KAFKA by Pierre Citati


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You are apt to learn more about citati's state of mind than Kafka's from this latest psychobiography by the Italian journalist and author (Tolstoy, 1986). Citati must have immersed himself in everything he could find by or about Kafka in order to write this personalized meditation. Much of the text consists of indirect quotes from Kafka's letters, diaries, and fiction strung together in some arbitrary order. Interspersed with these near-quotes are indirect comments on various critical and biographical works on Kafka. But because there are no references to either primary or secondary sources, unless readers are well read in the Kafka canon, they are likely to be thoroughly confused by Citati's uneven blending of materials. The few direct quotes from Kafka stand out by comparison as flashes of clarity and genius in a muddle of romanticized flights of fancy. For the most part. Citati's point of departure is Kafka's own egocentric, claustrophobic version of his life. Citati shows utter disregard for the numerous studies demonstrating Kafka's successful daytime participation in the life of his times--his job in the state insurance office, his lifelong friendships, and his affectionate relationships, especially with his youngest sister. Ottla. Citati also largely ignores the strong influence of the Eastern European Jewish tradition on Kafka's thinking and on the layers of linguistic and cultural alienation at the heart of his work. Isolated incisive passages, especially in Citati's analyses of ""The Metamorphosis"" and The Castle, with no discussion of Kafka's central conflict with his father and without even a mention of his ""Letter to My Father,"" are largely lost in the shuffle. An idiosyncratic meditation that barely touches on the paradoxical mystery of Kafka's genius.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1989
Publisher: Knopf