivid; but only within narrow limits; if he goes beyond her, which cannot be avoided in her tightness, his speech becomes completely empty. He would be dismissed if there was any hope that that sleep-filled look would notice.

My tenth son is considered a dishonest character. I do not want to completely deny this mistake, not entirely confirm it. What is certain is that whoever sees him approaching in the solemnity that goes far beyond his age, in the frock coat that is always tightly closed, in the old but carefully cleaned black hat, with the motionless face, the slightly protruding chin, the lids that bulge heavily over the eyes , the two fingers that are sometimes brought to the mouth - if you see it that way, you think: it is limitlessHypocrite. But now you can hear him talking! Sensible; advisedly; abruptly; thwarting questions with malicious vibrancy; in astonishing, natural and happy correspondence with the world as a whole; a match that necessarily tightens the neck and raises the head. He strongly attracted many who think they are very clever and who, for this reason, as they think, were repelled by his appearance, he has strongly attracted by his word. But now there are again people who leave his appearance indifferent, but to whom his word appears hypocritical. I, as a father, don't want to decide here, but I have to admit that the latter judges are in any case more noteworthy than the former.

My eleventh son is tender, probably the weakest of my sons; but deceptive in its weakness; for he can be strong and determined at times, but even then the weakness is somehow fundamental. But it is not a shameful weakness, but something that only appears as weakness on this earth of ours. Isn't readiness to fly, for example, also a weakness, since it is wavering and indeterminacy and fluttering? My son shows something like that. Naturally, such qualities do not please the father; they are obviously aiming to destroy the family. Sometimes he looks at me as if to say, "I'll take you with me, father." Then I think: "You would be the last I trust myself." And his gaze seems to say again: "So at least I may be the last."

These are the eleven sons.

Literary icon whose "Kafkaesque" works, like "The Metamorphosis," probe alienation and existential absurdity.