This is the acclaimed central volume of the definitive biography of Franz Kafka. Reiner Stach spent more than a decade working with over four thousand pages of journals, letters, and literary fragments, many never before available, to re-create the atmosphere in which Kafka lived and worked from 1910 to 1915, the most important and best-documented years of his life. This period, which would prove crucial to Kafka's writing and set the course for the rest of his life, saw him working with astonishing intensity on his most seminal writings--The Trial, The Metamorphosis, The Man Who Disappeared (Amerika), and The Judgment. These are also the years of Kafka's fascination with Zionism; of his tumultuous engagement to Felice Bauer; and of the outbreak of World War I. Kafka: The Decisive Years is at once an extraordinary portrait of the writer and a startlingly original contribution to the art of literary biography.
Reiner Stach worked extensively on the definitive edition of Kafka's collected works before embarking on this three-volume biography. The third volume, Kafka: The Years of Insight (Princeton), covering Kafka's final years, is also available. The first volume, covering Kafka's childhood and youth, is forthcoming.
Introduction 1 PROLOGUE: The Black Star 16 1At Home with the Kafkas 21 2Bachelors, Young and Old 42 3Actors, Zionists, Wild People 54 4Literature and Loneliness: Leipzig and Weimar 71 5Last Stop Jungborn 86 6A Young Lady from Berlin 94 7The Ecstasy of Beginning: "The Judgment" and "The Stoker" 108 8A Near Defenestration 119 9The Girl, the Lady, and the Woman 134 10Love and a Longing for Letters 145 11Exultant Weeks, Little Intrigues 159 12The Bauer Family 169 13America and Back: The Man Who Disappeared 175 14The Lives of Metaphors: "The Metamorphosis" 192 15The Fear of Going Mad 206 16Balkan War: The Massacre Next Door 226 171913 231 18 The Man Who Disappeared: Perfection and Disintegration 242 19Invention and Exaggeration 253 20Sexual Trepidation and Surrender 266 21The Working World: High Tech and the Ghostsof Bureaucracy 281 22The Proposal 297 23Literature, Nothing but Literature 324 24Three Congresses in Vienna 350 25Trieste, Venice, Verona, Riva 368 26Grete Bloch: The Messenger Arrives 379 27An All-Time Low 390 28Kafka and Musil 401 29Matrimonial Plans and Asceticism 413 30Tribunal in Berlin 433 31The Great War 444 32Self-Inflicted Justice: The Trial and "In the Penal Colony" 464 33The Return of the East 484 34The Grand Disruption 493 35No-Man's-Land 508 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS 517 TRANSLATOR'S NOTE 519 KEY TO ABBREVIATIONS 521 NOTES 523 BIBLIOGRAPHY 551 PHOTO CREDITS 563 INDEX 565