Kafka: The Early Years

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9780691178189: Kafka: The Early Years
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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family and his education, psychological development, and sexual maturation draws on numerous sources, some still unpublished, including family letters, schoolmates' memoirs, and early diaries of his close friend Max Brod.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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Review:

"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,

"Praise for the previous volumes: "Superbly tempered. . . . Shelley Frisch, Stach's heroic American translator, movingly reproduces his intended breadth and pace and tone.""---Cynthia Ozick, New Republic

"Praise for the previous volumes: "Stach aims to tell us all that can be known about [Kafka], avoiding the fancies and extrapolations of earlier biographers. The result is an enthralling synthesis, one that reads beautifully.... I can't say enough about the liveliness and richness of Stach's book.... Every page of this book feels excited, dynamic, utterly alive.""---Michael Dirda, Washington Post Book World

"Praise for the previous volumes: "Stach's is a splendid effort and will be hard to surpass.""---William H. Gass, Harper's Magazine

"Praise for the previous volumes: "[Stach] has a deep understanding of the world that Kafka came from and this is matched by an intelligence and tact about the impulse behind the work itself.""---Colm Tóibín, Irish Independent

"Praise for the previous volumes: "Magnificent.""---John Carey, Sunday Times

"If you are a Kafka fan (or just a fan of great literary biographies), the translation of Reiner Stach's enormous, three-part biography is something not to miss. Now that it has been translated into English by Shelley Frisch, the book offered English-language readers unparalleled insight into Kafka's life, his world, his colleagues, his lovers, his family, and of course his writing. As a longtime Kafka devotee, I found this biography exceptional, not just a great book about Kafka but simply a great book to read."---Scott Esposito, Conversational Reading

"[Stach's] mastery of complex material, scrupulous examination of evidence, illuminating portrayal of the historical and intellectual background ranks with Joseph Frank's superb five-volume life of Dostoyevsky."---Jeffrey Meyers, Commonweal

"We can trace, through Stach's measured narrative, the full course of Kafka's brief life. . . . The result is not merely a biography of painstaking thoroughness but a piece of psychological investigation and literary detective work without clear parallel. It gives its readers a new Kafka. It explains much that has long seemed obscure; yet, by paradox, the more its author-hero is grounded in his context, and the more we grasp of the initial sources of his imagination, the more unfathomable his gifts become. The haze clears; he stands alone."---Nicolas Rothwell, Australian

"Strange in wonderful ways. . . . [Stach] raises the bar for how biographers can give readers a sense of where a writer's sense of vision emerges from. By presenting Kafka's life as a succession of forces--historic, literary, places, personal encounters--and setting these collisions within a context of time, environment, social milieu and class, Stach brings readers closer to understanding how these forces impacted and shaped his thoughts and writing."---Time's Flow Stemmed,

From the Back Cover:

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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