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A search for insights into Kafka's relations with women. Not surprisingly, Glatzer finds ample evidence that this almost pathologically shy and private man had torturously ambivalent attitudes toward the opposite sex. He aspired to a union that would combine physical and spiritual love with intellectual compatibility, yet he frequently suffered excruciating headaches and other ailments when on the verge of a commitment. Kafka was twice officially engaged to Felice Bauer, a practical, quite bourgeois young executive secretary for a manufacturer of dictating machines and sound-recording equipment. This romance was, Glatzer says, purely ""epistolary."" She lived in Berlin, he in Prague. They visited each other sporadically and were virtually never alone. Letters were his emotional outlet, and they frequently revealed his conflict: ""Dearest, take me to you, hold me, don't lose faith; the days cast me back and forth; you must realize that you will never get unadulterated happiness from me; only as much unadulterated suffering as one could wish for, and yet--don't send me away."" The relationship spanned more than six years, during some of which Kafka maintained a ""strong attachment"" to Grete Bloch, a friend of Felice's who had been sent to Prague to help the author make up his mind. Grete later claimed she bore Kafka's son. If so, he never knew of the boy, who died about age seven. In 1919, at age 36, Kafka had a much simpler and happier relationship with a shoemaker's daughter, which ended the next year, possibly because of parental disapproval. A subsequent affair with a married woman also went nowhere. In his final days, when he was weakening from the tuberculosis that had sapped his health for years, he lived openly with Dora Dymant, a brilliant, vivacious young woman who could not marry Kafka because her father's rabbi refused permission. Glatzer has edited several books featuring Felice Bauer's letters. While this slim volume is obviously a labor of love, one wishes Glatzer had dealt more with Kafka's literary output and how his relations with women influenced it.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1985
Publisher: Schocken