LETTERS TO FRIENDS, FAMILY, AND EDITORS by Franz Kafka
Kirkus Star

LETTERS TO FRIENDS, FAMILY, AND EDITORS

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

Here is the truth, nothing but the truth,"" Kafka's great friend and biographer Max Brod once wrote about the indelible work of the Prague master--end these letters assemble a shining assent. A letter--wrote Kafka to a young woman in 1907--""is like splashing in the water by the shore, but I did not say the splashing could be heard""; yet now, with all the letters translated except for those to his sister Ottla, we do finally hear the sounds of these letters as a remarkable, integral choir. Toward Max Bred end other writers there is an astonishing candor, especially about literature, that at the same time perfectly balances against offense; toward his family similar truth-telling prevails but always with a poseless selfdeprecation. In the previously published letters to his fiancÉes, Felice and Milena, Kafka was shown more soliloquous, fearful of interruption, serf-propelled; but here, mostly writing to men, he's more wide-ranging, roping reality in however he may. About his loneliness: ""[my] sole aim, my greatest temptation, my opportunity."" About reading: "". . . we need the books that affect us like a disaster. . . . A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us."" One letter contains an extraordinary analysis of Kierkegaard while another, to his sister, invokes Swift to argue the danger of parental education for children, adding a coda: ""Don't blame my advice because it comes from me."" But not surprisingly, considering its reticent literalness, there is almost never an evaluating comment on his own work. The life does that itself. As the last, suffering letters bring it to a heart-wrenching close, Kafka's tuberculosis having finally reached his larynx and made both speaking above a whisper end eating impossible, he is reading the proofs of what else but ""A Hunger Artist"" and writing messages to his bedside friends about flowers, pain, and finally: ""So the help goes away again without helping."" Imperative.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1977
Publisher: Schocken