In these final years, from 1916 to 1924, Kafka receives letters from quizzical bank managers asking him to explain his stories (“Sir, You have made me unhappy. I bought your ‘Metamorphosis’ as a present for my cousin, but she doesn’t know what to make of the story”). He spends hours nagging away at his prose, only to rip it up, throw it away and start again. He apparently denies being the author of certain stories when asked by other invalids at a retreat. He has four love affairs, mostly through letters, and spends much of his time away from his cramped office at the Workers’ Accident Insurance Institute. These are years of insight, but also of depression and illness.
Uit: Franz Kafka: Nervous brilliance, een recensie in The Economist van Reiner Stach, Franz Kafka: The Years of Insight, Translated by Shelley Fisch, juni 2013, 728 pagina’s. Oorspronkelijke titel: Die Jahre der Erkenntnis (S. Fischer Verlag, 2008). Het eerste deel van Stachs driedelige Kafka-biografie is nog niet voltooid.
Afbeelding: Franz Kafka by Anonyme, Budapest 1917, via Tom Lanoye. Mijn foto van een handgeschreven postkaart van de schrijver aan Janien Benaets, door hem gedateerd A’pen, 26 september ’94.