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Conversations with Kafka (Second Edition) (New Directions Paperbook) Paperback – January 26, 2012

ISBN-13: 978-0811219501 ISBN-10: 081121950X Edition: Second Edition

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Product Details

  • Series: New Directions Paperbook (Book 1217)
  • Paperback: 228 pages
  • Publisher: New Directions; Second Edition edition (January 26, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 081121950X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0811219501
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 0.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #910,695 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“Stunning.” (Leonard Michaels - The New York Times Book Review)

“This remarkable book, itself the result of a miraculous discovery of material believed lost, is one of the most exciting works – fiction, nonfiction, poetry – I remember having read.” (Joyce Carol Oates - Partisan Review)

“Kafka is for me one of the last, and therefore perhaps one of the greatest, because closest to us, of mankind’s religious and ethical teachers.” (Gustav Janouch)

Language Notes

Text: English, German (translation) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By David Stork on January 1, 2000
Format: Paperback
Amusing, affecting, and sometimes downright profound, the utterances of Kafka--as documented by his friend, Gustav Janouch--stand without parallel in 20th century literature. Even when read in a translation from the original German, one cannot help but be moved by the wisdom, insight, humor and poetry of Kafka's words. This book stands on par with Kafka's published novels and parables, and I give it my highest recommendation.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By David J. Loftus on March 15, 2000
Format: Paperback
I'm surprised to see this book is in print. I stumbled on a copy of the 1971, revised second clothbound edition in a community college library and have never seen it anywhere else.
Kafka is a hard man to know, let alone to like, through his fiction. One feels respect, admiration, awe ... but perhaps not affection or warmth. This book, compiled by a youthful acquaintance from his memories of chats with Kafka, provides a wonderfully human, if dubiously accurate (how could he remember all these lengthy quotations?), image of the man.
At times he seems pragmatically direct, even patronising to his listener: "There is too much noise in your poems; it is a by-product of youth, which indicates an excess of vitality. So that the noise is itself beautiful, though it has nothing in common with art. On the contrary! The noise mars the expression...." Sometimes he can be sardonic, as when he refers to newspapers as the vice of civilization -- they offer the events of the world with no meaning, a "heap of earth and sand" -- and remarks, "It's like smoking; one has to pay the printer the price of poisoning oneself." (Good thing he didn't live to see TV!)
More often, Kafka comes across as some sort of Zen master: "Just be quiet and patient. Let evil and unpleasantness pass quietly over you. Do not try to avoid them. On the contrary, observe them carefully. Let active understanding take the place of reflex irritation, and you will grow out of your trouble. Men can achieve greatness only by surmounting their own littleness."
Janouch relates a story from his father that Kafka once paid a powerful lawyer-friend to help out an injured laborer with his application for a disability pension, get his rightful compensation, and beat Kafka's employer, the Accident Insurance Institution.
Give this book five stars for interest and readability, three stars for shaky accuracy, and average at four.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 19, 2001
Format: Paperback
Have you ever met a man who is so very shy and humble, that unlike Christ, who would take disciples, he stood alone by himself, remained unknown to all of us, till after he died, his friends started deparately publishing/telling his stories? Yet he still remained in the mystery. Not because he is lack of charm and wisdom, but because almost 80 years passed and a time that such a great soul lived has vanished so completely, we know no one that ever came close, and we no longer can recognize him. If you read the morden text-book literature ciritic, you would be so completely lost in the noise of the scholars, that you never know the truth.
I also read the first edition a couple years ago, (knowing that it was out of print for years, I photocopied the book page to page) it was also to my great surprise to see the book in print now, without knowing that the new edition has added many more flesh to the great man it described. I also found every page of it fascintaing to read, I like to have it in my reach, and randomly open one page and read. I also doubted how a 17year old can record the long comment by Kafka that he could hardly understand - so I close my eyes and try to imagine a young man in love with poetry and music, with a memory and heart that is still untainted - and I believe he can write this book.
If you love Kafka's book, I can challenge you with 99% assurance that you don't understand what he is telling you. If you follow the morden text-book critic like a dog, then you are absolutely wrong. If you still have space for truth in your mind, I challenge you to read Kafka more carefully, closer to your heart and, if you still don't understand him well, read his letters, diaries, and try this book as well. To me, this book helps greatly! It is eye opening! It is a must for any one who likes Kafka's work.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Shalom Freedman HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on March 2, 2005
Format: Paperback
What is most striking and surprising to me about this book of conversations is the tone and voice in which Kafka is said to speak. There is not the qualified, parenthetical and always somehow self - protective, enigmatic and ironic Kafkean voice but instead simple and direct proclamations, statements , generalizations made clearly and without hesitation. Now it may well be that Kafka the older man spoke to his much younger student- admirer Janouch in this way. Rare I suspect were the occasions when Kafka the perpetual son who never married, had no children of his own could take on the role of a kind of senior wiseman. Janouch is cordial and ready to listen to the great man. And in truth I greatly enjoyed many of the pronouncements which had something of Kafka in them, but did not strike somehow because of the tone as authentically Kafkian( not in this case Kafkaesque).

For instance in talking about Poe and his escape into dream , Kafka defends him but warns, " Imagination only served him as a crutch.He wrote tales of mystery to make himself at home in the world. That's perfectly natural. Imagination has fewer pitfalls than Reality."

Or in another instance when Janouch and him meet Kafka's father and the father treats him like a schoolboy and sends him off to home. Kafka defends his father to Janouch with the words, " Love often takes the form of violence."

Or in another instance when they are talking of youth and aging, Kafka says one- dimensionally and definitely. " Youth is happy because it has the ability to see Beauty"

This work is full of such gems , bits of Kafka's talk which we the readers who for one reason or another consider ourselves ' admirers ' of take pleasure in adding to the bits of knowledge we have about him.
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