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Reading

The Tremendous World I Have Inside My Head

Book Digest I have had the pleasure of speaking with Louis Begley three or four times—pleasures additional to having read nearly all his novels. Thus it is with great anticipation that I greet the publication of his biographical essay (a form I very much favor) on Franz Kafka. Zadie Smith enthuses in her illuminating take on Begley’s Kafka in The New York Review of Books:
Gently skeptical of the biographical legend, Begley yet believes in the “metaphysical smile” of the work, the possibility that it expresses our modern alienation—here prophet Kafka and quotidian Kafka are not in conflict. He deals first, and most successfully, with the quotidian. The Kafka who, like other diarists, indulged a relentless dramaturgy of the self; the compulsive letter-writer who once asked a correspondent, “Don’t you get pleasure out of exaggerating painful things as much as possible?”
I take it as an additional indicator of value that Begley’s precision and thoughtfulness has inspired another valuable essay on Franz Kafka.
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