Author(s): Louis Begley
A new biography of Western literature's most iconic writer, from the acclaimed novelist and author of "About Schmidt,"
Kafkaesque: the very word evokes tortuous bureaucracy, crushing self-doubt, and an almost unbearable inadequacy in the face of higher powers. After Kafka, it can be said, literature was not the same. In the few novels and short stories he left behind, he distilled the horrors of the new age. Kafka's is the voice of the outsider--that is, the voice of each one of us--at once defined by its affiliations and completely, utterly alone.
The product of both a transitional age (the beginning of the 20th century) and a territory in flux (Czechoslovakia), Kafka spoke and wrote German in Czech territory. He was a Jew among Christians, a non-observant Jew among believers. Louis Begley, himself a multilingual exile and, like Kafka, a lawyer and writer, renders Kafka's life with sensitivity and insight. Begley's discussion of Kafka's masterpiece "The Trial," along with shorter works such as "The Metamorphosis," opens a window on a tormented soul, one of the most intriguing figures of the modern period.