In Search of Lost Things?

Like so many others, I was recently captivated by the story of writer Franz Kafka and the doll. There are a few different versions floating around and this one comes via a 1984 piece by Anthony Rudolf in the Literary Supplement. The short version is one that, one day on a walk in the park in Berlin, Kafka and his partner Dora Diamant, encountered a bereft girl, who told them she had lost her doll. Kafka quickly invented a story that the doll had gone on a journey and he knew this because the doll had written him a letter. Suspicious, the girl asked he had the letter and he said he had left it at home by mistake but if she met him tomorrow he would bring it. Kafka went home and set to work. He returned to the park the next day and read her the letter in which the doll declared that “she was tried of living with the same family all the time” but still loved the girl and promised to write her every day telling of her new adventures. According to one account, Kafka kept up this practice for over three weeks when brought the story to a close with the doll getting engaged then married.

While the details of the story might be in doubt, it remains a magnificent little gem of a story. It is one of those those delightful stories that I want to be true because it is about kindness, loss, longing and how creativity and connection can help ameliorate those things. It is about our attachment to objects and what happens when those objects are lost to us. Arguably, for as long as humans have been able to create objects, we have had a reverence, a fondness, an attachment to them that extended beyond just their utility. And maybe when I write humans, I mean this one. Because I can’t remember a time in my life where I wasn’t fascinated by the life of objects. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t pine for those that I had parted ways with in an untimely manner.

In a world so full of so much incessant muchness, it can feel ridiculous to still pine for those lost things: a journal left on a train, a lovely business card case that was a gift from a former colleague, a spectacular peacock cocktail ring that had been my grandmother’s, lost, after illegally absconding with it from my mother’s jewelry box, I celebrated by kid cartwheeling around the yard. The list goes on.

Part of the pining is the sheer ridiculousness, incredulity, impossibility. They didn’t stop existing. They didn’t disappear into the ether, they just disappeared to me. How could so much searching, so many prayers to St. Anthony, turn up nothing? Somewhere, they were out there living a life without me, even if that life just meant conferred to the status of landfill.

The Secret Lives of Escaped Objects

I often wonder if these objects that escape our lives confer? Are there vast conference halls filled with socks and earrings sharing stories of perilous escapes? Hemingway’s famous Lost Suitcase sits in the hotel bar and tells stories of the stories left on a train so many years ago. Maybe these days they meet on Zoom and pop into breakout rooms named, “lost and never claimed” or “stolen” or “they never even tried to find me”.

Given the resonance of the Kafka story, I doubt I am alone in this pondering thus I thought it would be fun to conduct an experiment. So…

Now Accepting Requests for Letters from Lost Objects

If you have ever wondered, pined, imagined, or longed for an object that became lost to you, please share a few details in the comments and I, acting as an intermediary, will write a letter to you from your object and share it as an essay. If you have an image, feel free to share it.

Time permitting, I might even pen a hand written letter and pop it in the post.

This post was created with Typeshare




I help people imagine, create, and live better stories for themselves, their communities, and the world.

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Jeanne M. Lambin

Jeanne M. Lambin

I help people imagine, create, and live better stories for themselves, their communities, and the world.

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