Monday, March 31, 2008

"Life is merely terrible"

Despite my resolve to write review-essays, here's another news and chat post.

Since Amazon UK has reinstated the Publication Date filter on its search engine, I've been looking for forthcoming books of note. First up is Louis Begley's The Trememdous World I Have Inside My Head, a "biographical essay" on Franz Kafka. Great title. Of course, it comes from Kafka's Diaries. Peter Mailloux used one from there too for his 1989 biography A Hesitation Before Birth. Even better. Publishers Atlas & Co offer a PDF of a sample chapter "Life is Merely Terrible", a line from his letters to Felice.

Imagine a library made up only of books with titles taken from Kafka. I open the Diaries at random: "The unimaginable sadness in the morning". Autobiography.


  1. Anonymous8:42 pm

    Right, this is definitely one for the library. There doesn't seem to have been a lot of late.

    I had high (and ultimately somewhat disappointed) expectations of Calasso's K., given his achievements in "The Marriage of Cadmus & Harmony." Nothing wrong with it; it just didn't occupy quite the psychological space I hoped it might.

    A library made up of books with titles from Kafka? Perhaps Borges wrote about it unwittingly -- a library of books that were translated, at one remove or another, from the Urtext called "Kafka." It's, of course, "The Book of Sand"

  2. I was disappointed by Calasso's K too. But have you read Stach's biography?

  3. Anonymous8:54 pm

    To be quite honest, no, I haven't. I take it, from your comment, it's something you recommend. Good enough for me: I'm searching for a cheap copy (at least, of what's already in print) even as I write ...

  4. Yes, I recommend it.

    This is what Josipovici said about it in his TLS Books of the Year entry:

    "The book that had the greatest impact was the second volume of Reiner Stach's new biography of Kafka (Kafka: The decisive years, translated from the German by Shelley Frisch, Harcourt). By covering in 500 pages six years (1910-15) in which nothing much happened outwardly but a seismic shift took place in the inner life and work of one of the twentieth century's greatest writers, Stach avoids many of the traps of the literary biographer: an undue stress on teleology; a need to keep the narrative moving along. But he has also managed to fill in the lives and backgrounds of all the other players, especially the unfortunate Felice Bauer, who has, for lack of hard work by historians and biographers, too often been seen exclusively through Kafka's eyes. As a result Kafka comes alive as never before.

    Two more volumes, covering the early and last years, are to follow and I cannot wait."

    Spurious likes it too.

  5. Anonymous11:18 pm

    Write those review-essays! If you've got the time...



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