Kafka: The Early Years

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Princeton University Press, Oct 25, 2016 - 584 pages
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How did Kafka become Kafka? This eagerly anticipated third and final volume of Reiner Stach's definitive biography of the writer answers that question with more facts and insight than ever before, describing the complex personal, political, and cultural circumstances that shaped the young Franz Kafka (1883–1924). It tells the story of the years from his birth in Prague to the beginning of his professional and literary career in 1910, taking the reader up to just before the breakthrough that resulted in his first masterpieces, including "The Metamorphosis." Brimming with vivid and often startling details, Stach’s narrative invites readers deep inside this neglected period of Kafka’s life. The book’s richly atmospheric portrait of his German Jewish merchant family and his education, psychological development, and sexual maturation draws on numerous sources, some still unpublished, including family letters, schoolmates’ memoirs, and early diaries of his close friend Max Brod.

The biography also provides a colorful panorama of Kafka’s wider world, especially the convoluted politics and culture of Prague. Before World War I, Kafka lived in a society at the threshold of modernity but torn by conflict, and Stach provides poignant details of how the adolescent Kafka witnessed violent outbreaks of anti-Semitism and nationalism. The reader also learns how he developed a passionate interest in new technologies, particularly movies and airplanes, and why another interest—his predilection for the back-to-nature movement—stemmed from his “nervous” surroundings rather than personal eccentricity.

The crowning volume to a masterly biography, this is an unmatched account of how a boy who grew up in an old Central European monarchy became a writer who helped create modern literature.

 

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Contents

CHAPTER ONE Nothing Happening in Prague
1
CHAPTER TWO The Curtain Rises
7
The Kafkas from Wosek
26
CHAPTER FOUR Julie Löwy
38
CHAPTER FIVE Losing Propositions
46
CHAPTER SIX Thoughts about Freud
58
Model Student
77
CHAPTER EIGHT A City Energized
90
Description of a Struggle
284
CHAPTER TWENTY Doctor of Law Seeking Employment
302
CHAPTER TWENTYONE Off to the Prostitutes
325
CHAPTER TWENTYTWO Cafés Geishas Art and Cinema
335
CHAPTER TWENTYTHREE The Formidable Assistant Official
350
CHAPTER TWENTYFOUR The Secret Writing School
370
CHAPTER TWENTYFIVE Landing in Brescia
391
CHAPTER TWENTYSIX In the Heart of the West
407

CHAPTER NINE Elli Valli Ottla
113
CHAPTER TEN Latin Bohemian Mathematics and Other Matters of the Heart
122
CHAPTER ELEVEN Jewish Lessons
150
CHAPTER TWELVE Innocence and Impudence
171
CHAPTER THIRTEEN The Path to Freedom
184
CHAPTER FOURTEEN To Hell with German Studies
204
CHAPTER FIFTEEN Friend Max
222
CHAPTER SIXTEEN Enticements
236
Utitz Weltsch Fanta Bergmann
248
CHAPTER EIGHTEEN Autonomy and Recovery
268
Buber Steiner Einstein
420
CHAPTER TWENTYEIGHT Literature and Tourism
437
Acknowledgments
463
Key to Abbreviations
465
Notes
467
Bibliography
531
Photo Credits
549
Index
551
Copyright

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About the author (2016)

Reiner Stach worked extensively on the definitive edition of Kafka's collected works before embarking on his three-volume biography of the writer. The other volumes are Kafka: The Decisive Years and Kafka: The Years of Insight (both Princeton). Shelley Frisch's translations of those volumes were awarded the Modern Language Association's Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize and the Helen and Kurt Wolff Translator's Prize. Her many other translations from the German include Karin Wieland's Dietrich & Riefenstahl, a finalist for the 2016 National Book Critics Circle Award.

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