Cover

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Title Page

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Copyright Page

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Table of Contents

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p. v

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Introduction: Kafka’s Jewish Voice

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pp. 1-12

... the authoritative figure soon tells us, not only were essential to a structure that suggests both Jewish and German culture but also evoke an openness to the outside within: “no building ever came into being as easily as this temple—or rather, this temple came into being the way a temple should.” At first the “clumsy scribblings of senseless children’s hands” (unbeholfene Gekritzel ...

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Chapter 1. Cold War Kafka and Beyond: The Return of Jewish Languages

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pp. 13-62

As the cold war came to a close, Kafka began to appear as a figure close to his own historical situation in Prague and central to the emerging critical scene. In a speech at the Hebrew University at Jerusalem in 1990, Czech president Vaclav Havel declared that in Prague’s “Kafka, I have found a large portion of my own experience in the world,” speaking as the leader of a newly independent republic ...

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Chapter 2. The Breakthrough to Jewish Languages: “The Judgment”

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pp. 63-92

Hailed as Kafka’s “breakthrough” text, “The Judgment,” composed on the now-famous night of September 22, 1912, was new only as an act of transnational consolidation, sparked by his encounter with the life of Jewish languages. 1 Kafka’s conviction that he had risen above the “shameful lowlands of writing” (sch

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Chapter 3. Hebrews in New York: Amerika, or The Man Who Disappeared

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pp. 93-130

Though the novel that came to be known as Amerika has long been seen as ending with references to the New Testament, New York is the location that sparked Kafka’s reimagination of the Hebrew voice.1 “The Judgment” had already taught Kafka how to write a German shot through with foreign sources and liberated his writing, with the model of Yiddish inspiring him to ...

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Chapter 4. Kabbalah and Comedy: The Trial and the Heretic Tradition

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pp. 131-169

According to Max Brod, the “kernel that gleams, or rather beams” through the “dark husk” of Kafka’s fiction was inseparable from its comedy and a model of tradition that, Brod argued, was best exemplified in Kafka’s novel about the Law.1 Though perhaps not aware of Brod’s use of the allusion in reference to his own writing, Kafka was privy to the Talmudic source his friend would later use ...

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Chapter 5. Open Boundaries: The Castle and the Origins of Modern Hebrew

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pp. 170-204

Kafka’s messianic concern with modern Hebrew in The Castle was first noticed by Evelyn Torton Beck in Kafka and the Yiddish Theater (1971). The would-be occupation of K. as “land surveyor,” or “Landvermesser” in German, she observes, also points us to the Hebrew term for “surveyor,” lacking only a single letter to become the Hebrew word mashiakh, or “messiah,” a form of Hebrew ...

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Afterword: The Puzzle of National Traditions, or the Art of Nut-Cracking

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pp. 205-210

The beach as the “threshold of happiness” defines “Gesang” and looks forward to “Josephine the Singer” (1924) by figuring singing as a portal, not as the essence of “happiness” (Gl

Notes

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pp. 211-260

Index

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pp. 261-266

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Acknowledgments

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p. 267

Gratitude does not describe the debt I owe for the colloquy about Kafka that made this book possible—beginning with my mother, who told me she could not speak Yiddish and certainly not Hebrew. Her lively conversations in Yiddish on park benches in Tel Aviv, after a lifetime of claiming not to speak the language, first exposed me to the relation between the hidden and the open ...