RTÉ Radio 1 Drama On One

The Little Penpal by Caitríona Ní Mhurchú

Based on a story from the life of Franz Kafka..

The Little Penpal by Caitríona Ní Mhurchú

Written by Caitríona Ní Mhurchú, ‘The Little Penpal’ is a Drama On One Christmas special celebrating a touching story of Franz Kafka’s kindness to a little girl.

The story was told by Kafka’s partner, Dora Diamant, who lived with him in Berlin from 1923 to early 1924. Her story refers to a time when Kafka focused all his literary skill on a single task: a set of letters comforting a little girl who had lost her doll. Franz and Dora lived in the outer Berlin districts of Steglitz and Zehlendorf over this brief period together.  This was the post-war Berlin of chronic inflation – their rent in their first apartment was 500 billion marks a month. On a walk one day in Steglitz City Park, Kafka discovered the little girl in tears, bereft of her doll. Kafka promised her that the doll had to go away for a while, and that he would have a letter from the doll the next day.  He immediately began a daily correspondence, meeting the girl each day with a new letter he had composed at his writing desk, reassuring the girl that the doll loved her and regaling her with the doll’s adventures.

In 1959 , a call was put out in Steglitz to attempt to locate the girl in the park and thus Kafka’s doll letters. Kafka translator Mark Harman repeated this attempt in 2001, but he was also unsuccessful. Not one of these letters has ever been found. No media organisation interviewed the recipient of the letters as a grown-up. The grim events of the mid-twentieth century might explain why no reply was ever received. Kafka’s biographer, Reiner Stach has written that Kafka’s death in 1924 from tuberculosis, spared him witnessing the complete disintegration of his world, World War II and the Holocaust. As Stach has written: ‘Only his language lives’.

Cast and Production Credits

Kathy Rose O’Brien (the Woman in the park)

Emma Killian (the Woman as a little girl)

Ingrid Craigie (Dora Diamant)

Raymond Keane (Franz Kafka)

Genevieve Hulme Beaman (Lottie)

Sound Supervision and Sound Design: Ciarán Dunne

Production Support: Gorretti Slavin

Producer: Kevin Brew

Series Producer: Kevin Reynolds

Special thanks to :

Sarah Mondegrin of Kafka Walks in Berlin

Kerstin Aquaviva

Elaine Hearty of Showstoppers Stage School