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Kafka [Hardcover]

Nicholas Murray
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

10 Sep 2004
This gripping biography of the great Czech novelist, diarist and short story writer chronicles Kafka's entire (if tragically curtailed) life (1883-1924), but it focuses upon the writer's relationship to his father and his inheritance as a member of the Jewish mercantile bourgeoisie in Prague. Born into a German-speaking Jewish family, Kafka was a subject of the Austro-Hungarian empire until 1919 yet through his work he is one of the most modern of writers. While previous works have concentrated on Kafka and his women, Nicholas Murray will concentrate on his extraordinary relationship with his father which found its most eloquent literary expression in the story 'The Judgement' written in 1912 when Kafka was twenty-nine:in a reverse Oedipal move, the father condemns his son to death by drowning. This work is essential for an understanding of the intensely private and complex Kafka and the kind of writer he turned out to be - the creator in THE CASTLE, THE TRIAL and METAMORPHOSIS (the dazzling short story whose hero wakes up to find himself transformed into a giant insect) of some of the defining literature of the 20th century.
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 440 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (10 Sep 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300106319
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300106312
  • Product Dimensions: 23.7 x 16.6 x 3.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,759,307 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


[An] admirable and conscientious biography. (LITERARY REVIEW)

Nicholas Murray's KAFKA restores the great writer to the human world, not just of relationships, but of actual societies, thus delivering his masterpieces from appropriation by theological and philosophical exegetes. (TLS)

Nicholas Murray does what all decent biographers should do: leaves the reader hungry to fo back to the haunting and permanently elusive work that makes the unhappy life so extraordinary. (SUNDAY TIMES)

Kafka's writing didn't meet his inner demands for perfection...But when Murray quotes from him, you want to rush off and read more instantly. This makes KAFKA the best kind of literary biography. (INDEPENDENT) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Book Description

* First general biography in UK for twenty years of one of the defining writers of the 20th century - Franz Kafka. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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First Sentence
At the gates of the New Jewish Cemetery in the Prague suburb of Strasnice, a lean and ancient custodian emerges to greet the visitor. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A complex life 25 Jun 2013
Much has been written in an attempt to demystify Kafka's symbolic fictions, to submit them to the interrogations of many different disciplines, to use them as a way of understanding our modern anxieties; but what about the writer's life? How to make sense of that for the general reader who might be wary of the subject, given the acknowledged difficulty of 'The Trial', 'The Castle', 'Metamorphosis', 'The Judgement' etc.? One answer is to write a subtle, intelligent, highly readable biography that reveals Kafka the man as much as the writer, indivisible as these two aspects of his being were, and this Murray does with a sure grasp of his subject, with great humanity and skill. He gives us the scholar, the flirt, the insurance expert who held down a desk job for nearly all his working life, the reluctant factory manager, the agonised lover (this to a great extent), the deeply troubled son in conflict with his dominating, dismissive father, the hypochondriac, the artist, the Jew interested in Hebrew literature; he shows how all these melded into the unique, the neurotic, the profound, often tortured, nature of the man. Yet those closest to Kafka found him to be joyous, compassionate, a life-giver; despite his difficulties with family and women, he inspired great love and loyalty.

Murray is good at showing how all the important avenues to his happiness and well-being were blocked: his desire to write in the deep freedom of solitude and silence; to live with a woman who would not stifle his life as a writer (his great fear); to be free from the tedium of the workplace in order to write; to be free of stultifying parents; to be in good health in a body that was never strong, sapped for years by TB...
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Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Franz Kafka is one of my very favourite Authors and so I wanted to read this to get an insight into what I thought would be a very interesting and complex personality. But although Kafka's books are so fascinating and brilliant, unfortunately, if this book is anything to go by, the same cannot be said of him as a person. Nicholas Murray really doesn't seem to have him doing anything much and his relationship with his long-term partner Felice never seems to go anywhere. There is chapter after long chapter where nothing at all interesting is happening between them and nothing is changing in Kafka's life. I was so bored of this long book that i gave up around halfway through.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars SECOND TO NONE 20 May 2011
This is one of the best of the very many titles around on the life of Kafka.
To be recommended
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A responsible general biography 13 Nov 2007
By R. M. Peterson - Published on Amazon.com
This biography of Franz Kafka can be recommended for the general reader in every way except one: it is not the best biography in English of Kafka or the one to read if you wish (as most people) to read only one. I preferred Ernest Pawel's "The Nightmare of Reason: A Life of Franz Kafka," which has more color and passion and comes closer to bringing Kafka to life as a three-dimensional figure. (It may be out of print, but it can easily be found on the secondary market.)

Murray's biography is well-written, readable, and responsible, although a little dry and pedestrian. In addition to surveying Kafka's life satisfactorily -- via a somewhat artificial four-part structure (Prague, Felice, Milena, and Dora, the last three being the three women with whom Kafka had the longest and most meaningful relationships) -- Murray also discusses and properly places Kafka's literary works in the context of his life without ever engaging in academic literary exegesis. Thus, this is very much a biography for the general reader, and if the Pawel biography cannot be obtained, one need not hesitate about turning to Murray's.
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