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Kafka: The Years of Insight

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Kafka: The Years of Insight Cover

 

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

This volume of Reiner Stach's acclaimed and definitive biography of Franz Kafka tells the story of the final years of the writer's life, from 1916 to 1924--a period during which the world Kafka had known came to an end. Stach's riveting narrative, which reflects the latest findings about Kafka's life and works, draws readers in with nearly cinematic precision, zooming in for extreme close-ups of Kafka's personal life, then pulling back for panoramic shots of a wider world blighted by World War I, disease, and inflation.

In these years, Kafka was spared military service at the front, yet his work as a civil servant brought him into chilling proximity with its grim realities. He was witness to unspeakable misery, lost the financial security he had been counting on to lead the life of a writer, and remained captive for years in his hometown of Prague. The outbreak of tuberculosis and the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire constituted a double shock for Kafka, and made him agonizingly aware of his increasing rootlessness. He began to pose broader existential questions, and his writing grew terser and more reflective, from the parable-like Country Doctor stories and A Hunger Artist to The Castle.

A door seemed to open in the form of a passionate relationship with the Czech journalist Milena Jesenská. But the romance was unfulfilled and Kafka, an incurably ill German Jew with a Czech passport, continued to suffer. However, his predicament only sharpened his perceptiveness, and the final period of his life became the years of insight.

Review:

"This well-researched new biography details the last nine years of Franz Kafka's life and explores the personal, social, and political events that shaped his writing. In 1915 (the year 'The Metamorphosis' was published), the 32-year-old Kafka was afflicted with headaches, insomnia, and loss of appetite, trapped in his grinding job at the Worker's Accident Insurance Institute in Prague, and perpetually warring with his tyrannical father. Kafka's suffering and perfectionism strained his relationship with his fiancé, Felice Bauer, and took its toll on his writing. After threatening to enlist to fight in WWI, Kafka was given time off by his employers in the summer of 1916, and a brief vacation in Marienbad seemed to turn him around. The following year, though, he was diagnosed with tuberculosis, and the year after with the Spanish flu — both of which hastened his death in 1924. Quoting liberally from Kafka's letters and notebooks, Stach (Kafka: The Decisive Years) presents Kafka in conflict: someone who shared a near marital relationship with his devoted younger sister, Ottla, but who couldn't commit to the eligible women in his life; a man interested in studying Hebrew but wary of Zionism; an artist whose fortunes were tied to the city, yet who found his greatest peace growing vegetables in the country. Despite the narrow time frame, this insightful book is likely to become a standard by which future biographies are measured. (July)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Synopsis:

"Stach's plentiful virtues include his vivid social and historical panoramas, especially of the years of war, epidemics, and inflation; his narrative brio (the greatest part of the book is riveting); and his indefatigable scholarship, providing access to unpublished letters of signal importance."--Stanley Corngold, author of Lambent Traces: Franz Kafka

"Enlightening, readable, and convincing, this is a major addition to our understanding of Kafka's life. Stach has a connection to and familiarity with his subject that no other biographer can match. He gives us a real understanding of the ground from which Kafka's writings emerged--what he was reading, which lectures and concerts he was attending, who he was talking with and writing to, and what he was saying to himself when he was writing. Closer we cannot get. And Shelley Frisch's translation is a marvel--accurate, fresh, and elegant."--Mark Anderson, author of Reading Kafka and Kafka's Clothes.

About the Author

Reiner Stach worked extensively on the definitive edition of Kafka's collected works before embarking on this three-volume biography. Shelley Frisch's translation of the second volume was awarded the Modern Language Association's Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize and her translation of the third volume was awarded the Helen and Kurt Wolff Translator's Prize. She has translated many other books from German, including biographies of Nietzsche and Einstein, and she holds a PhD in German literature from Princeton University.

Table of Contents

PROLOGUE The Ants of Prague 1
CHAPTER ONE Stepping Outside the Self 8
CHAPTER TWO No Literary Prize for Kafka 31
CHAPTER THREE "Civilian Kavka": The Work of War 46
CHAPTER FOUR The Marvel of Marienbad 83
CHAPTER FIVE What Do I Have in Common with Jews? 105
CHAPTER SIX Kafka Encounters His Readers 129
CHAPTER SEVEN The Alchemist 141
CHAPTER EIGHT Ottla and Felice 157
CHAPTER NINE The Country Doctor Ventures Out 170
CHAPTER TEN Mycobacterium tuberculosis 186
CHAPTER ELEVEN Zürau's Ark 201
CHAPTER TWELVE Meditations 222
CHAPTER THIRTEEN Spanish Influenza, Czech Revolt, Jewish Angst 244
CHAPTER FOURTEEN The Pariah Girl 266
CHAPTER FIFTEEN The Unposted Letter to Hermann Kafka 287
CHAPTER SIXTEEN Merano, Second Class 311
CHAPTER SEVENTEEN Milena 319
CHAPTER EIGHTEEN Living Fires 332
CHAPTER NINETEEN The Big Nevertheless 353
CHAPTER TWENTY Escape to the Mountains 380
CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE Fever and Snow: Tatranské Matliary 387
CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO The Internal and the External Clock 404
CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE The Personal Myth: The Castle 423
CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR Retiree and Hunger Artist 451
CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE The Palestinian 475
CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX Dora 497
CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN The Edge of Berlin 512
CHAPTER TWENTY-EIGHT Last Sorrow 546
EPILOGUE 573
Acknowledgments 577
Translator's Note 579
Key to Abbreviations 581
Notes 583
Bibliography 647
Photo Credits 665
Index 667

Product Details

ISBN:
9780691147512
Author:
Stach, Reiner
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Author:
Frisch, Shelley
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Comparative Literature
Subject:
Literature: Primary Works and Letters
Subject:
Literary Criticism : General
Copyright:
Publication Date:
20130609
Binding:
HARDCOVER
Language:
English
Illustrations:
72 halftones.
Pages:
696
Dimensions:
9 x 6 in

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Related Subjects

Biography » Literary
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
History and Social Science » World History » European History General
Humanities » Literary Criticism » General
Young Adult » General

Kafka: The Years of Insight New Hardcover
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Product details 696 pages Princeton University Press - English 9780691147512 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "This well-researched new biography details the last nine years of Franz Kafka's life and explores the personal, social, and political events that shaped his writing. In 1915 (the year 'The Metamorphosis' was published), the 32-year-old Kafka was afflicted with headaches, insomnia, and loss of appetite, trapped in his grinding job at the Worker's Accident Insurance Institute in Prague, and perpetually warring with his tyrannical father. Kafka's suffering and perfectionism strained his relationship with his fiancé, Felice Bauer, and took its toll on his writing. After threatening to enlist to fight in WWI, Kafka was given time off by his employers in the summer of 1916, and a brief vacation in Marienbad seemed to turn him around. The following year, though, he was diagnosed with tuberculosis, and the year after with the Spanish flu — both of which hastened his death in 1924. Quoting liberally from Kafka's letters and notebooks, Stach (Kafka: The Decisive Years) presents Kafka in conflict: someone who shared a near marital relationship with his devoted younger sister, Ottla, but who couldn't commit to the eligible women in his life; a man interested in studying Hebrew but wary of Zionism; an artist whose fortunes were tied to the city, yet who found his greatest peace growing vegetables in the country. Despite the narrow time frame, this insightful book is likely to become a standard by which future biographies are measured. (July)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Synopsis" by , "Stach's plentiful virtues include his vivid social and historical panoramas, especially of the years of war, epidemics, and inflation; his narrative brio (the greatest part of the book is riveting); and his indefatigable scholarship, providing access to unpublished letters of signal importance."--Stanley Corngold, author of Lambent Traces: Franz Kafka

"Enlightening, readable, and convincing, this is a major addition to our understanding of Kafka's life. Stach has a connection to and familiarity with his subject that no other biographer can match. He gives us a real understanding of the ground from which Kafka's writings emerged--what he was reading, which lectures and concerts he was attending, who he was talking with and writing to, and what he was saying to himself when he was writing. Closer we cannot get. And Shelley Frisch's translation is a marvel--accurate, fresh, and elegant."--Mark Anderson, author of Reading Kafka and Kafka's Clothes.

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