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A Catholic Novel

David Lodge, 4 June 1981

... appearance in the text) Joseph Conrad, Graham Greene, Ernest Hemingway, Henry James, James Joyce, Franz Kafka, D.H. Lawrence, Frederick Rolfe (Baron Corvo), C.P. Snow and Virginia Woolf. There are also allusions to other texts, such as William Golding’s Free Fall, and to literary schools and sub-genres: the Chester-Belloc style of essay writing is ...

I really mean like

Michael Wood: Auden’s Likes and Dislikes, 2 June 2011

The Complete Works of W.H. Auden: Prose Vol. IV, 1956-62 
edited by Edward Mendelson.
Princeton, 982 pp., £44.95, January 2011, 978 0 691 14755 0
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... guilty community and fictions of innocence, and from there to the austere lessons of the work of Franz Kafka. Then comes a section on Shakespeare, including major essays on The Merchant of Venice and Othello. The move to the animal worlds of Lawrence and Moore is prompted by the inhuman (or all too human) curiosity of Iago about the evil he can do for ...


J.P. Stern, 3 November 1983

The Sacred Threshold: A Life of Rainer Maria Rilke 
by J.F. Hendry.
Carcanet, 184 pp., £9.95, July 1983, 0 85635 369 8
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Rilke: sein Leben, seine Welt, sein Werk 
by Wolfgang Leppmann.
Scherz Verlag, 483 pp., £11, May 1981, 3 502 18407 0
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Rainer Maria Rilke: Leben und Werk im Bild 
edited by Ingeborg Schnack.
Insel Verlag, 270 pp., £2.55, May 1977, 3 458 01735 6
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... those contacts failed him and he experienced the desolation of his self-chosen exile. He never met Franz Kafka, his contemporary and fellow-countryman, who is often seen as the patron saint of modern alienation. But even Kafka can hardly have felt more solitary than Rilke, the stateless ‘German’, the contents of his ...

Snap among the Witherlings

Michael Hofmann: Wallace Stevens, 22 September 2016

The Whole Harmonium: The Life of Wallace Stevens 
by Paul Mariani.
Simon and Schuster, 512 pp., £23, May 2016, 978 1 4516 2437 3
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... detail and ordinary humanity we are now able to see Stevens’s colleague in the insurance racket Franz Kafka, through the efforts of his biographers Rainer Stach and Klaus Wagenbach. But Mariani seems to have no appetite or aptitude for telling a life story. For all that Stevens tidied everything away in its own little compartment ...
... who have been clergymen. T.S. Eliot was a publisher, and as everyone knows Wallace Stevens and Franz Kafka worked for large insurance organisations. To my knowledge, only two writers of importance have been managers of a paint factory: you in Turin, Italy and Sherwood Anderson in Elyria, Ohio. Anderson had to flee the paint factory (and his family) to ...

Kundera and Kitsch

John Bayley, 7 June 1984

The Unbearable Lightness of Being 
by Milan Kundera, translated by Henry Heim.
Faber, 314 pp., £9.50, May 1984, 9780571132096
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... impress us (if, that is, it is one of the very good ones) with the sort of truths that Nietzsche, Kafka and Dostoevsky tell us, or with the truths that Tolstoy and Trollope tell us. To the first kind we respond with amazement and delight, awe even. ‘Of course that’s it! Of course that’s it!’ The second kind of truths are more sober, more laboriously ...

Conspiratorial Hapsburger

Michael Hofmann, 5 March 1987

Hotel Savoy 
by Joseph Roth, translated by John Hoare.
Chatto, 183 pp., £9.95, November 1986, 0 7011 2879 8
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... ran his second, Hotel Savoy. It was published in book form by the Schmiede-Verlag, publishers of Kafka and Proust, and he counted it his first novel. He took to the life of a wandering reporter, visiting France and Russia, Poland, Albania and Germany for his papers, and writing them up in long series of articles. He drank, and cultivated a casual grand ...

The Art-House Crowd

Daniel Soar: Svetislav Basara’s fictions, 5 May 2005

Chinese Letter 
by Svetislav Basara, translated by Ana Lucic.
Dalkey Archive, 132 pp., £7.99, January 2005, 9781564783745
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... of Ernest M.’ (whose peculiar complex leads inevitably to his involvement with the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and possibly in his assassination) and Conan Doyle’s ‘Sherlock Holmes’s Final Case’ (which depends on the discovery that a criminal has been following a route determined by superimposing the outline of a penny farthing bicycle on a map of ...

Perfect and Serene Oddity

Michael Hofmann: The Strangeness of Robert Walser, 16 November 2006

Speaking to the Rose: Writings, 1912-32 
by Robert Walser, translated and edited by Christopher Middleton.
Nebraska, 128 pp., £9.99, November 2005, 0 8032 9833 1
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... pomme”).’* Other comparisons include the composer Satie, the painter Rousseau, the inevitable Kafka, and a further trinity of mad writers, Hölderlin, Nerval and Christopher Smart. The more genial and indeed congenial William Gass describes Walser more modestly: ‘He was a kind of columnist before the time of columns.’ And a further, more modest name ...

Forever Unwilling

Bernard Wasserstein, 13 April 2000

A People Apart: The Jews in Europe 1789-1939 
by David Vital.
Oxford, 944 pp., £30, June 1999, 0 19 821980 6
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... in internal collective consciousness between the age of Moses Mendelssohn and that of Freud, Kafka, Rosenzweig and Buber? How would he interpret the haskalah (Hebrew enlightenment), the rise of Reform and Liberal Judaisms, the Neolog (quasi-reformist) Jews in Hungary, neo-orthodoxy, the Musar movement, and the hundred and one other prisms through which ...


Edward Timms, 19 April 1990

Thomas Mann and his Family 
by Marcel Reich-Ranicki, translated by Ralph Manheim.
Collins, 230 pp., £20, August 1989, 9780002158374
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... critical debate. East German writers like Arnold Zweig and Anna Seghers, Stephan Hermlin and Franz Fühmann began to be treated seriously, and the literature of the German Democratic Republic was increasingly recognised as a challenging alternative to the traditions of the West. An even more sensitive frontier is explored in Reich-Ranicki’s study of ...
... a scientific aptitude, his imagination quite apart: Max Brod recounts that he was staggered at Franz Kafka’s detailed report on a football match they had seen together; Kafka had suggested that they should try and see who could remember more, minute details included. No wonder mass communication is a grave problem ...

Sisyphus at the Selectric

James Wolcott: Undoing Philip Roth, 20 May 2021

Philip Roth: The Biography 
by Blake Bailey.
Cape, 898 pp., £30, April, 978 0 224 09817 5
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Philip Roth: A Counterlife 
by Ira Nadel.
Oxford, 546 pp., £22.99, May, 978 0 19 984610 8
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Here We Are: My Friendship with Philip Roth 
by Benjamin Taylor.
Penguin, 192 pp., £18, May 2020, 978 0 525 50524 2
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... over every sentence, season after season, year after year, novel after novel, a photograph of Franz Kafka hanging on the wall like a religious icon and haunting admonition. So sacrosanct was Roth’s Fortress of Solitude that he once returned a pair of kittens because their frolics were too distracting – he needed every ounce of sniper focus to ...

The Sound of Cracking

Pankaj Mishra: ‘The Age of the Crisis of Man’, 27 August 2015

The Age of the Crisis of Man: Thought and Fiction in America, 1933-73 
by Mark Greif.
Princeton, 434 pp., £19.95, January 2015, 978 0 691 14639 3
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Moral Agents: Eight 20th-Century American Writers 
by Edward Mendelson.
New York Review, 216 pp., £12.99, May 2015, 978 1 59017 776 1
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... the crisis of man discourse resonated in America in such diverse forms as the postwar cults of Kafka, existentialism and human rights, and in the writings of Dwight Macdonald and Susan Sontag. Thomist theologians were as much a part of it as New York’s Jewish intellectuals. ‘Man,’ Greif writes, ‘became at mid-century the figure everyone insisted ...

Holocaust Art

Robert Taubman, 10 January 1983

Schindler’s Ark 
by Thomas Keneally.
Hodder, 432 pp., £7.95, October 1982, 0 340 27838 2
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... the strength and discipline of organised Communism in the camp, yet making the connection with Kafka, Ubu and the ‘absurd’. This came out in 1945 and did much to establish a mystique of the concentration camp in the Paris of the Existentialists. Jean-François Steiner’s Treblinka is far more impressive, by virtue of its convincing detail: but it also ...

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