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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family and his education, psychological development, and sexual maturation draws on numerous sources, some still unpublished, including family letters, schoolmates' memoirs, and early diaries of his close friend Max Brod.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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"One of CHOICE's Outstanding Academic Titles for 2017"
"Longlisted for the 2017 National Translation Award, American Literary Translators Association"
"[An] immensely rewarding journey. This volume completes one of the great literary biographies of our time--indeed, any time. . . . So delightful, so magical, are the closing couple of pages that one longs to paraphrase them, but that would be to spoil the perfect balance the biographer achieves between comedy, wistfulness, and faint absurdity, qualities that are as much a mark of Kafka's writing as its darkness and its terror. There could not have been a better close to this marvelous account of the life of a supremely great artist."---John Banville, New York Review of Books
"Stach often does quietly brilliant work connecting known details of Kafka's youth to the older Kafka, so the reader can see how events appear (or don't) in the specific subjectivity of Kafka's recollection."---Rivka Galchen, London Review of Books
"Stach's book crowns a definitive biographical trilogy 18 years in the making. . . . Kafka: The Early Years, along with its two siblings--all three volumes impeccably translated from the German by Shelley Frisch--often feels like biography plotted as a novel. Stach's relish for detail is marshaled to the sensibility--if not the omniscience or imaginative license--of the novelist. . . . [T]he heft of Stach's research is balanced by interpretive tact and a discerning eye."---Benjamin Balint, Wall Street Journal
"Praise for the previous volumes: "This is one of the great literary biographies, to be set up there with, or perhaps placed on an even higher shelf than, Richard Ellmann's James Joyce, George Painter's Marcel Proust, and Leon Edel's Henry James. . . . [A]n eerily immediate portrait of one of literature's most enduring and enigmatic masters.""---John Banville, New York Review of Books
"Praise for the previous volumes: "Resplendent.""---Gary Giddins, Wall Street Journal
"Praise for Reiner Stach's biography of Kafka, winner of the 2015 Bavarian Book Prize: "One discovers a new, a different Dr. Franz Kafka of Prague in Reiner Stach's monumental, three-volume biography, which concludes triumphantly with Kafka: The Early Years Kafka--a techie, a lady-killer, friend, the inventor of 3-D movies, and the prospective author of a series of low-priced travel guides for Europe. Reiner Stach proves that biography can be a literary art form and gives definitive shape to our contemporary image of Kafka.""---Bavarian Book Prize jury statement,
"Praise for the previous volumes: "[This] will surely be the definitive biography of one of the 20th century's most mysterious artists. Stach's declared aim is to find out what it felt like to be Kafka, and he succeeds.""---John Banville, Irish Times
"Praise for the previous volumes: "The very best of which the genre is capable. This book is itself a novel.""---Imre Kertész, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature,
Advance praise for Kafka: The Early Years "Kafka: The Early Years completes a masterful trilogy. One feature puts it at light-years' distance of superiority to anything previously written about Kafka's early years: Stach had unique access to Max Brod's notebooks, part of a celebrated cache of documents bearing on his friendship with Kafka. Far more fully than any other Kafka biographer, Stach gives us what Hegel calls 'the concrete vitality of the full individual.' "--Stanley Corngold, author of Lambent Traces: Franz Kafka
Advance praise for Kafka: The Early Years "Kafka: The Early Years is a remarkable conclusion to a momentous biography. It covers what is in many ways the most important and interesting period of Kafka's life, for these are the years during which he was shaped by the world around him and when his character emerged. This is an entertaining, informative account that has no equivalent among the many previous biographies of Kafka."--Mark M. Anderson, author of Kafka's Clothes
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