This volume of Reiner Stach's acclaimed and definitive biography of Franz Kafka tells the story of the final years of the writer's life, from 1916 to 1924--a period during which the world Kafka had known came to an end. Stach's riveting narrative, which reflects the latest findings about Kafka's life and works, draws readers in with nearly cinematic precision, zooming in for extreme close-ups of Kafka's personal life, then pulling back for panoramic shots of a wider world blighted by World War I, disease, and inflation. In these years, Kafka was spared military service at the front, yet his work as a civil servant brought him into chilling proximity with its grim realities. He was witness to unspeakable misery, lost the financial security he had been counting on to lead the life of a writer, and remained captive for years in his hometown of Prague. The outbreak of tuberculosis and the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire constituted a double shock for Kafka, and made him agonizingly aware of his increasing rootlessness.
He began to pose broader existential questions, and his writing grew terser and more reflective, from the parable-like Country Doctor stories and A Hunger Artist to The Castle. A door seemed to open in the form of a passionate relationship with the Czech journalist Milena Jesenska. But the romance was unfulfilled and Kafka, an incurably ill German Jew with a Czech passport, continued to suffer. However, his predicament only sharpened his perceptiveness, and the final period of his life became the years of insight.
Reiner Stach worked extensively on the definitive edition of Kafka's collected works before embarking on this three-volume biography. Shelley Frisch's translation of the second volume was awarded the Modern Language Association's Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize and her translation of the third volume was awarded the Helen and Kurt Wolff Translator's Prize. She has translated many other books from German, including biographies of Nietzsche and Einstein, and she holds a PhD in German literature from Princeton University.
PROLOGUE The Ants of Prague 1 CHAPTER ONE Stepping Outside the Self 8 CHAPTER TWO No Literary Prize for Kafka 31 CHAPTER THREE "Civilian Kavka": The Work of War 46 CHAPTER FOUR The Marvel of Marienbad 83 CHAPTER FIVE What Do I Have in Common with Jews? 105 CHAPTER SIX Kafka Encounters His Readers 129 CHAPTER SEVEN The Alchemist 141 CHAPTER EIGHT Ottla and Felice 157 CHAPTER NINE The Country Doctor Ventures Out 170 CHAPTER TEN Mycobacterium tuberculosis 186 CHAPTER ELEVEN Zurau's Ark 201 CHAPTER TWELVE Meditations 222 CHAPTER THIRTEEN Spanish Influenza, Czech Revolt, Jewish Angst 244 CHAPTER FOURTEEN The Pariah Girl 266 CHAPTER FIFTEEN The Unposted Letter to Hermann Kafka 287 CHAPTER SIXTEEN Merano, Second Class 311 CHAPTER SEVENTEEN Milena 319 CHAPTER EIGHTEEN Living Fires 332 CHAPTER NINETEEN The Big Nevertheless 353 CHAPTER TWENTY Escape to the Mountains 380 CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE Fever and Snow: Tatranske Matliary 387 CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO The Internal and the External Clock 404 CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE The Personal Myth: The Castle 423 CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR Retiree and Hunger Artist 451 CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE The Palestinian 475 CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX Dora 497 CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN The Edge of Berlin 512 CHAPTER TWENTY-EIGHT Last Sorrow 546 EPILOGUE 573 Acknowledgments 577 Translator's Note 579 Key to Abbreviations 581 Notes 583 Bibliography 647 Photo Credits 665 Index 667