Franz Kafka: The Poet of Shame and Guilt
by Saul Friedlander
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 Friedländer 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. Friedländer 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.
“The Pulitzer-winning Holocaust historian Saul Friedländer reassesses [Kafka’s] letters and diaries, emphasizing ‘the personal anguish’ that informed Kafka’s singular canon." --The New Republic
“The Pulitzer-winning Holocaust historian Saul Friedländer reassesses [Kafka’s] letters and diaries, emphasizing ‘the personal anguish’ that informed Kafka’s singular canon. 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, The New Republic
“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
Status of Franz Kafka's Papers Today
See New York Times article