The Poet of Shame and Guilt
Yale University Press, Hardcover, 9780300136616, 183pp.
Publication Date: April 16, 2013
Franz Kafka was the poet of his own disorder. Throughout his life he struggled with a pervasive sense of shame and guilt that left traces in his daily existence--in his many letters, in his extensive diaries, and especially in his fiction. This stimulating book investigates some of the sources of Kafka's personal anguish and its complex reflections in his imaginary world.
In his query, Saul Friedlander probes major aspects of Kafka's life (family, Judaism, love and sex, writing, illness, and despair) that until now have been skewed by posthumous censorship. Contrary to Kafka's dying request that all his papers be burned, Max Brod, Kafka's closest friend and literary executor, edited and published the author's novels and other works soon after his death in 1924. Friedlander shows that, when reinserted in Kafka's letters and diaries, deleted segments lift the mask of "sainthood" frequently attached to the writer and thus restore previously hidden aspects of his individuality.
“This is a book that springs directly from the author's background and from a manifest love for—and great knowledge of—Kafka's work and his milieu. The book's main objective is to mine the question of Kafka's guilt and shame, and Friedlander is more probing, historical and impartial in examining these questions than just about any other scholar I know.”—Mark Anderson, author of Reading Kafka and Kafka’s Clothes
"Friedländer’s concise new book, born of both sorrow and affection, is an ideal place to begin among the hulking alps of Kafka studies." —William Giraldi, New Republic
"This book is a clear, uncensorious and serious contribution to the publisher’s Jewish Lives series. It is the work of a great historian paying careful attention to a great and disquieting writer."—Robert Eaglestone, Times Higher Education Supplement
"Like Kafka’s work, Franz Kafka is dense and provocative. In his exploration of Kafka’s work, Friedländer calls on his rich knowledge of Central Europe during Kafka’s lifetime. . . A candid and stimulating examination of the forces that shaped Kafka’s anguished life/work."—Maron L. Waxman, Jewish Book Council
-Maron L. Waxman