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Brod's

Max Brod

Max Brod (May 27, 1884December 20, 1968) was an Austrian-Jewish author, composer, and journalist, known for his close friendship with Franz Kafka.

Biography

Max Brod was born in Prague, then part of the province of Bohemia in Austria-Hungary, now the capital of the Czech Republic. Although he was a prolific writer in his own right, he is most famous as a friend, biographer, and literary executor of Franz Kafka.

A German-speaking Jew, he went to the Piarist school together with his life-long friend Felix Weltsch, later visited Stephans Gymnasium, then studied law at the German Charles-Ferdinand University (which at the time was divided into a German language university and a Czech language university; he attended the German one) and graduated in 1907 to work in the civil service. From 1912 he was a pronounced Zionist (which he attributed to the influence of Martin Buber) and when Czechoslovakia became independent in 1918, he briefly served as vice-president of the Jüdischer Nationalrat. From 1924, already an established writer, he worked as a critic for the Prager Tagblatt.

In 1939, as the Nazis took over Prague, Brod and his wife Elsa Taussig fled to Palestine. He settled in Tel Aviv, where he continued to write and worked as a dramaturg for Habimah, later the Israeli national theatre, for 30 years. He died on December 20, 1968.

Friendship with Kafka

Brod first met Kafka October 23, 1902, when both were students at Charles University. Brod had given a lecture at the German students' hall on Arthur Schopenhauer. Kafka, one year older, addressed him after the lecture and accompanied him home. "He tended to participate in all the meetings, but up to then we had hardly considered each other," wrote Brod. The quiet Kafka "would have been... hard to notice... even his elegant, usually dark-blue, suits were inconspicuous and reserved like him. At that time, however, something seems to have attracted him to me, he was more open than usual, filling the endless walk home by disagreeing strongly with my all too rough formulations." (Max Brod: Über Franz Kafka, 45)

From then on, Brod and Kafka met frequently, often even daily, and remained close friends until Kafka's death. Kafka was a frequent guest in Brod's parents' house; there he met his future girlfriend and fiancée Felice Bauer, cousin of Brod's brother-in-law Max Friedmann. After graduating, Brod worked for a time for the post office. The relatively short working hours gave him time to begin a career as an art critic and freelance writer. For similar reasons, Kafka took a job at an insurance agency involved in workmen's accident insurance. Brod, Kafka and Brod's close friend Felix Weltsch constituted the so-called "close Prague circle", "Der enge Prager Kreis".

During Kafka's lifetime, Brod tried repeatedly to reassure Kafka in the latter's doubts about his own literary efforts and pushed him to publish his work. It is probably owing to Brod that Kafka began to keep a diary. He tried, but failed, to arrange common literary projects. Notwithstanding their inability to write in tandem—which stemmed from clashing literary and personal philosophies—they were able to publish one chapter from an attempted travelogue in May 1912, for which Kafka wrote the introduction. It was published in the journal Herderblätter. Brod prodded his friend to complete the project several years later, but the effort was in vain. Even after Brod's 1913 marriage with Elsa Taussig, he and Kafka remained each other's closest friends and confidantes, assisting each other in problems and life crises.

Literary career

Unlike Kafka, Brod rapidly became a prolific, successful published writer. His first novel and fourth book overall, Schloß Nornepygge (Nornepygge Castle), published in 1908 when he was only 24, was celebrated in Berlin literary circles as a masterpiece of expressionism. This and other works made Brod a well-known personality in German-language literature. In 1913, together with Weltsch, he published the work Anschauung und Begriff which made him more famous in Berlin and also in Leipzig, where their publisher Kurt Wolff worked.

He unselfishly promoted other writers and musicians; among his protégés was Franz Werfel, whom he would later fall out with as Werfel abandoned Judaism for Christianity; he would also write at various times both for and against Karl Kraus, a convert from Judaism to Roman Catholicism. His critical endorsement would be crucial to the popularity of Jaroslav Hašek's The Good Soldier Svejk, and he played a crucial role in the diffusion of Leoš Janáček's operas.

Publication of Kafka's work

On Kafka's death in 1924 Brod was the administrator of the estate and preserved his unpublished works from incineration despite what was stipulated in the will. He defended this course by saying that when Kafka asked him to burn his papers, he told him he would not carry out this wish; "Franz should have appointed another executor if he had been absolutely and finally determined that his instructions should stand." ) Before even a line of Kafka's work had been published, Brod had already praised him as "the greatest poet of our time", ranking with Goethe or Tolstoy. When Brod fled Prague in 1939, he took with him a suitcase of Kafka's papers, some of which he later edited and published in 6 volumes of collected works.

In 1937 Brod wrote the first biography of his friend: Franz Kafka, eine Biographie. He always resisted one-sided interpretation of Kafka, and hated the term "Kafkaesque", arguing that it presented a picture of the man and his work contradicted by his own intimate knowledge.

Music

Brod's musical compositions are little known. They include songs, works for piano and incidental music for his plays. He translated some of Bedřich Smetana's and Leoš Janáček's operas into German, wrote a biography of him in 1924. Authored a study of Gustav Mahler, Beispiel einer Deutsch-Jüdischen Symbiose, in 1961.

Published works

  • Schloß Nornepygge (Nornepygge Castle, 1908)
  • Weiberwirtschaft (Woman's Work, 1913)
  • Über die Schönheit häßlicher Bilder (On the Beauty of Ugly Pictures, 1913)
  • Die Höhe des Gefühls (The Height of Feeling, 1913)
  • "Anschauung und Begriff", 1913 (together with Felix Weltsch)-->
  • Tycho Brahes Weg zu Gott (Tycho Brahe's Way to God 1916)
  • Heidentum, Christentum und Judentum (Paganism, Christianity, and Judaism, 1922)
  • Reubeni, Fürst der Juden (Reubeni, Prince of the Jews, 1925)
  • Zauberreich der Liebe (The Charmed Realm of Love, 1930)
  • Biografie von Heinrich Heine (Biography of Heinrich Heine, 1934)
  • Die Frau, die nicht enttäuscht (The Woman Who Does Not Disappoint, 1934)
  • Novellen aus Böhmen (Novellas from Böhmen, 1936)
  • Rassentheorie und Judentum (Race Theory and Judaism, 1936)
  • Franz Kafka, eine Biographie (Franz Kafka, a Biography, 1937, later collected in Über Franz Kafka, 1974)
  • Franz Kafkas Glauben und Lehre (Franz Kafka's Thought and Teaching, 1948)
  • Verzweiflung und Erlösung im Werke Franz Kafkas (Despair and Release in the Works of Franz Kafka, 1959)
  • Beispiel einer Deutsch-Jüdischen Symbiose (An Example of German-Jewish Symbiosis, 1961)
  • Beinahe ein Vorzugsschüler (Almost a Gifted Pupil)
  • Die Frau, nach der man sich sehnt (The Woman For Whom One Longs)
  • Annerl
  • Rebellische Herzen (Rebel Hearts)
  • Die verkaufte Braut (The Bartered Bride, Libretto of a comical opera by Bedřich Smetana)

Further reading

  • Kayser, Werner, Max Brod, Hans Christians, Hamburg, 1972 (in German)
  • Pazi, Margarita (Ed.): Max Brod 1884-1984. Untersuchungen zu Max Brods literarischen und philosophischen Schriften. Peter Lang, Frankfurt am Main, 1987 (in German)
  • Lerperger, Renate, Max Brod. Talent nach vielen Seiten (exhibit catalog), Vienna, 1987 (in German)
  • Wessling, Berndt W. Max Brod: Ein Portrait. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart, Berlin, Cologne and Mainz, 1969. New edition: Max Brod: Ein Portrait zum 100. Geburtstag, Bleicher, Gerlingen, 1984 (in German)

References

  • Brod, Max, Über Franz Kafka, Fischer, Frankfurt am Main, 1974

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