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Double Thought

Michael Wood: Kafka in the Office, 20 November 2008

Franz KafkaThe Office Writings 
edited by Stanley Corngold, Jack Greenberg and Benno Wagner, translated by Eric Patton and Ruth Hein.
Princeton, 404 pp., £26.95, November 2008, 978 0 691 12680 7
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... Can we manage this logical feat? And where are we? We are in a room at the Herrenhof Inn, in Kafka’s novel The Castle. The time is around 5 a.m.; K, the land surveyor hired by the castle authorities, but not as yet entrusted with any land-surveying, has an appointment with an official. His great goal, we have learned by now, is not necessarily to get ...

Vienna: Myth and Reality

Hans Keller, 5 June 1980

Fin-de-Siècle Vienna: Politics and Culture 
by Carl Schorske.
Weidenfeld, 378 pp., £15, May 1980, 0 297 77772 6
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A Nervous Splendour: Vienna 1888/1889 
by Frederic Morton.
Weidenfeld, 340 pp., £8.95, May 1980, 0 297 77769 6
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... several parts have cast such blinding light upon each other that you have ceased to understand how Franz Kafka (whose name, wisely, doesn’t appear in the book) could allow himself to be born and bred outside Vienna: quite seriously, if we accept all of Professor Schorske’s historical causations and correlations, the burden of explaining the ...

Shivering Eyeballs

Jessica Olin: Mary Karr, 1 November 2001

by Mary Karr.
Picador, 276 pp., £14, June 2001, 9780330485753
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... I don’t know. Nothing whatsoever seemed to be approaching from any direction. I wait like an ox, Franz Kafka wrote and Mother underlined in one of her college books. The sentence was copied down like an axiom into one of the dozen or so Big Chief tablets I bought that summer, then let stay blank after a few scribbled pages. It is during this summer ...


John Banville: Exit Zuckerman, 4 October 2007

Exit Ghost 
by Philip Roth.
Cape, 292 pp., £16.99, October 2007, 978 0 224 08173 3
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... of Roth’s novels, and the tone of this passage will strike readers of Thomas Mann or Franz Kafka as familiar, perhaps even jadedly so. Yet the intensity of the commitment to Keatsian negative capability is remarkable in a writer so insistently loyal to the American novel’s covenant with quotidian, lived life. It is no small part of ...


Michael Wood, 23 March 1995

The Stone Raft 
by José Saramago, translated by Giovanni Pontiero.
Harvill, 263 pp., £15.99, November 1994, 0 00 271321 7
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... of unavoidable, universal guilt, as if this were the gospel according to Ivan Karamazov or Franz Kafka. Jesus was allowed to escape the massacre, he thinks, ‘so that I might learn of the crime which saved my life’. He means Joseph’s silence, which, although criminal, as Joseph himself comes to see it to have been, didn’t save ...

The Hero Brush

Edmund Gordon: Colum McCann, 12 September 2013

by Colum McCann.
Bloomsbury, 298 pp., £18.99, May 2013, 978 1 4088 2937 0
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... literature’. Gerard Donovan reminds him of ‘other great writers, not least Knut Hamsun, Franz Kafka and … Bernhard Schlink’. McCann is the high priest of high praise, always handy with a blessing. But his easy way with superlatives means that when he wants to pay a special tribute – to suggest that a writer is even better than Nathan ...


Susan Fromberg Schaeffer, 12 July 1990

Shadows round the Moon 
by Roy Heath.
Collins, 254 pp., £12.95, May 1990, 0 00 215584 2
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... they make new rather than merely making known. Roy Heath’s world is no more exotic than that of Franz Kafka, but it is no less exotic, either. After some acquaintance with Heath’s characters, the reader finds them not in the least strange, but so familiar as to be frightening, so that everything we know to be true of them – their sudden plunges ...

Isle of Dogs

Iain Sinclair, 10 May 1990

Pit Bull 
by Scott Ely.
Penguin, 218 pp., £4.99, March 1990, 0 14 012033 5
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... this thing, or set out in quest of it, we will remain as isolated as that prince among paranoids, Franz Kafka, when he brought his creature, K., to his conclusion, when he identified the futile and meaningless instant of death. ‘But the hands of one of the partners were already at K.’s throat, while the other thrust the knife into his heart and ...

Who would have thought it?

Neal Ascherson, 8 March 1990

The Uses of Adversity 
by Timothy Garton Ash.
Granta, 352 pp., £5.99, September 1989, 0 14 014018 2
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... change in Moscow? – they will be ready with their busts of Tomas Masaryk, their editions of Franz Kafka and their memorials to Jan Palach. They know from their own experience in 1968, and from the Polish experience in 1980-81, how suddenly a society that seems atomised, apathetic and broken can be transformed into an articulate, united civil ...

A Human Being

Jenny Diski: Karl Marx, 25 November 1999

Karl Marx 
by Francis Wheen.
Fourth Estate, 441 pp., £20, October 1999, 1 85702 637 3
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Adventures in Marxism 
by Marshall Berman.
Verso, 160 pp., £17, September 1999, 9781859847343
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... lover that places Marx in the company of ‘Keats, Dickens, George Eliot, Dostoevsky, James Joyce, Franz Kafka, D.H. Lawrence’. Marxist thought and the Modernist tradition converge for Berman, as both try to grasp and confront the modern experience: Marx’s ‘new-fangled men ... as much the invention of modern time as machinery itself’; Rimbaud’s ...
A Mania for Sentences 
by D.J. Enright.
Chatto, 211 pp., £12.50, July 1983, 0 7011 2662 0
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The Mirror of Criticism: Selected Reviews 1977-1982 
by Gabriel Josipovici.
Harvester, 181 pp., £16.95, June 1983, 0 7108 0499 7
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In the Age of Prose: Literary and Philosophical Essays 
by Erich Heller.
Cambridge, 268 pp., £20, January 1984, 0 521 25493 0
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... baggage searched for hours. Back and forth across the map of modern literature he goes (Joyce, Kafka, Nabokov, Grass, Robbe-Grillet, Beckett, Bellow, Malamud...), and back with equal self-assurance to the monuments of the European tradition (Dante, Chaucer, Rabelais, Cervantes...). Although the range both of his current sympathies and of his remembered ...

Will to Literature

David Trotter: Modernism plc, 13 May 1999

Institutions of Modernism: Literary Elites and Public Culture 
by Lawrence Rainey.
Yale, 227 pp., £16.95, January 1999, 0 300 07050 0
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Modernism, Technology and the Body: A Cultural Study 
by Tim Armstrong.
Cambridge, 309 pp., £14.95, March 1998, 0 521 59997 0
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Body Ascendant: Modernism and the Physical Imperative 
by Harold Segel.
Johns Hopkins, 282 pp., £30, September 1998, 0 8018 5821 6
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Solid Objects: Modernism and the Test of Production 
by Douglas Mao.
Princeton, 308 pp., £32.50, November 1998, 0 691 05926 8
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... a book crammed with German-speaking sages and sexologists should have nothing at all to say about Franz Kafka, whose interventions in his own literal and literary corpus were systematic to the point of mania. And there is also a certain fluidity about Armstrong’s terms of analysis: the fact that a point of view is developed with great conviction in one ...

In the Nightmare Kitchen

Rivka Galchen: Kafka’s Boyhood, 16 March 2017

KafkaThe Early Years 
by Reiner Stach, translated by Shelley Frisch.
Princeton, 564 pp., £27.95, November 2016, 978 0 691 15198 4
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... cheap Parker pens.’Children are mostly wrong, but also superior to us. Reading Reiner Stach’s Kafka: The Early Years, I found myself thinking often of Sendak. Maybe this is only because I read too many children’s books too many times, and such rereading makes Kabbalah from anything. Or maybe, more tendentiously, because Sendak and ...

Germans and the German Past

J.P. Stern, 21 December 1989

The Unmasterable Past: History, Holocaust and German National Identity 
by Charles Maier.
Harvard, 227 pp., £17.95, November 1988, 0 674 92975 6
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Piper, 397 pp., DM 17.80, July 1987, 3 492 10816 4Show More
In Hitler’s Shadow: West German Historians and the Attempt to Escape from the Nazi Past 
by Richard Evans.
Tauris, 196 pp., £12.95, October 1989, 1 85043 146 9
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Why did the heavens not darken? 
by Arno Mayer.
Verso, 510 pp., £19.95, October 1989, 0 86091 267 1
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A German Identity, 1770-1990 
by Harold James.
Weidenfeld, 240 pp., £16.95, March 1989, 9780297795049
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Die Republikaner: Phantombild der neuen Rechten 
by Claus Leggewie.
Rotbuch, 155 pp., May 1989, 3 88022 011 5
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Ich war dabei 
by Franz Schönhuber.
Langen Müller, 356 pp., April 1989, 3 7844 2249 7
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... the ravages of the Black Death of 1348. (‘I would like to tell you, ladies and gentlemen,’ Franz Kafka told a German-speaking audience in Prague before a recital of visiting Yiddish poets, ‘how much more of the jargon you will understand than you think.’) This kinship was the reason why the Slavs, and the Hungarians too, denounced their Jews ...

Short Cuts

Christian Lorentzen: Not a Little Kafkaesque, 20 March 2014

... and then it came to me. I jotted down the book proposal on a napkin. Provisional title: My Friend Franz: Chronicle of a Life Not a Little Kafkaesque. Chapter 1: Age 13. Read ‘The Metamorphosis’ – own body undergoing changes never anticipated. Develop a passionate interest in entomology. Crippling phobia about apples. Chapter 2: At university I read ...

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