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22gigantes.com - 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family and his education, psychological development, and sexual maturation draws on numerous sources, some still unpublished, including family letters, schoolmates’ memoirs, and early diaries of his close friend Max Brod.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.
Most helpful customer reviews 8 of 8 people found the following review helpful. Not a Trial to Read By Christian Schlect Not only a superb book about the young Franz Kafka, but a clear window into his native city-- Prague--- with all its complex political, linguistic, and religious fault lines of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.Reiner Stach, the author, provides the reader with a well-researched and fluidly written description of both Kafka and his early family life and other forces, such as education, friends, travel, and early career, that served ultimately to shape the great prose writer.This is one volume of a three volume biography; I have not read the first two volumes, which were earlier published out of sequence. Strong chapter notes and extensive bibliography are provided. The translator, Shelly Frisch, seems to have done an excellent job; although not knowing German myself, I will leave it to others to bestow more reliable praise. 5 of 5 people found the following review helpful. a great trip into his mind By Peter M. Leiss Stunning, a great trip into his mind, soul, time and place. What an artist! The bio, along with the other two are worth the trip if you love art, thanks! 0 of 0 people found the following review helpful. Well worth the effort By s. berger A trilogy has to be well written to be appreciated and kept with. This is a good example of that. Very interesting not only for Kafka, but for the history of the time and place. See all 7 customer reviews...
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 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 of BooksPraise for the previous volumes: "Resplendent."--Gary Giddins, Wall Street Journal"Stach's book crowns a definitive biographical trilogy 18 years in the making. . . . [I]mpeccably translated from the German by Shelley Frisch."--Benjamin Balint, Wall Street JournalPraise 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 statementPraise 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 TimesPraise 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 LiteraturePraise 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 RepublicPraise for the previous volumes: "A definitive biography of a rare writer. . . . [M]asterful."--The EconomistPraise 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 WorldPraise for the previous volumes: "Stach's is a splendid effort and will be hard to surpass."--William H. Gass, Harper's MagazinePraise 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 IndependentPraise for the previous volumes: "Stach's book succeeds brilliantly at clearing a path through the thick metaphysical fog that has hung about Kafka's work almost since his death. . . . [I]lluminating. . . . Between them, [Frisch] and Stach have produced a superbly fresh imaginative guide to the strange, clear, metaphor-free world of Kafka's prose."--Tim Martin, TelegraphPraise for the previous volumes: "Magnificent."--John Carey, Sunday TimesPraise for the previous volumes: "Flawlessly translated. . . . [A] wonderfully intelligent and perceptive portrait of a uniquely powerful writer."--P. D. Smith, Guardian"Magisterial. . . . [Reiner Stach's] portrait of the artist is intimately knowing. . . . [Kafka: The Early Years] completes an indispensable work about a key figure in 20th-century modernism."--Kirkus"Kafka's eerie short stories and novels have electrified readers for generations, but Stach's portrait of the young Kafka contradicts the legend of their source in an alienated, detached enigma. Readers meet instead a likable, brilliant young insurance lawyer with, as Stach puts it, abundant perfectionism and self-doubt. . . . [A]ll Kafka devotees will find this biography's insights deeply fulfilling."--Publishers Weekly"What Mr. Stach uncovers in this volume--written last because of a long struggle over access to documents--are the formative experiences of a Kafka who becomes new and surprisingly relevant. . . . Even those immersed in the specialist work benefit from the illumination that Mr. Stach's detailed digging brings. . . . In today's age of backlash against globalisation, the arc that Mr. Stach draws between 'The Early Years' and Kafka's later life takes on a new significance."--The Economist"Reiner Stach presents exhaustive details about the young author's life, which, rather than demystifying Kafka, actually have the effect of augmenting his complexity."--Mene Ukueberuwa, New Criterion"Reiner Stach's monumental three-volume Kafka . . . looks set to be the definitive biography for the foreseeable future. Here we have something new: a credible and sympathetic human Kafka. . . . The narrative sections of the book are masterly: Stach has a novelist's feel for atmosphere and psychology. He fixes important characters (not just Kafka, but his parents and his teachers, Brod, and several others) to the page in a few deft strokes. And he is truly excellent on Kafka's work, which is the most important thing of all. The central question of any serious literary biography should be: how did this person come to write these books? Stach answers it more fully and persuasively than any previous biographer of Kafka, by revealing in meticulous detail his feelings of personal insignificance and his dread of authority."--Edmund Gordon, Sunday Times"The best thing a biographer of Franz Kafka can do is bring the famed author back to earth. Not as regards his reputation, which is justifiably lofty. But to humanize Kafka and save him from our collective idea of him as some otherworldly creature who spent a mere 40 years on this earth, suffering much and publishing little. Reiner Stach accomplishes just this with the third and final volume of his magnificent biography. . . . [He] strips away the myths and tells the story of how Kafka helped drag literature into the modern era."--John Winters, WBUR's ARTery blog"Stach's account of Kafka becoming Kafka is dotted with unlikely epigraphs (Laurie Anderson, Devo, the Human League) and written with pace and dry wit. . . . Stach is an alert reader of the work, continuously on the prowl for aspects of Kafka's life that may shed light on his preoccupations. . . . Stach's book succeeds because it concentrates less on reducing Kafka to psycho-biographical truisms than on ushering us into his company."--Tim Martin, Prospect"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."--Wall Street Journal"Magisterial. . . . . [A]n indispensable work about a key figure in 20th-century modernism." --Kirkus s"Kafka devotees will find this biography's insights deeply fulfilling." --Publishers Weekly"Belongs in the company of the masterpieces of literary biography. . . . [C]omprehensive but raised above mere competency through astonishing architectural beauty. Thanks to the superb work of Stach's translator, Shelley Frisch, the trilogy also stands out in English at the sentence level, for the unbroken clarity, verbal ingenuity, and unflagging momentum of its prose."--Open Letters Monthly"One of the most engaging and persuasive features of [Kafka: The Early Years] . . . is the way in which Stach goes far beyond the all-too-familiar neurotic, angst-ridden [Kafka] by presenting us with a variety of lesser-known 'Kafkas.'"--Mark Harman, Los Angeles of Books"Superbly translated from German by Shelley Frisch. . . . Illuminating facts and intelligent commentary. . . . The three volumes are so carefully composed and densely woven--blending history, literary analysis, psychological insights, quotes and commentary from others--that it would be practically impossible to produce an abridged version in a single volume."--Alexander Adams, Spiked "Stach's whole project is a wonder to behold."--Gregory Day, Sydney Morning Herald"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 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 KafkaAdvance 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 About the Author 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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