cover image Life After Kafka

Life After Kafka

Magdaléna Platzová, trans. from the Czech by Alex Zucker. Bellevue, $17.99 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-1-954276-29-1

The enchanting latest from Platzová (The Attempt) brings metafictional elements to a portrait of Felice Bauer, Franz Kafka’s onetime fiancée. The novel opens in 1935, nearly two decades after the end of Bauer’s relationship with Kafka. Now married with children, Bauer flees Europe with her family for America during Hitler’s rise to power. After her husband dies in 1950, she begins running a nail salon out of her home and later opens a sewing shop. As Kafka’s fame grows, letters sent to Bauer by Kafka during their engagement gain the interest of publishers. A few years later, Bauer’s son, Joachim, is approached by a man who claims to be Kafka’s lost son. In chapters set in the 2010s, Platzová recounts her research, such as an interview with the real Joachim, whose name is actually Henry and who gives her his blessing to write about the family, and her decision to preserve Felice’s name despite changing Henry’s, since Kafka had already made her a “literary character.” Though prior knowledge of Kafka’s life and affairs may benefit readers, the novel succeeds thanks to its elastic bounce through time and playful blurring of history and imagination. As Felice Bauer receives her spotlight, Platzová deserves one, too. (Aug.)