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The Decisive Years
Reiner Stach
Translated by Shelley Frisch

One of The Guardian Best Books of 2013, chosen by Colm Tóibín

Paperback | 2013 | $27.95 | £22.95 | ISBN: 9780691147413
552 pp. | 6 x 9 1/4 | 37 halftones.
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Introduction[PDF] pdf-icon

Kafka: The Early Years
Kafka: The Years of Insight

Kafka: The Three Volume Biography

This is the acclaimed central volume of the definitive biography of Franz Kafka. Reiner Stach spent more than a decade working with over four thousand pages of journals, letters, and literary fragments, many never before available, to re-create the atmosphere in which Kafka lived and worked from 1910 to 1915, the most important and best-documented years of his life. This period, which would prove crucial to Kafka's writing and set the course for the rest of his life, saw him working with astonishing intensity on his most seminal writings--The Trial, The Metamorphosis, The Man Who Disappeared (Amerika), and The Judgment. These are also the years of Kafka's fascination with Zionism; of his tumultuous engagement to Felice Bauer; and of the outbreak of World War I.

Kafka: The Decisive Years is at once an extraordinary portrait of the writer and a startlingly original contribution to the art of literary biography.


"Most impressive is Stach's recounting of the creation of his subject's writings. . . . Stach's own writing is wonderfully expressive."--Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"A scrupulous, discriminating, and highly instructive account of Kafka's life."--Robert Alter, New Republic

"[S]uperbly tempered. . . . [T]hrough this robustly determined unearthing he rescues Kafka from the unearthliness of his repute. . . . Shelley Frisch, Stach's heroic American translator, movingly reproduces his intended breadth and pace and tone. . . . In this honest and honorable biography there is no trace of the Kafkaesque; but in it you may find a crystal granule of the Kafka who was."--Cynthia Ozick, New Republic

"Stach aims to tell us all that can be known about [Kafka], avoiding the fancies and extrapolations of earlier biographers. The result is an enthralling synthesis, one that reads beautifully…. I can't say enough about the liveliness and richness of Stach's book…. Every page of this book feels excited, dynamic, utterly alive."--Michael Dirda, Washington Post Book World

"Stach's is a splendid effort and will be hard to surpass."--William H. Gass, Harper's Magazine

"A masterpiece of inspired biographical writing."--Choice

"Probing. . . . Essential reading."--Booklist (starred review)

"Magnificent."--Die Zeit

"Stach develops the various elements that play a role in Kafka's life brilliantly."--Der Spiegel

"The first great biography of Franz Kafka ... exciting and instructive from the first to the last page."--Tagesanzeiger

"This extraordinary biography fills the empty spaces between Kafka's own writings and the writings of friends, family, and contemporaries with so much empathy and imagination that one can't put it down."--Frankfurter Rundschau

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File created: 7/11/2017

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