It was a very large party and I knew nobody there. I therefore resolved to remain quite quiet at first, slowly to find out which people I could best approach, and then with their aid to fit myself in with the rest of the company. The room, with its one window, was fairly small, but there were about twenty people present. I stood at the open window, followed the example of the others, who went on taking cigarettes from a little side table, and smoked in peace and quiet. Unfortunately, in spite of all the attention I paid, I could not understand what was being talked about. Once, it seemed to me, there was talk about a man and a woman, then again about a woman and two men, but since it was always the same three people who were being talked about, only my own slowness of understanding could be to blame for my not being able to work out who the people were that were being discussed, and so much the less, of course, their story. The question, as it seemed to me beyond all doubt, was mooted whether the behavior of these three people, or at least one of these three people, could be morally approved of or not. The story itself, which was known to all, was not coherently discussed any further.
From: Franz Kafka, The Blue Octavo Notebooks (The Fifth Notebook), Edited by Max Brod, Translated by Ernst Kaiser and Eithne Wilkins. Cambridge, Exact Change, 1991.
Paintings by F.C.B. Cadell: Upper – Interior; Lower – The Gold Chair.