18 March (1910): Franz Kafka to Max Brod

Franz Kafka and Max Brod met at Prague’s Charles University in 1902, where they were both students of the law. When Kafka shared his first short story with his classmate, Brod proclaimed his  life’s mission to be the sharing of Kafka’s work with the public. He encouraged Kafka to give up a career at the family’s insurance agency for a life of writing in Berlin. After Kafka’s death in 1924 from tuberculosis, it came to be known that he did not want his works to live posthumously. Brod ignored the request and prepared a collection of Kafka’s stories and novels (most of them unfinished), justifying the “betrayal” by referencing a private conversation shared between them.

March 18, 1910

Dear Max,

I cannot quite make out from your card whether you have received mine. Nor could I pull myself together sufficiently to write to Baum all this while. Didn’t I write recently that all I could still do was Müller exercises. Well, I can’t even do them anymore. Recently I had rheumatic pains in my shoulders, then they slid down to the small of my back, then into my legs, but instead of going on into the ground as you might expect, they went up into the arms. It’s perfectly in accord with all this that the raise in salary I expected today hasn’t come, won’t come next month either, but only after I’m so tired of waiting for it that I don’t give a damn. What pleases me most about the novella, dear Max, is that I have it out of the house. Tomorrow I’ll come over to see you around seven o’clock (it’s six o’clock now and I’m still in the office), also because of Bohemia. You’ll show me poems; it will be a lovely evening.

So long.

Yours, Franz

From Franz Kafka: Letters to Friends, Family, & Editors. Translated by Richard and Clara Winston. New York: Schocken Books, 1977.


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Judith Butler asks “who owns Kafka?”

Brod’s playwright  index cards