but the lips are mumbling and my face lies in your lap

Years ago I read Kafka’s Letters to Milena, which I implore you to read if you’re a fan of his writing.

I woke up this morning, with plans to pen a few letters. As I was getting to the end of the first one, about sign my name and write xo, a line of Kafka’s started circling around my head. While I was searching out the exact phrasing, I came across this page, which gives you a taste of selected letters if you’re interested. Yet the line I was looking for is below, and also expanded on in the page I’ve linked.

Writing letters is actually an intercourse with ghosts, and by no means just the ghost of the addressee but also with one’s own ghost, which secretly evolves inside the letter one is writing…Written kisses don’t reach their destination, rather they are drunk on the way by the ghosts…The ghosts won’t starve, but we will perish.

Those last two lines especially always resonated with me.

What do you think? And do you still write letters? I find myself writing more “note length” letters these days.



Filed under writing

4 responses to “but the lips are mumbling and my face lies in your lap

  1. Interesting line. I’m not sure I agree with the writer but I get the sentiment.

    I don’t really write long lettery letters anymore either, more note-length ones as well. Except at Christmas, when I torture the world with the Big Braggy Letter. Once a year is enough.

  2. I don’t entirely agree, but I’ve always loved the image of ghosts drinking kisses.

    I always start out writing letters, and then all the details get discussed in an e-mail and the letter feels stale.

  3. f-dog

    Love Kafka.
    I have a lot of letters never sent, actually. Good at starting, bad at finishing.

  4. As do I. I wish I had a copy of these letters, I’ve only ever taken it out of the library.

    Yes, I must write a letter all in one sitting or it never gets sent.

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