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The Lost Pages by Marija Pericic

The Lost Pages

by Marija Pericic

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I went into The Lost Pages knowing little about Franz Kafka and even less about Max Brod. All I knew was that this was an award winning novel and shortlisted for another (the Readings Prize for New Australian Fiction). Then I opened it and was it had footnotes – swoon! Somehow my mind linked this to S. by J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst. The Lost Pages doesn’t have handwritten notes over the pages, but it has that sense of mystery and of a narrator on the edge.

The premise of the book is that a number of Max Brod’s papers have been found and scholars are piecing together his relationship with the much more famous Franz Kafka. This is his story of meeting Kafka for the first time and his increasing insecurity over Kafka’s writings. As the story opens, Brod is The Star of Prague’s literary world. He has one groupie (Uta) who follows him everywhere, but his sights are set on a more beautiful and mysterious woman. In 1908, his star is rising and women don’t seem to care that he’s not a perfect physical specimen. Enter Kafka. He’s someone who dares to doubt Brod, questioning his theory and what’s worse, one-upping him in talent. Brod is determined that Kafka shall never meet his publisher, nor should his works see the light of day. Kafka is about to steal everything Max desires – the fame, talent and woman. Max’s attempts to hide Kafka away from the word become increasingly harebrained until something snaps…

You may get more out of this story if you are knowledgeable about Kafka and Brod, but if you’re like me and know next to nothing about the pair, you will enjoy this story of desperate jealousy. Peričić weaves a deep, emotional tale that you can’t help but get tangled up in. The story has traits that everyone can relate to – that feeling of not being good enough to keep up with the next person, self-criticism and despair. Despite the strong feelings, it’s not a gloomy story. Rather it’s a tale of descent into madness, dramatic yet fragile. The emotion that comes from the pages is incredibly strong, as is the writing. I must admit to approaching this story initially with a bit of dread, not knowing how I would relate to this story. But don’t fear – Peričić’s writing is engaging and warm. Her creation of Max Brod’s mind is honest and bald – how could you not fall in love with someone so fragile and broken?

Kafka remains a shadowy enigma when told from Max’s point of view. To Max, Kafka is The Man. He has it all – wit, talent, beauty, the ability to entrance any woman and his own set of groupies. Kafka can do no wrong to the rest of the world. I loved this portrayal, it fit with what I thought I knew about him. The contrast between the two men is just perfect. As is the ending, which is wonderfully chaotic until it falls into place and I had an ‘aha!’ moment. So do give The Lost Pages a go – it’s a fantastic story, cleverly researched and masterfully told.

Thank you to Readings and Allen & Unwin for the copy of this book. My review is honest.

http://samstillreading.wordpress.com ( )
  birdsam0610 | Oct 8, 2017 |
While I do enjoy the sense of belonging that comes with reading novels that feature Australian life, I like the direction the Vogel Prize seems to have taken over the last year or so. Last year we had The Memory Artist by Katherine Brabon (see my review) and this year ventures into the wider world too with the award going to Marija Peričić’s novel The Lost Pages. Set in 1908 in what is now the Czech Republic, it’s a brave reimagining of the relationship between Franz Kafka and his literary editor Max Brod, and it develops an unstoppable momentum as the pages fly by towards an ending that I definitely did not foresee.

Readers do not need to know anything at all about Kafka or his works. To the contrary, I would beseech them not to find out more about Brod and Kafka before reading the book. That’s because this novel is primarily a novel about a very strange relationship, exploring both the nature of literary celebrity as it was in the early 20th century in Europe, and also the psychological trauma of an intense but one-side rivalry between two notable authors. Read it on its own terms without going on a fact-hunt.

Jealousy and obsession are the twin themes of The Lost Pages as Brod the successful writer becomes aware of the exciting young author Kafka. The novel is framed as a memoir which purports to be from the (real-life) hoard of papers that Brod, after Kafka’s death, refused to consign to the flames as instructed. This conceit of the fictional memoir is buttressed by the structure: the novel is bookended by a foreword purporting to be from a scholar excited about the long-desired release of the papers, and an editor’s afterword. Scattered throughout the text there are duplicitous footnotes about the often deplorable condition of these papers.

To read the rest of my review please visit https://anzlitlovers.com/2017/05/25/the-lost-pages-by-marija-pericic-vogel-winner-2017/ ( )
  anzlitlovers | May 24, 2017 |
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Book description
A stunning novel of friendship, fraud and betrayal within a compelling literary rivalry.

'To frame The Lost Pages as being about Brod is clever and interesting. The Kafka we meet here is almost the opposite of the one we have come to expect.' Stephen Romei, Literary Editor, The Australian

It is 1908, and Max Brod is the rising star of Prague's literary world. Everything he desires-fame, respect, love - is finally within his reach. But when a rival appears on the scene, Max discovers how quickly he can lose everything he has worked so hard to attain. He knows that the newcomer, Franz Kafka, has the power to eclipse him for good, and he must decide to what lengths he will go to hold onto his success. But there is more to Franz than meets the eye, and Max, too, has secrets that are darker than even he knows, secrets that may in the end destroy both of them.

The Lost Pages is a richly reimagined story of Max Brod's life filtered through his relationship with Franz Kafka. In this inspired novel of friendship, fraud, madness and betrayal, Marija Pericic writes vividly and compellingly of an extraordinary literary rivalry.

'... cleverly structured and an intriguing concept.' Jenny Barry, BooksPlus

'From the very beginning, the strain between Kafka and Brod is hugely entertaining. Brod is anti-social and prefers his own company, just like the best of Kafka's characters.' Rohan Wilson, award winning author of The Roving Party and To Name Those Lost
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