Brian Leno returns with an autograph to memorialize another anniversary — “an autograph from 1932 with a quotation from a certain Rabbi Tarfon, a saintly man who lived around 100 A.D. The translation is beyond my attempts.”
On June 3rd, 1924, Franz Kafka, one of the most influential, and greatest, writers of the twentieth century died.
Dying of a medical condition that made it extremely painful to either eat or drink, he continued to edit a story he was working on at the time.
Because of this illness he was actually starving to death and in a bit of twisted irony the story he was revising was “A Hunger Artist.”
He was not quite 41.
He had given instructions to Max Brod, one of his closest friends, to destroy everything he was leaving behind.
All journals, letters, stories and unfinished novels were to be erased as if they’d never been, and while I usually believe a person’s last wishes should be respected I’m certainly glad Max Brod didn’t feel likewise.
Instead Brod embarked upon a heroic journey and published his friend’s stories and novels, and in some cases contributed to the writing.
I don’t think it’s out of line to say that without Brod there would be no Kafka.
Even though Kafka’s masterpiece, “Metamorphosis,” was published during the writer’s lifetime it probably would have been forgotten years ago if Brod hadn’t brought the rest of the Kafkian treasure trove to light.
And I know my life would have been a poorer one if I’d never read of poor Gregor Samsa and his unearthly plight.
Admiring Kafka, and Brod, as much as I do I couldn’t pass up the chance to snap up Brod’s autograph when it appeared.
Obviously Kafka runs a little higher than my wallet will allow. I recently saw a Kafka signature on an envelope to, I believe, his girlfriend Dora Diamant, which was in the $8,000 price range.
I’m not positive the envelope was addressed to Diamant, but I do know she also had some literary papers given to her by Kafka with the same request that, upon his death, they were to be destroyed.
Like Brod she didn’t listen either, but unfortunately for the world of literature the Nazis confiscated the papers. No one knows what became of them.
So have a glass of something and remember Kafka today. Go outside, and find some poor bug crawling on the sidewalk — but don’t step on it. Have a little respect for the Gregor Samsas of the world.