English: A picture taken on June 27, 2008 in Prague, Czech Republic of the former house of Franz Kafka. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I am around page 120 of this detailed biography of Franz Kafka by Reiner Stach and am amazed with the insecurity and indecisiveness of Franz Kafka. Even though I read the third volume first, (don’t ask me why), Kafka: The Years Of Insight, I am glad I did it so I could see how Kafka changed until his premature death. His insecurity, especially with his writing and his relationships (especially with women) has really been eye-opening especially in reading about someone that is perceived as a genius. I honestly picked these books about Kafka up to understand the phrase ‘Kafkaesque’. I had no idea what that meant but on page 115 I read part of this paragraph which gave me a better understanding:
“Suddenly—without guide or precedent, it seemed—the Kafka cosmos was at hand, fully equipped with the ‘Kafkaesque’ inventory that now gives his work its distinctive character: the father figure who is both overpowering and dirty, the hollow rationality of the narrator, the juridical structures imposed on life, the dream logic of the plot, and last but not least, the flow of the story perpetually at odds with the hopes and expectations of the hero.”
I am truly enjoying studying about someone with the genius of Kafka but even more intriguing is how Stach explores his faults and shortcomings. This is the beauty of these two volumes.
Kafka-sisters (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I have gotten to around page 44 and ran across one of the greatest paragraphs I have ever read in describing relationships with family. It is one of saddest things I have ever read.
“I live in my family,” Kafka wrote later of this situation, “with the best and most loving people—more estranged than a stranger. In the last few years I have barely exchanged an average of twenty words a day with my mother, and with my father little more than a greeting here and there….I lack any sense of family life.”
This paragraph is an excellent example of writing with a purpose and using each and every word to express an emotion. I strive to write like this!!!
Austrian writer Franz Kafka (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
This is the first book that the author wrote and it covers the middle years of Kafka’s life. I loved the last book that Reiner Stach wrote on Kafka:Years of Insight as I have stated in previous posts.
I have only begun this book and am only on page 31 but I loved the introduction where the author spoke on biography and in particularly writing a biography on Kafka and the extreme difficulty it entailed
From page 12 he writes this about biography:
“The biographer’s task is to explain how a consciousness that is set thinking by everything could evolve into a consciousness that set everyone thinking.”
And this from page 8 from Nicholas Boyle about Goethe’s biography:
“Nicholas Boyle wrote in the foreword to his biography of Goethe: What can I offer is only a synthesis of syntheses, whose value will long be outlasted by that of the compilations on which it is based; yet if such a synthesis is not attempted from time to time, and for a particular time, to what end are the compilations made?”
English: Reiner Stach, German writer, 2011 in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. Deutsch: Reiner Stach, deutscher Autor, 2011 in Ffm. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I finished Kafka: The Years Of Insight By Reiner Stach over the weekend and it was very well-researched and well written. The book really delved into Kafka’s relationships with the people closest to him and the latter part of the book explored the climate of how Europe not just Germany dealt with the Jewish people. I was quite fascinated at the end of the book when it followed up after Kafka’s and where all his family members ended up as well as all his close acquaintances. What flabbergasted me was that all of Kafka’s sisters ended up dying in gas chambers in addition to some of his friends committing suicide rather than being taken to the concentration camps. Even though this is the third of three books covering his life, I have not read the previous book, Kafka: The Decisive Years and Stach is currently working on a book on Kafka’s early life and I plan to read both of these. if you have any interest in Kafka’s life, I would probably recommend reading Kafka: The Decisive Years first.
Austrian Writer Franz Kafka (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
As I have stated previously Kafka is a complicated individual and in this section of the book he is battling the effects of tuberculosis and is determined to pursue his writing. He is truly struggling as you can see by the following quote from page 418-419.
“Last week I suffered something like a breakdown, as total a breakdown as I had only that one night two years ago; at no other time have I experienced that. Everything seemed over with, even today there seems to be no great improvement. There are two ways of interpreting it, and it probably should be interpreted both ways. First, breakdown, impossible to sleep, impossible to stay awake, life impossible, or, more precisely, the succession of life. the clocks are not synchronized; the internal one races at a devilish or demoniac or in any case inhuman pace, the external one limps along at its usual speed. What else can happen but that the two worlds split apart, and they do split apart, or at least tear away at each other in a fearful manner. There may be various reasons for the wild pace of the internal process: the most obvious one is introspection, which does not allow any idea to rest, but chases up each one, only to become a notion of an idea that in turn is the object of renewed introspection.”
This quote gives you a small indication of the complexity of this man and you wonder how he was able to accomplish what he did considering his circumstances and the circumstances that he put himself under.
Austrian writer Franz Kafka (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I am about three-quarters through with this book and I am to the part about time Kafka spent in the sanatorium battling tuberculosis. You would think this would be drudgery but Stach brings Kafka’s emotions and how he handles the tuberculosis where you feel as if you are right there.
Kafka is one of the most complex individuals I have ever read about and I am looking forward to reading his actual work. This year has been wonderful thus far in reading in that I have been introduced to two characters in history I knew nothing about: A.O. Hirschman and Franz Kafka. I strongly urge you to get out of your comfort zone and read something or about someone that you have very little knowledge of or none at all.
Monument to Franz Kafka by the sculptor Jaroslav Róna (2003), next to the Spanish synagoge, in Prague, Czech Republic. Bronze, height 375cm. Note: Freedom of panorama#Czech Republic Français : Monument à Franz Kafka, œuvre du sculpteur Jaroslav Róna (2003), près de la la synagogue espagnole à Prague, en République tchèque. Bronze, hauteur : 375 cm. Note : Liberté de panorama#Tchéquie (République tchèque) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
This is one of the best books I have read in getting in the mind of the subject. Each page brings something new to light in discovery about Kafka’s personality or his thought process. It shows his strengths in addition to his weaknesses and I am only to page 133!!! It is extremely interesting to see the mind set of a writer and what he has to endure in order to pursue his craft and to do this right in the middle of WWI had to have been very trying. I am really enjoying this book and look forward to the forthcoming book about his youth in addition to the one before this: Kafka: The Decisive Years