In This Review

Kafka: The Years of Insight
Kafka: The Years of Insight
By Reiner Stach
Princeton University Press, 2013, 728 pp

A definitive biography of a writer as transcendent as Franz Kafka might be unattainable, but in his massive trilogy, Stach comes as close as one can. This is the third volume, devoted to Kafka’s final, tempestuous years (1916–24), opening as World War I begins and ending with Kafka’s death in a sanatorium near Vienna. In portraying Kafka, Stach winds together and then cuts deeply into his subject’s intense personal relationships, his turbulent twists of mind, the dramas of his daily life, and the darker consequences of war. Viewing the events of these years -- the emotional tensions the war produced in Prague and its crushing impact on the people caught in its wake -- through the life of a supremely vexed, historic literary figure, this book stretches history in a way that more conventional histories cannot.