Life After Kafka

Bellevue Literary. Aug. 2024. 256p. ISBN 9781954276291. pap. $17.99. F
Researchers know about Franz Kafka’s unsuccessful engagement to Felice Bauer because she saved 500 of his letters, which were published after her death and analyzed by Nobel Prize winner Elias Canetti, who in Kafka’s Other Trial argues that Kafka’s The Trial is a restaging of his never resolved engagement to Felice. Beyond that, little is known about Felice. She married a banker, had two children by him, died in the U.S. in 1960, having sold his letters to Salman Schocken, whose heirs permitted publication. This small book by Czech writer Platzova (The Attempt) is an effort to remedy an imbalance, wandering across time, place, people as the writer strives to recreate what happened between this distinctly un-Kafkaesque young woman and a neurasthenic writer. It comes out in dribs and drabs. Felice stands in a bookstore as Kafka, her fiancé, reads aloud “In the Penal Colony,” witnessing his humiliation by an alienated audience but also realizing that he has lifted the description of the torture machine from copy she’d written to describe the dictaphones she sold for a living.
VERDICT An affecting book and always slightly to the side, as indeed were all of Kafka’s writings.
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