The Loves of Franz Kafka

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

With empathy and rare insight, the author (a distinguished Kafka scholar and editor) first examines sketchy accounts of Kafka’s early romantic experiences. During 1911 and 1912, he was attracted to Flora Klug and Mania Tschissik, actresses in the Prague Jewish theater. On August 13, 1912, Kafka met and later fell in love with Felice Bauer, of Berlin. After a long, stormy courtship--mostly by letters--Felice and Franz announced their engagement. Again a series of letters during these years details the passionate attachment between these two lovers.

From this extensive correspondence, the reader comes to learn about Kafka’s deep feelings toward his betrothed as well as his concerns about their suitability as married partners, his growing fears about his health, and--most important--his decision to place the discipline of his art above his hopes for personal happiness.

In January, 1919, in the Italian Tyrol, Kafka met Julie Wohryzek, with whom he may have enjoyed a brief physical relationship. (Details about Kafka’s sexuality, or lack of sexual response, are, at best, conjectural.) A year later, Kafka met Milena Jesenska, a Czeck writer and translator. To this woman, unhappily married at the time, Kafka expressed in poignant and beautiful letters a growing attachment that flowered into love. Toward the end of his life, weakened by the slow death of tuberculosis, Kafka enjoyed a brief loving friendship with Minze Eisner and--more significant--a relationship with Dora Dymant. Dora, a young, intelligent, and vital woman, shared her life with the writer at the time of his death in 1924.

From the evidence that Nahum N. Glatzer has assembled, the reader (perhaps to his or her suprise) must affirm that Kafka was a great lover--great in the intensity and purity of his feelings, in his tender concern for the women he loved, great in self-sacrifice and nobility of character.