I AM A MEMORY COME ALIVE: Autobiographical Writings by Franz Kafka

I AM A MEMORY COME ALIVE: Autobiographical Writings

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KIRKUS REVIEW

More Kafkaiana, this -- in lieu of the autobiography he spoke of but never wrote -- a cut-and-paste job of the diaries; letters to Max Brod, his father, his publisher, to Felice Bauer and Milena Jesenka; recollections by Brod, Gustav Janouch, Dora Dymant, punctuated by excerpts from his fiction and proceeding year by year from 1910 until his death in 1924 of consumption at a sanatorium near Vienna. Last year's publication of the Letters to Felice highlighted the autobiographical content of his work, particularly ""The Judgment"" and The Trial, and revealed a Kafka critics had not dreamed of: a man who pursued marriage as the Only salvation from a self finally too monolithic to brook the society of another. Felice occupies a central place in his life, yet she is commonplace and bourgeois. Among his family and friends, she understands Kafka least, shows no interest in his literature. From the start he knows, ""I cannot live with other people; . . . I doubt whether I am a human being,"" but conflict and self-torment is his natural state, so he vacillates. His emotional coordinates are hypochondria, fear of his father, the inability to marry, the need to write. The core of his contradictoriness is self-abasement coupled tightly with narcissism -- in anyone else an outpouring that would be self-evasive and indulgent, but in Kafka's case, pitiless self-knowledge of an extraordinary inner life. After Felice, abortive love affairs with her best friend Grete Bloch (who bore him a son), the Swiss girl ""G.W.,"" Milena Jesenka, Julie Wohryzek, Dora Dymant, provide almost the only (aside from his publications) life in the world he acknowledged. Nearing death he wrote, ""Sisyphus was a bachelor."" Kafka's introspective voice is less lyrical, more impassioned, even more abstract and mysterious (if such can be imagined) than that of the storyteller. As Milena wrote to Brod: ""His books are amazing. He himself is more amazing.

Pub Date: Oct. 25th, 1974
Publisher: Schocken