I have had the pleasure of speaking with Louis Begley
three or four timespleasures 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 alienationhere 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.