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Soft haired, and slightly effeminate. From an early age, he has been deeply concerned with his health, clothes and personal hygiene. The afternoons he has spent on his hair. One afternoon he locked himself in his room, and shampooed his hair fifteen times in succession. The clerk looks over the shelves, concerned.

A display of English hairbrushes sits on the counter. The clerk takes a small bottle filled with opaque red liquid from the shelf, the lid sealed in wax.

It looks more like a delicate bottle of wine than a hair restorative. Koch Company in Chicago. The clerk glances outside. Three men are huddled in the square. They seem to be studying Kafka. One is wearing a raincoat and jotting down something in his small notebook. Kafka is hardly impressed by the new hair tonic.

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He tries to live a simple, uncomplicated life where decisions are kept to a minimum. He has been practicing vegetarianism for several years now. To aid his digestion, he experimented with chewing his food slowly thirty-two times before swallowing, but all that resulted was an aching jaw and an escalation of his headaches.

He has tried writing these past few weeks. He had begun with such hope, but was then repulsed by all the stories. He had started again on the Russian story, and the effort has left him shaken.

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Outside in the square, two of the men have left. The one in the raincoat heads towards the open pharmacy door and steps in. The man pulls a small note folded in half from his pocket, and holds it up towards Kafka, who recognizes it almost at once. The man opens it slowly, draws in a breath, and begins to read. I have a headache, my teeth are falling out, my razor is blunt, I am an unpleasant object to look at.

Oskar has drawn a quick sketch of Kafka hunched by the pharmacy counter. When had Kafka developed a hunch? Perhaps it was curvature of the spine? Sprinkle into the left hand and rub thoroughly over the head once a day, leaving the hair saturated. It dissolves dandruff in a single application. It is from Bellefontaine, in Montreal. The sales clerk eyes Kafka carefully. Kafka runs the edge of his finger through the hair near his temple. He looks at the tip of his finger, there is nothing there. Astol Hair Color Restorer will soon bring back color to gray, white or faded hair.

Kafka spots a large, hideous bug scurrying across the floor. He can hear its skinny feet, its numerous legs scratching across the wooden floorboards. Herr Hermann snaps his fingers, and holds the bottle aloft. It has long neck with a small gold crown atop its lid.

Apply liberally at least every other day, massage the scalp well with the tips of the fingers. See, it has a crown carved on the lid.

San Diegan’s long search for famous writer’s last love anything but Kafkaesque

You will be like a young aristocrat. Have you ever seen such lovely hair, such bountiful hair. Such elegant, luxurious and beautiful hair. Whatever distracts is evil. His writing goes forward at a miserable crawl. One good night would stand him in good stead. A well-dressed young man enters the pharmacy.

The clerk acknowledges him with a nod, and a soft smile.

1. War and Turpentine by Stefan Hertmans and David McKay (translator): £8.99, Vintage

They talk in hushed tones before the clerk moves to the back of the pharmacy, parts the red velvet curtains and steps within. He returns almost immediately with a bottle of Aqua di Tebe, which he hands over to the young man.

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  4. The young mans nods approvingly. The clerk rings the sale up on the new cash register, and hands over the bottle as Herr Hermann looks on, pleased. I can guarantee I spoke with him personally. He turns and sees Herr Hermann part the red velvet curtain at the back of the pharmacy, and walk in. Apprentices are frantically working in a laboratory, adjusting burners and stirring glass beakers and flasks, pouring tinctures and lotions into small bottles. It is ideal for asthma and spasmodic affections. There is in writing, a certain blend of sincerity and manipulation, of trying always to gauge what the particular effect of something is going to be.

    The Complete Stories

    It is an asset that can leave one rather lonely. Kafka is not here to enquire about cough syrup.

    He is here to purchase hair tonic. He smiles at the clerk. This is a pharmacy, after all. Kafka has heard reports of a man in a poor section of the city dying from an ingrown hair. A small inflammation of the skin, the infection spread throughout his body in a matter of days, and then he died. Do you wish elegant, luxuriant, and beautiful hair? I know you will answer yes.

    Kafka's Hairbrush eBook by Stefano Boscutti - | Rakuten Kobo

    Oskar is transfixed. Herr Hermann plucks a hair out of his own head, and holds it up for Kafka to see. Dewey Decimal. On Parables. Franz Kafka works. The Trial The Castle Amerika. The Warden of the Tomb.