I’m sharing some of my favorite reads of 2016. See them all here.
For a couple of years now I’ve been hearing a lot about Reiner Stach’s enormous, three-volume bio of Franz Kafka (great congrats to Shelly Frisch for the major translation job), and this was the year that I finally decided to jump in. I started with volume 3, Kafka: The Years of Insight.
This is a landmark work in terms of cluing us non-German-reading, non-academic Kafka people into tons of things that have not been widely known outside of Europe about this essential author. In addition to providing enormous insight into Kafka’s methods of writing, his means of survival, his day-to-day life, his friends, and how he established the small but crucial reputation that Max Brod was able to grow in the years following his death, Kafka: The Years of Insight also makes for fascinating reading on the era in which he lived. Just for the sections on early 20th-century publishing in the German language world, to say nothing of what it was like to live in Prague during World War I, and then Germany during the hyperinflation (both of which Kafka did) this book is fantastic. If you like Kafka at all, I greatly recommend this. And probably also fantastic for people who want to know more about literature, the life of writers, modernist literature, and the Germanic lands in the early 20th century.