The unfortunate scandal concerning the dismemberment of Franz Kafka's Nachlass received much publicity some years ago and was a curious kind of belated commentary on his well-known requests to Max Brod that the posthumous works be committed to the flames—this, in addition to his less well-known codicil of sorts beseeching Brod to search for and destroy as many copies of Kafka's published works as possible. There is absolutely no doubt that his last will was to eradicate his name from human memory. Brod, who receives all the credit for managing in exile to salvage and eventually to publish Kafka's manuscripts, regrettably never deposited this material in an appropriate archive, as incredible as this fact now appears. The ugly legal battle for custody of the material, which over the years became nearly priceless, left Brod's former secretary in possession and thus in a position to sell Kafka's writings piece by piece to the highest bidders.
The strange fate of the manuscripts and letters has been all but matched [End Page 303] in the last two decades by the fantastic proliferation of a literary-critical Kafka industry, both scholarly and quasi-scholarly in nature but vast and variegated in its output by any scale of measurement. All that came from the hand of Kafka (including his doodlings) and those of his words preserved in reconstructed "conversations" have spawned a far-ranging secondary literature and, in a sense, a new primary literature, because much of what we have come to call poststructuralist or postmodernist writing claims parity with prior texts, preferring to cultivate or establish intertextual nexi with "primary" texts, while rejecting the derogatory label ("secondary") out of hand. On a theoretical level, one must be fastidiously judicious in evaluating new writing on Kafka. Why Kafka, indeed? What are the grounds for choosing or privileging his oeuvre, when drawing on a more or less anticanonical critical vantage as a point of departure? The four works (two full-length studies and two chapters in separate books) to be reviewed here represent a wide range of the spectrum of recent writing on Kafka. In many ways, the continued publication of writing in this area serves to a degree less as a comment on the state of Kafka scholarship today than as as paradigm of contemporary writing on literature in general.
Nahum Glatzer, an editor for the original Schocken Verlag, which certainly gambled by taking on the project of a first Kafka edition (after a concerted international effort on behalf of the project orchestrated by Brod had been frustrated by numerous publishers' rejections), has written a short, very readable account, titled The Loves of Franz Kafka. The book is an attempt to review chronologically the women in Kafka's life by compiling and ordering material garnered from Kafka's diaries and letters, principally, interspersed with Glatzer's own insightful commentary concerning each relationship.
In the Introduction the question is posed whether or not Kafka indeed knew what love was, and although Glatzer does not intend to answer this question methodically, the complex nature of the issue of love, inextricably intertwined as it was for Kafka with the tangible problems of marriage and literary productivity, stays in the foreground throughout. Although Glatzer considers Ottla, Kafka's youngest sister, to be his one true love, there is no attempt in the text to flesh out clearly this relationship and contrast it, say, to his relationships with Milena or Dora Dymant. Furthermore, although the inclusion of Flora Klug, Mania Tschissik, and Minze Eisner, as well as mention of unnamed women, whom Kafka encountered romantically, is important in terms of providing a full account, Glatzer does not differentiate precisely between infatuations and love relationships, nor does he attempt to connect Kafka's love escapades with other types of...