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Forgiving the Angel: Four Stories for Franz…

Forgiving the Angel: Four Stories for Franz Kafka

by Jay Cantor

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The four interrelated stories in "Forgiving the Angel" all center around people who Franz Kafka loved and their fate and the fates of the people around them in Stalin's Gulag and Hitler's concentration camps. The first story is about Kafka's dying and Max Brod's famous dilemma about how to handle Kafka's dying wish that all of his unpublished work be destroyed. The second is a fragment of a story Kafka is supposed to have written. The third is the longest in the book, more of a novella of its own, about Kafka's widow's remarrying a German communist, the daughter they have, and his inability to compete with the presence of the ghost/god of Kafka in both women's lives even as he is sent to the Gulag and eventually returns. The final story takes place in the concentration camp where Kafka's translator/chaste lover Milena has been sent and describes a love affair she has amidst the horror, with once again Kafka looming right over the surface.

The stories themselves draw some of their style and mannerism from Kafka, like the accretion of small details, but unlike Kafka they are much more rooted in a very real and painful world--and also have more love and sentiment. Overall the effect is one of a circle of friends that surround Kafka for decades after his death and keep him alive in their worlds and their memories.

At times I found the book absorbing, but it was not uniformly so and parts of it felt unnecessarily obscure, at least to me. But overall would recommend it. ( )
  nosajeel | Jun 21, 2014 |
My first exposure to Kafka's writing was in a class on the uncanny in Spring 2012. One of the stories assigned to us was The Metamorphosis and, as you can imagine (or perhaps have experienced), I was understandably both confused and perturbed at the same time. As I read that story, and the others assigned in that class, I couldn't help but wonder about the author. What would it be like to live in his head, to experience the ideas and then follow through into writing them down. But, like all busy college students, I had neither the time nor the inclination to scout out more information and so that story faded away into a memory that, every now and then, emerges when I see Kafka's name. Jay Cantor took that idea further and, in Forgiving the Angel, he explores Kafka not from inside of Kafka's head, but rather through the relationships formed around him.

Read the rest of this review at The Lost Entwife on Jan 6, 2014. ( )
  TheLostEntwife | Jan 5, 2014 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385350341, Hardcover)

From one of our most admired and thought-provoking writers: a brilliant, beautifully written, sometimes heart-wrenching gathering of stories that center on a circle of real people whose lives were in some way shaped  by their encounters with Franz Kafka.

In four stories that are a deft amalgam of fact and fiction, Jay Cantor captures the reverberations of Kafka's influence on the lives of some of the friends and lovers who survived him. Here is Kafka's last lover, Dora Diamant: their love opening out with both passion and pathos as he succumbs to tuberculosis...Max Brod, his friend and literary executor, struggling with Kafka's instructions to burn all his unpublished stories upon his death, work that Brod thought some of the most precious ever written...the militant German Communist Lusk Lask, whom Dora--still enraptured by the memory of Kafka--marries, and then loses to the Soviet Gulag...a Nazi concentration camp prisoner whose survival will depend on her love for Milena Jesenska, who once survived on her own love for Kafka. Imbued with a gravitas and dark humor that recall Kafka's own work, these stories nonetheless bear the singular imaginary stamp and the keen psychological and emotional insight that have marked all of Cantor's remarkable works of fiction.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:00:00 -0400)

"From one of our most admired and thought-provoking writers: a brilliant, beautifully written, sometimes heart-wrenching gathering of fictionalized stories that center on a circle of real people whose lives were in some way shaped by their encounters with Franz Kafka"--… (more)

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