The Nightmare of Reason: The Life of Franz Kafka by Ernst Pawel (2)

The doubts and misgivings fought back, locked his head in a vise grip, kept him from sleeping, and once again drove him to the edge of madness. (The Life of Franz Kafka by Ernst Pawel, page 346) Pawel’s enjoyable 466-page biography of Franz Kafka falls roughly into two parts. Part one deals with the deep […]

The Nightmare of Reason: The Life of Franz Kafka by Ernst Pawel – part one (1984)

‘What do I have in common with the Jews? I hardly have anything in common with myself and should stand very quietly in a corner, content that I can breathe.’ (Franz Kafka, 8 January 1914) This is a hugely enjoyable biography of Franz Kafka, chiefly because it is itself so unKafkaesque, so informative and logical and […]

John Updike on Franz Kafka (1983)

In 1983 American novelist John Updike was commissioned to write the introduction to a new collection of the complete short stories of Franz Kafka. Here are his main points: Kafka is one of many who reacted to the arrival of the ‘modern’ world around the turn of the century. For him it manifested as: a […]

Jorge Luis Borges on Franz Kafka (1981)

In 1981 Cardinal published a collection of all the short stories which Kafka published during his lifetime, from the first story in 1904, to the last ones published just after his death in 1924 – a working life of precisely 20 years. They are all here in new translations by J.A. Underwood. The edition is interesting […]

Milan Kundera on Franz Kafka (1979)

In 1979 the Czech novelist Milan Kundera published a short essay about the works of fellow Czech and Prague inhabitant, Franz Kafka. The essay was titled Somewhere behind. Throughout it Kundera uses the adjective ‘Kafkan’, which seems perverse of either him or the translator, because everyone else in the English-speaking world talks about the ‘Kafkaesque’. Four […]

Albert Camus on Franz Kafka (1942)

In 1942 Albert Camus published his famous long essay, The Myth of Sisyphus in which he addressed the issue of Suicide i.e. Is the world so empty, pointless and absurd that we might as well cash in our chips? He takes a hundred pages or so to answer No, the basis of his argument being that […]

György Lukács on Franz Kafka (1955)

Brief biography of György Lukács From the 1920s to the 1960s György Lukács was one of the leading Marxist philosophers and literary critics in Europe. Born in Budapest, Hungary, in 1885, the son of a very affluent Jewish banker, he benefited from a superb education and was a leading intellectual at Budapest university, combining interests in […]

Vladimir Nabokov on Franz Kafka (1954)

Vladimir Nabokov The eminent Russian novelist, Vladimir Nabokov (1899 – 1971) fled the Russian Revolution to Germany in 1919 moving, eventually, on to France. Then, like many others, he was forced to flee France ahead of the Nazi invasion in 1940, crossing the Atlantic to America. Here he found work as an academic, and taught […]

Max Brod’s book on Kafka and some of my own reflections by Walter Benjamin (1938)

Max Brod, Kafka’s friend and literary executor, published a biography of Kafka in 1937. The German-Jewish critic Walter Benjamin gave his thoughts on the book in a letter to his friend, the Jewish scholar Gerhard Scholem, in June 1938. His comments were then extracted from the letter and published as one of the essays collected in […]

Franz Kafka on the tenth anniversary of his death by Walter Benjamin (1934)

The German-Jewish literary critic Walter Benjamin (1892 – 1940) published several pieces about Franz Kafka, which were later collected in the selection of his essays titled Illuminations. Franz Kafka on the tenth anniversary of his death (1934) What makes Benjamin so enjoyable to read also makes him difficult to summarise. This is that he proceeds by a […]