The Helmsman

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The Helmsman
by Franz Kafka, translated by Wikisource

"Am I not the helmsman?" I cried? "You?" asked a tall dark man and passed his hand over his eyes, as if to banish a dream. I was standing at the helm in the dark night, the weak-burning lantern over my head and now this man had come and wanted to brush me aside.

And as I would not give, he set his foot on my chest and trampled me slowly down, while I continued to cling to the spokes of the ship's wheel and falling down, pulled it all the way around. But the man grabbed it and brought it back around; me, however, he pushed away. I came to myself soon, walked to the hatch which led to the cabin and cried: "Men! Comrades! Come quickly! A stranger has deposed me from the wheel!" They came slowly, climbing up the ship's ladder, swaying tired powerful figures. "Am I the helmsman?" I asked". They nodded, but only had eyes for the stranger, stood in a semi-circle about him and as he commandingly said "Don't disturb me", they gathered themselves, nodded to me and moved again down the ship's ladder. What sort of people are these? Do they think at all or do they merely shuffle thoughtlessly over the Earth?

This is a translation and has a separate copyright status from the original text. The license for the translation applies to this edition only.
This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1923.

The author died in 1924, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 80 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.

This work is licensed under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.