Kafka in Love
Kafka in Love presents a prose summary of hundreds if not thousands of letters and diary entries intently pored over by author Raoul-Duval. The effect is odd and somewhat stilted, although that could be partly due to this being a translation from the French. There is a certain post-post-modern charm, perhaps, in the unusual, bare-bones style which portrays the four strange and bedeviled relationships Kafka had with women.
An example of such correspondence, and how it is presented, is illustrative. Kafka has sent his private diaries to his tempestuous journalist lover Milena and is dying to hear from her: “Franz is waiting, one would swear, for Milena to swoon and send flowers. Yet once again she says nothing. The proof? On January 20, 1922, four months later, he asks her this question: ‘Did you find something decisive against me in the Diaries?’ He perhaps wonders if Milena even took the trouble to open his notebooks. Might she have stuffed them into some corner of her vast armoire and forgotten them? Does he decide to fish for a criticism, if only to make her read his heart laid bare?”
Kafka never married anyone and seemed far happier (if such a term could ever be applied to the tormented writer) when his women lived in distant cities, so he could live out their “love” only in passionate, torturing letters and even telegrams.
As a biography, the book follows in chronological order through Kafka’s early middle years until his death in 1924 at age 41. It is filled with intimate details of the food he ate, the cafés and theatres he went to, his dreams, his insomnia, his illnesses, and above all, his tortured, guilty obsessions with truth, sex, and writing. Although presented as a biographical novel, it might be more aptly called a novelistic biography. If you’re keen on Kafka, you might find it interesting.