To my father
……..We have a new advocate, Dr. Bucephalus. There is little in his appearance to remind you that he was once Alexander of Macedon’s battle charger. Of course, if you know his story, you are aware of something. But even a simple usher whom I saw the other day on the front steps of the Law Courts, a man with the professional appraisal of the regular small bettor at a racecourse, was running an admiring eye over the
advocate as he mounted the marble steps with a high action that made them ring beneath his feet.
……..In general the Bar approves the admission of Bucephalus. With astonishing insight people tell themselves that, modern society being what it is, Bucephalus is in a difficult position, and therefore, considering also his importance in the history of the world, he deserves at least a friendly reception. Nowadays — it cannot be denied — there is no Alexander the Great. There are plenty of men who know how to murder people; the skill needed to reach over a banqueting table and pink a friend with a lance is not lacking; and for many Macedonia is too confining, so that they curse Philip, the father — but no one, no one at all, can blaze a trail to India. Even in his day the gates of India were beyond reach, yet the King’s sword pointed the way to them. Today the gates have receded to remoter and loftier places; no one points the way; many carry swords, but only to brandish them, and the eye that tries to follow them is confused.
……..So perhaps it is really best to do as Bucephalus has done and absorb oneself in law books. In the quiet lamplight, his flanks unhampered by the thighs of a rider, free and far from the clamor of battle, he reads and turns the pages of our ancient tomes.
Franz Kafka: The New Advocate
Translated by Willa and Edwin Muir
Featured image: Marc Chagall: Les amoureux et la bête (detail), 1957. Source: www.artcurial.com.