Franz Kafka first met Felice Bauer in August 1912, at the home of his friend Max Brod. The twenty-five-year-old career woman from Berlin?energetic, down-to-earth, life-affirming?awakened in him a desire to marry. Kafka wrote to Felice almost daily, sometimes even twice a day. Because he was living in Prague and she in Berlin, their letters became their sole source of knowledge of each other. But soon after their engagement in 1914, Kafka began having doubts about the relationship, fearing that marriage would...
Franz Kafka first met Felice Bauer in August 1912, at the home of his friend Max Brod. The twenty-five-year-old career woman from Berlin—energetic, down-to-earth, life-affirming—awakened in him a desire to marry. Kafka wrote to Felice almost daily, sometimes even twice a day. Because he was living in Prague and she in Berlin, their letters became their sole source of knowledge of each other. But soon after their engagement in 1914, Kafka began having doubts about the relationship, fearing that marriage would imperil his dedication to writing and interfere with his need for solitude. Through their break-up, a second engagement in 1917, and their final parting later that year, when Kafka began falling ill with the tuberculosis that would eventually claim his life, their correspondence continued. The more than five hundred letters that Kafka wrote to Felice over the course of those five years were acquired by Schocken from her in 1955. They reveal the full measure of Kafka's inner turmoil as he tried, in vain, to balance his need for stability with the demands of his craft.
"These letters are indispensable for anyone seeking a more intimate knowledge of Kafka and his fragmented world." —Library Journal
Franz Kafka was born in 1883 in Prague, where he lived most of his life. During his lifetime, he published only a few short stories, including “The Metamorphosis,” “The Judgment,” and “The Stoker.” He died in 1924, of tuberculosis, before completing any of his full-length novels. At the end of his life, Kafka asked his lifelong friend and literary executor Max Brod to burn all his unpublished work. Brod overrode those wishes.
Franz Kafka was born in 1883 to a well-to-do middle-class Jewish family. His father, the self-made proprietor of a wholesale haberdashery business, was a domineering man whose approbation Franz continually struggled to win. The younger Kafka's feelings of inadequacy and guilt form the background of much of his work and are made explicit in his "Letter to His Father" (excerpted in this volume), which was written in 1919 but never sent.
Kafka was educated in the German language schools of Prague and at the city's German University, where in 1908 he took a law degree. Literature, however, remained his sole passion. At this time he became part of a literary circle that included Franz Werfel, Martin Buber, and Kafka's close friend Max Brod. Encouraged by Brod, Kafka published the prose collection Observations in 1913. Two years later his story "The Stoker" won the Fontaine prize. In 1916 he began work on The Trial and between this time and 1923 produced three incomplete novels as well as numerous sketches and stories. In his lifetime some of his short works did appear: The Judgment (1916), The Metamorphosis (1916), The Penal Colony (1919), and The Country Doctor (1919).
Before his death of tuberculosis in 1924, Kafka had charged Max Brod with the execution of his estate, ordering Brod to burn the manuscripts. With the somewhat circular justification that Kafka must have known his friend could not obey such an order, Brod decided to publish Kafka's writings. To this act of "betrayal" the world owes the preservation of some of the most unforgettable and influential literary works of our century.