Monday, August 5, 2013

Kafka on the Couch

Franz Kafka: The Poet of Shame and Guilt by Saul Friedlander

Reading about Franz Kafka’s life can make you wish, fervently, that you were reading one of his stories instead. His life was shot through with angst, self-torture and frustration. So was his fiction – but the fiction had an artistry that balanced out the despair. The fiction had humour, narrative verve, wicked moments of invention. The life mainly seems to have been a grim exercise in psychic agony.

Kafka was born in Prague in 1883. His father was – as Kafka saw it – a tyrant and a philistine. Kafka lived in his shadow, all too literally: he didn’t move out of his parents’ home until the untender age of 31. He worked as a lawyer in an insurance office, and hated the way his bureaucratic day-job encroached on his writing time. His romantic life was a nightmare of inertia. Engaged three times to two different women, he could never force himself up to the plate. He was a neurotic, a hypochondriac, an insomniac. He lived, as he said in his Diaries, “on the verge of insanity” ... [read more]