KAFKA: A Biography

Nicholas Murray, Author . Yale Univ. $30 (440p) ISBN 978-0-300-10631-2

The story is well known: the frail, anxiety-ridden young man in Prague who suffers under an overbearing, uncouth father. Every day he trudges off to his boring job at an insurance company. He is drawn to women yet agonizes about every relationship. At night, he writes away but wins scant recognition. He contracts tuberculosis, and his last, truly miserable years are spent in and out of sanatoriums. His final wish is that all his manuscripts be burned, but his best friend violates the request. Within a few years of his death in 1924, Franz Kafka's writings about characters ensnared by the world around them for no apparent reason are recognized as brilliant manifestations of literary modernism. Murray (Bruce Chatwin, etc.) is an experienced biographer and effectively relates Kafka's brief life, trying valiantly to depict a more normal Kafka, a man who lived in society with good friends, enjoyed sex, had wide-ranging intellectual interests and became enamored of Judaism. In Murray's account, Kafka's employer valued him highly, and under the imprint of no less a figure than Kurt Wolff, he experienced some literary success. Despite Murray's best efforts to contain Kafka's idiosyncrasies, though, the writer remains the tormented soul who created out of his personal anxieties and agonies some of the most acclaimed works of the 20th century. Agent, Derek Johns at A.P. Watt. (Sept. 30)

Reviewed on: 09/06/2004
Release date: 09/01/2004
Genre: Nonfiction
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