Everyone's life is some kind of love story. No one has nothing to tell. The unloved have their own kind of story, as do the unloving, for whatever else there may be in a life, there is always also this.
Nahum N. Glatzer--in this brief, poignant, beautiful book--tells us the love story that was Franz Kafka's life. The words are largely Kafka's own, Glatzer having assembled a kind of scrapbook from the writer's extraordinary diaries and letters, only supplementing it with information from the biography by Kafka's friend Max Brod. The result is a moving and, for me, a strangely happy story.
Kafka, his literary achievement aside, has seemed to most a tragic and to some a twisted figure. The reasons are notorious: the broken engagements, the obsession with "purity," the predations of a self-loathing so extreme that the writer questioned whether he was a member of the human race. "Late in his life," Glatzer writes, "in 1922, Kafka made the sad confession that he had never known the words 'I love you' but 'only the expectant stillness that should have been broken by my "I love you"--that is all that I have known, nothing more.' "
But those resigned, exquisitely self-conscious words were not Kafka's last. A year after he wrote them, already grievously ill with tuberculosis, he met Dora Dymant, the cook in a Jewish asylum. The two became lovers, took a small apartment, and informed Dora's father, a devout Hasid from Eastern Europe, of their wish to marry. The Hasidic rabbi forbade the marriage: Kafka was not an observant Jew. But the couple continued to live together until the young writer's death only some months later.