Thursday, 10 May 2012

"Diaries" by Franz Kafka

Year of Publication:  1948
Number of Pages:  519 pages
Genre:  Non-fiction, diaries, autobiography

This book collects the diaries kept by Czech writer Franz Kafka from 1910 until 1923, the year before his death at the age of 40.  The entries deal with Kafka's daily life in Prague, his complex relationship with hsi domineering father, and his feelings for the woman he loved but could not bring himself to marry.  Also there are accounts of his dreams, his struggles to write and his feelings of loneliness, guilt and alienation.

The book is a heart-rending read at times and fiercely intense.  Kafka comes out of the pages as a senstive, deeply troubled artist, however the editor, and Kafka's friend and literary executor, Max Brod points out in his afterword that Kafka revealed only one side of himself in his diaries, partly because they seemed to have been a kind of therapy for him.  What isn't revealed is the friendly, fun-loving person who enjoyed a joke and was well-liked by most of the peole who knew him.  

It is important to rememebr that the book was never intended for publication.  Although, Brod stated later in interviews that Kafka, a keen reader of published diaries, would probably have been pleased to see his journal in print.  The book at times is quite hard to read.  Kafka frequently used his diaries for wrtiting exercises  and they, along with his accounts of his dreams, blend confusingly with his discriptions of his daily life.

The book also includes several travel diaries which record Kafka's journies through Switzerland, Paris and Germany.  These travel diaries are generally more light-hearted and matter of fact than the bulk of the diaries.

This book is a must read for anyone, not just Kafka fans, and provides an invaluable look into the inner world of one of the greatest writers of world literature.

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