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This article is taken from PN Review 209, Volume 39 Number 3, January - February 2013.

Kafka and the Holy Rabbi of Belz Gabriel Josipovici
On 3 July 1916 Franz Kafka celebrated his thirty-third birthday. That, however, is a manner of speaking, for there is nothing in his diaries or his letters to suggest that Kafka was even aware of the fact that this was his birthday. Indeed, he had quite other things on his mind, for this was the day on which he and Felice Bauer had arranged to meet to spend a week together in Marienbad.

Felice and Kafka had met in the summer of 1912, at the house of their mutual friend, Max Brod, on a visit she had paid to Prague from Berlin, where she worked in the office of a company that manufactured dictating machines. That meeting had triggered an amazing reaction in Kafka, who had for most of the year been feeling a growing sense of crisis both in his writing and in his personal life. In September he wrote in one night the story he felt had finally revealed to him what he was capable of, 'The Judgement', and followed it with 'Metamorphosis' and 'The Stoker', which became the first chapter of Amerika. Though their meeting had been brief, Kafka bombarded Felice with letters and soon she became his main correspondent, the recipient of all his dreams, anxieties and desires. From all accounts she was an independent, 'modern' woman, stolid and well-meaning, and the epistolary assault seems to have bewildered and confused her. Nevertheless, Kafka was clearly a charming and passionate man and his wooing at a ...


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