"These magnificent letters, meticulously set up and annotated, show us aspects of Kafka that were only hinted at in earlier collections and help us trace his development from unhappy young law student and insurance administrator to novelist and short-story writer of originality and genius." --Publishers Weekly
"When we turn from Kafka's books to his letters we have a series of self-portraits desperate and courageous, always eager and warm in ...
"These magnificent letters, meticulously set up and annotated, show us aspects of Kafka that were only hinted at in earlier collections and help us trace his development from unhappy young law student and insurance administrator to novelist and short-story writer of originality and genius."
"When we turn from Kafka's books to his letters we have a series of self-portraits desperate and courageous, always eager and warm in feeling; the self is lit by fantasy and, of course, by drollery. His candor is of the kind that flies alongside him in the air. He was a marvelous letter writer."
--V.S. Pritchett, The New York Review of Books
"These letters are like messages from the underground, from the dark side of the moon, presenting aspects of Kafka that would have died with his friends. We meet alternately Kafka the artist, friend, son, father figure, marriage counselor, literary critic, insurance official. . . . A full portrait, and a significant contribution to Kafka scholarship."
"An inside view of a writer who, perhaps more than any other novelist or poet in our century, stands at the center of our culture."
--Robert Alter, The New York Times Book Review
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 At the end of his life, Kafka asked his lifelong friend and literary executor Max Brod to burn all his unpublished work.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.