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Kafka: The Decisive Years (Kafka #2)

4.57  ·  Rating details ·  154 Ratings  ·  23 Reviews
This is the second of a three-volume, definitive biography of Franz Kafka. Eighty years after his death in 1924, Kafka remains one of the most intriguing figures in the history of world literature. Now, after more than a decade of research, working with over four thousand pages of journal entries, letters, and literary fragments, Reiner Stach re-creates the atmosphere in w ...more
Hardcover, 592 pages
Published November 7th 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published September 12th 2002)
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Camille Stein
Jan 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Franz Kafka (via Wikimedia Commons)


The life of Dr. Franz Kafka, a Jewish insurance official and writer in Prague, lasted forty years and eleven months. He spent sixteen years and six and a half months in school and at university, and nearly fifteen years in professional life. Kafka retired at the age of thirty-nine. He died of laryngeal tuberculosis in a sanatorium outside Vienna two years later.
David Ramirer
Aug 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: every fan of kafka
Shelves: kafka
mit großem abstand die beste biographie, die ich jemals die ehre hatte, lesen zu dürfen.

stach faltet kafkas leben vor den staunenden augen des leser auf wie eine landkarte, auf der zum ersten die wesentlichen ereignisse aus kafkas leben eindringlich (und vor allem: nachvollziehbar und schlüssig) geschildert werden; zweitens auch die epochenbezogenen ereignisse nicht zu kurz kommen, statt dessen lebendig und zugänglich raum erhalten; und schließlich drittens auch die werke kafkas in selten prägna
Mar 10, 2013 marked it as to-read
Shelves: biophilia
I traveled a great deal these past two weeks and didn't get much of a chance to read, so despite being behind I am now increasing by burthen by taking on these two big volumes of Kafka biography- during a spell of year-end insomnia I picked this one up and got sucked in. Young Kafka hanging on the edges of Prague's Jewish theater district and literary circles, suffering the administrative workday in an asbestos factory, admiring and envying the precocious talents of others, flirting with Zionism ...more
Justin Evans
Jul 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent--as good as the 'first' (i.e., last?) volume was, this is substantially better. Stach inserts less quasi-philosophical meditations, and his writing about the books and stories is outstanding. I still suspect that he takes Kafka too much as his word, but then, so does everyone; there's a curious reluctance to admit that Kafka's diaries are just as performative as his letters, and that all the self-flagellation need not be an accurate representation of his mental state.

Particularly impo
Apr 21, 2008 rated it really liked it
After Second Reading (2015).

I read the second volume of Stach's biography a second time (about nine years after my first reading in 2005/2006 when it appeared in English) in preparation for my reading of the third volume. In 2006 I found the "The Decisive Years" perfectly splendid- but now I'm not so sure. Still the best available, so far as I know, but somewhat clumsy it seems to me now.

Part of my difficulty is that volumes two and three appeared in English before volume one. This means that in
Paul Fulcher
Jan 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014
I ought not to like this book - but the author, Reiner Stach, does a remarkably good job of disarming criticism by acknowledging the book's shortcomings up front.

I'm not generally a fan of literary biography as a way to interpret books. I'm in the Milan Kundera school where a book should stand or fall on it's own merits, not by reference to the author's life. And in Kafka's case his fame and acknowledgement as a key literary figure significantly precedes the release of his letters and diaries o
Aveugle Vogel
Aug 25, 2017 rated it liked it
"the Gogo on Gemsengasse"
Gerald Jerome
Oct 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It seems as though this book elucidated some finer points of Kafka's personality and intimate life early in the first few chapters. What followed was rather redundant, though I credit the author for keeping the publication interesting the whole way through. That being said, my impression of Kafka was not wholly in the manner of which he was presented in this book. From Kafka's creative works and his more widely circulated letters I first felt the impression of a man who was emotionally confused, ...more
A.S. Patric
Oct 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I’ve never been a fan of biographies but my favourite book last year was the David Foster Wallace bio by D.T. Max. This year, I might hold up the Kafka biography by Reiner Stach. You wouldn’t expect either biography to make for happy reading. And yet both writers lived eyes-wide-open lives and laid their souls bare—which does make for a compelling read. Reading a great bio is similar to watching a brilliant documentary. They seem rare, but one will occasionally come along that reveals the world ...more
Nov 01, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
Novelistic, deep, penetrating and insightful. The detail is exhaustive, and I'm sure there must be a small measure of poetic license taken on Stach's part. This middle volume of a trilogy covers Kafka's most productive years and the writing of his best known works, his tragic relationships with women, and his already failing health. There's also new light shed on the often difficult relationships with his family, and his minor travels, excursions to conferences and attempts to get published. Sta ...more
Dec 09, 2008 rated it it was amazing
For fans of the troubled and oft misunderstood writer this, the first volume in a three part series, will prove an essential reference. For fans of literate, incandescent, exquisitely written biographies, Kafka by Reiner Stach will be a standout in any collection.
Recommended by Ann,
Jun 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing
He leído muchas biografías de Kafka y sin duda ésta es la mejor. Porque entiende que en Kafka vida y obra están indisolublemente ligadas. Porque siguiendo esta premisa usa recursos de ficción que hacen que sea un placer leerla.
Sep 10, 2012 is currently reading it
This is one of the best 2 or 3 literary biographies I've read.
The Literary Chick
Jul 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
Very well researched, thought out, and presented. A study not only Kafka's life, but his works as well. Highly recommended.
Scott Mccloud
Feb 03, 2008 rated it really liked it
An interesting look at Kafka's early years, his writing craft, Prague, etc... Definitely thorough. Paints a compelling picture of his times & personality, as well as how he worked.
Apr 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
An amazing, must-have biography if you are at all curious about Kafka.
Mark Katzman
May 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
The fullest and most detailed portrait of Kafka yet.
Oct 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Everyone interested in Kafka should read this book!
Feb 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Die erste Biografie, die ich gelesen habe - und wahrscheinlich für lange Zeit die beste. So gut und stilistisch fein.
Mar 26, 2007 rated it really liked it
A great biography of Kafka's mid to later years. (Not that he lived that long, but you know.)
Pervin oznergiz
Jul 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
Pervin Öznergiz bir sabah yatağında huzursuz düşlerden uyandığında kendini dev bir kafka'ya dönüşmeye başlıyorken bulur...
Alex Obrigewitsch
Jan 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
An excellent biography of the slipperiest of writers. A piece, a part, a fragment, nonetheless.
On to the Years of Insight.
Buzz Borders
Mar 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Hands down the most detailed and witty biography I've read in a long, long time. The information is so captivating, and Kafka jumps off every page.
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Steve Fernie
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Sharon Bassett
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Ryan McKay
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Matthew Cheney
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Alexander Winter
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Reiner Stach is a freelance author and biographer of Franz Kafka.
More about Reiner Stach...

Other Books in the Series

Kafka (3 books)
  • Kafka:  Die frühen Jahre
  • Kafka: The Years of Insight

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