A fascinating tale of literary friendship, loyalty, political power, and feckless law.

KAFKA'S LAST TRIAL

THE CASE OF A LITERARY LEGACY

The Kafkaesque story of who owns Franz Kafka’s manuscripts.

Journalist and translator Balint (Research Fellow/Van Leer Institute; Running Commentary: The Contentious Magazine that Transformed the Jewish Left into the Neoconservative Right, 2010) seeks to explain to literature lovers the convoluted story of what happened to Kafka’s manuscripts and papers after his death in 1924. The first chapter of this legal/literary history takes place in an Israeli court, where three parties, including 82-year-old Eva Hoffe, are fighting over some Kafka manuscripts. In order to better understand the complexities of the case, Balint provides the compelling backstory. It’s famous knowledge that Max Brod, who had a “fanatical veneration” for his beloved friend, was ordered by Kafka to destroy all of his writings after he died: “Everything I leave behind…is to be burned unread and to the last page.” Brod, however, “preferred to act as a self-appointed literary executor rather than as literary executioner.” By doing so, he twice rescued Kafka’s legacy, once from fire and once from “obscurity.” As World War II was breaking out, Brod, a passionate Zionist, escaped from Prague to Palestine with a “bulky, cracked-leather suitcase stuffed with loose bundles and leaves of Kafka’s manuscripts.” Esther Hoffe served as Brod’s secretary and close friend in Israel for more than two decades. When Brod died in 1968, he had already written a will in which he “gifted [her] all the Kafka manuscripts and letters in my possession.” Assuming the materials were hers, she sold some over the years, including the original manuscript of The Trial, at public auction. When she died in 2007, she willed the manuscripts to her two daughters, Eva and Ruth. During a few trials after that, an Israeli court finally awarded—fair or not—the manuscripts to Jerusalem’s National Library.

A fascinating tale of literary friendship, loyalty, political power, and feckless law.

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-324-00131-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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A standout immigrant coming-of-age story.

THE DISTANCE BETWEEN US

A MEMOIR

In her first nonfiction book, novelist Grande (Dancing with Butterflies, 2009, etc.) delves into her family’s cycle of separation and reunification.

Raised in poverty so severe that spaghetti reminded her of the tapeworms endemic to children in her Mexican hometown, the author is her family’s only college graduate and writer, whose honors include an American Book Award and International Latino Book Award. Though she was too young to remember her father when he entered the United States illegally seeking money to improve life for his family, she idolized him from afar. However, she also blamed him for taking away her mother after he sent for her when the author was not yet 5 years old. Though she emulated her sister, she ultimately answered to herself, and both siblings constantly sought affirmation of their parents’ love, whether they were present or not. When one caused disappointment, the siblings focused their hopes on the other. These contradictions prove to be the narrator’s hallmarks, as she consistently displays a fierce willingness to ask tough questions, accept startling answers, and candidly render emotional and physical violence. Even as a girl, Grande understood the redemptive power of language to define—in the U.S., her name’s literal translation, “big queen,” led to ridicule from other children—and to complicate. In spelling class, when a teacher used the sentence “my mamá loves me” (mi mamá me ama), Grande decided to “rearrange the words so that they formed a question: ¿Me ama mi mamá? Does my mama love me?”

A standout immigrant coming-of-age story.

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4516-6177-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: June 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2012

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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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