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Forgiving the Angel: Four Stories for Franz Kafka Hardcover – Deckle Edge, January 14, 2014

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Cantor has been delving into the paradoxes of radicalism ever since he debuted with The Death of Che Guevara (1983), a nervy meshing of biography and fiction. He deepened his investigation in the American epic Great Neck (2003) and in the graphic novel Aaron and Ahmed (2011). Cantor’s newest fusion of biographical fact and intuited emotion is a commanding tribute to Franz Kafka, one of the twentieth century’s most revolutionary voices. In four by-turns bayoneting and tender stories, Cantor imagines the profound impact Kafka had on those closest to him, including Max Brod, his trusted friend who famously refused to burn Kafka’s papers, as the dying writer requested. Percussive moral dilemmas shape each tale, most extensively in “Lusk and Marianne,” in which Kafka hovers like a dark angel over the cruelly hijacked lives of his last lover, the exiled Dora Diamant; her husband, German Communist zealot Lusk Lask, who is swept into the Soviet gulag; and their frail daughter, Marianne. Cantor also brings us to Ravensbrück, the concentration camp, where another of Kafka’s beloved, the invincible translator and journalist Milena Jasenská, uplifts her sister sufferers. These fluently empathic, mordantly ironic, and unflinching stories of love, dissent, torture, and sacrifice carry forward Kafka’s eviscerating vision and affirm Cantor’s standing as a virtuoso writer of conscience. --Donna Seaman

Review

 
“Forgiving the Angel links disparate time, places and characters in an ingeniously unified and admirably purposeful fiction. [In its] formal circularity, ethical ambiguity and scrupulous undecidability, Cantor’s fiction is a worthy homage to Kafka.   It is also an original work that pulls our mind through the kind of biographical and historical contraption that Kafka would probably never have put together, would probably not, as a Jew in Czechoslovakia, have survived to put together.”—Tom LeClair, The New York Times Book Review
 
“[All Cantor’s work] broods over how the twentieth century perverted its noblest aspirations. Marx promised brotherhood, Nietzsche and Freud a greater humanity—so what happened?  In this first book of stories the question flares up again, at times impossible to ignore.”—John Domini, Book Forum

“Cantor has been delving into the paradoxes of radicalism ever since he debuted with The Death of Che Guevara (1983), a nervy meshing of biography and fiction. He deepened his investigation in the American epic Great Neck (2003) and in the graphic novel Aaron and Ahmed (2011). Cantor’s newest fusion of biographical fact and intuited emotion is a commanding tribute to Franz Kafka, one of the twentieth century’s most revolutionary voices. In four by-turns bayoneting and tender stories, Cantor imagines the profound impact Kafka had on those closest to him, including Max Brod, his trusted friend who famously refused to burn Kafka’s papers, as the dying writer requested. Percussive moral dilemmas shape each tale, most extensively in “Lusk and Marianne,” in which Kafka hovers like a dark angel over the cruelly hijacked lives of his last lover, the exiled Dora Diamont; her husband, German Communist zealot Lusk Lask, who is swept into the Soviet Gulag; and their frail daughter, Marianne. Cantor also brings us to Ravensbrück, the concentration camp, where another of Kafka’s beloved, the invincible translator and journalist Milena Jasenká, uplifts her sister sufferers. These fluently empathic, mordantly ironic, and unflinching stories of love, torture, and sacrifice carry forward Kafka’s eviscerating vision and affirm Cantor’s standing as a virtuoso writer of conscience.”—Donna Seaman, Booklist starred review
 
“Four evocative, ambitious, and highly varied tales aim to bring Kafka back to us by showing that he never left. Instead, he haunts everyone and everything he touches. . . Cantor creates gripping stories around innumerable epistolary and biographical artifacts. . . .Superb.”—Rebecca Schuman, Slate
 
“One needs something akin to courage to read Kafka—as well as Cantor’s homage. Both are dense, dangerous and difficult. Both resist interpretation, raising questions without any answers. But if we can’t ever admit we’re lost—something we rarely do, in the way we read or live—how can we even begin to find our way toward what’s true?”—Mike Fischer, Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel
 
“Shot through with black comedy, unsparing honesty and robust intellect—in short, a fitting Kafka tribute.”—Kirkus
 
“This fictional tribute to the life and work of Franz Kafka follows in the vein of Cantor’s previous works of fiction … all of which use familiar figures and true events as a springboard for offbeat and psychologically incisive storytelling. The four stories here center on real figures in Kafka’s life....The writer himself is a distant but powerful force in the stories, a Kafkaesque presence haunting his own legacy.”—The New Yorker
 
“A fascinating blend of fact and fiction in which Cantor . . . explores how Kafka continues to haunt people, ghostlike, after his death. . . . Kafka’s lingering presence has a hugely positive impact on the book itself, which Cantor has written in a voice that, like Kafka’s, melds apparent objectivity and even dispassionately scientific observation with dark humor and deeply felt sentiments.”—Doug Childers, Richmond Times/Dispatch

 
 
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 209 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf (January 14, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385350341
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385350341
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 8.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #971,973 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By KATE WHITE on January 17, 2014
Format: Hardcover
If you are a lover of Kafka, the twentieth century and the lost dreams of a better world, you will be moved and thrilled by Jay Cantor's most recent book. I read it in a day and a half and was transported by the beauty of its language, the depth of it characters and the power of its ideas.
The book is set in some of the darkest times Europe (and the world) has faced, yet the author's humor and empathy illuminate the characters' complexities and give their stories a magical
combination of heft and lightness.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By pamela cantor on March 6, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The stories are brilliant and beautiful, covering a sad history yet full of life, They are magically woven and perfectly balanced based on real people whose stories have been ficitonalized and made personal. The book is fiilled with profound observations on human nature and love. It is powerful, moving and very memorable. I am about to read it again!
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This brilliant, imaginative book profoundly meditates on Kafka and his influence. Anyone who has read Kafka or had her life somehow affected by the Czech master will appreciate this work. For those unfamiliar with Kafka's prose and major themes, the book might be a bit elusive as Cantor manages to weave in subtle, sly references to Kafka's writings throughout the text. Kafka's relationships with his literary executor and friend, Max Brod, and his relationships (or near relationships) with women are integral to three of the four sections. He also writes in a style--tone and language--that reflects Kafka's as well as many of Kafka's literary heirs (including Kundera...and Cantor himself?). Understand though, this is no gimmicky meta exercise or intellectual handstand. By looking at Kafka's influence on the various characters in three of the four sections (one is a presumed Kafka tale "lost" and found) Cantor is, by extension, looking at Kafka's influence on the millions of readers who have been deeply effected by his prose. There is no way to just read Kafka--you end up living and dialoguing with his novels, stories, parables and letters. Like the characters in the book, you find yourself struggling with his contradictions and obsessions, Part of the power of this work is drawn from this as the reader feels deeply connected with what transpires; a few of the stories are emotionally shattering (not in a cheap, sentimental way, though). There is no point in discussing plot because part of the book's beauty is in the sense of discovery. There are points of knowing recognition for Kafka readers and small revelations that will be stay with readers long after digesting the stories.Read more ›
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