Synopses & Reviews
A new biography of Western literature's most iconic writer, from the acclaimed novelist and author of About Schmidt.
Kafkaesque: the very word evokes tortuous bureaucracy, crushing self-doubt, and an almost unbearable inadequacy in the face of higher powers. After Kafka, it can be said, literature was not the same. In the few novels and short stories he left behind, he distilled the horrors of the new age. Kafka's is the voice of the outsiderthat is, the voice of each one of usat once defined by its affiliations and completely, utterly alone.
The product of both a transitional age (the beginning of the 20th century) and a territory in flux (Czechoslovakia), Kafka spoke and wrote German in Czech territory. He was a Jew among Christians, a non-observant Jew among believers. Louis Begley, himself a multilingual exile and, like Kafka, a lawyer and writer, renders Kafka's life with sensitivity and insight. Begley's discussion of Kafka's masterpiece The Trial, along with shorter works such as "The Metamorphosis," opens a window on a tormented soul, one of the most intriguing figures of the modern period.
"Although numerous biographers have guided readers on a journey through Kafka's labyrinthine life and writings, celebrated novelist Begley (About Schmidt) cannily allows Kafka to speak in his own words as much as possible, weaving selections from letters, journals, novels and stories into a biographical narrative. Kafka's father wanted a law career for his son, but Kafka's will to write was so strong that he felt a 'constant trembling on [his] forehead.' His period of greatest creativity came between 1912 and 1917, when he wrote, among others, The Metamorphosis and most of The Trial. Begley points out that many misread Kafka by making him synonymous with his characters. There has also, Begley writes, been an intense 'feeding frenzy of exegetes and other types of Kafka scholars circling around The Trial... one can almost hear scholastic dentures going clack-clack,' subjecting the works to critical theories of every stripe. Begley's book emphasizes the importance of valuing the aesthetic and emotional impact of Kafka's work, offering a fresh glimpse of the tortured genius behind some of the 20th century's most perplexing and most rewarding writings. Photos. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
The acclaimed novelist and author of "About Schmidt" presents this new biography of Franz Kafka, one of Western literature's most iconic writers. 10 b&w illustrations.
About the Author
Louis Begley's first novel, Wartime Lies, won the PEN/Hemingway Award, the Prix Médicis, and the Irish Times-Aer Lingus International Fiction Prize. Since then, he has published seven novels, including About Schmidt, made into a movie starring Jack Nicholson and Kathy Bates. His most recent publication is Matters of Honor. He lives in New York City.