Conversations with Kafka by Gustav Janouch
(New Directions Paperbook)

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A literary gem – a portrait from life of Franz Kafka – now with an ardent preface by Francine Prose, avowed “fan of Janouch’s odd and beautiful book.”

Gustav Janouch met Franz Kafka, the celebrated author of The Metamorphosis, as a seventeen-year-old fledgling poet. As Francine Prose notes in her wonderful preface, “they fell into the habit of taking long strolls through the city, strolls on which Kafka seems to have said many amazing, incisive, literary, and per- things to his companion and interlocutor, the teenage Boswell of Prague. Crossing a windswept square, apropos of something or other, Kafka tells Janouch, ‘Life is infinitely great and profound as the immensity of the stars above us. One can only look at it through the narrow keyhole of one’s personal experience. But through it one perceives more than one can see. So above all one must keep the keyhole clean.’”

They talk about writing (Kafka’s own, but also that of his favorite writers: Poe, Kleist, and Rimbaud, who “transforms vowels into colors”) as well as technology, film, crime, Darwinism, Chinese philosophy, carpentry, insomnia, street fights, Hindu scripture, art, suicide, and prayer. “Prayer,” Kafka notes, brings “its infinite radiance to bed in the frail little cradle of one’s own existence.”

About Gustav Janouch

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Gustav Janouch (1903–1968) was a young poet whose father worked at the same insurance company as Kafka. A certain amount of controversy has been aroused by his Conversations with Kafka: some have been skeptical that any human being can talk the way Kafka does in this book, but both Max Brod and Dora Diamant considered it authentic. Born in Brooklyn, Francine Prose has published fourteen novels. The Washington Post has called her work a “sheer delight.”
Published January 26, 2012 by New Directions. 228 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Literature & Fiction, Education & Reference, History, Travel. Non-fiction

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These conversations between Janouch, then a youth, and Franz Kafka, then sad and sick, took place in Prague in the early '20's in Kafka's bare office at the Workmen's Accident Insurance Institution and sometimes in the streets and squares of the city itself where they walked endlessly.

Nov 10 1971 | Read Full Review of Conversations with Kafka (New...

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These conversations with the famous Czech writer who died in 1924 were noted down by this young admirer in Prague in 1921 when they took place.

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