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Kairys, D. (1951). The Diaries of Franz Kafka, 1914–1923: Edited by Max Brod. New York: Schocken Books, Inc., 1949. 343 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 20:126-129.

(1951). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 20:126-129

The Diaries of Franz Kafka, 1914–1923: Edited by Max Brod. New York: Schocken Books, Inc., 1949. 343 pp.

Review by:
David Kairys

Franz Kafka is an intrigue to the psychoanalyst. His writings have a disturbingly morbid, dreamlike, symbolic quality, and the analyst who reads them comes away with the feeling that they could have been written only by a 'sick' man. The Diaries confirm this feeling: they are not an account of events, but a record of anguish.

It is hard to catalogue the contents of this second volume of the Diaries. There are purely biographical items which are more often oblique references than clear descriptions of events. Many of the entries are snatches of ideas for stories, some of which were eventually used in finished works, but many of them are stray ideas the author seems to have jotted down as they came, without further development. Others sound like fantasies, but it is typical of Kafka that the reader often cannot tell whether a given entry is a fantasy recorded as such, an idea intended as the beginning of a story, or perhaps a fantasy in the process of becoming a story.

There are, finally, the many items which record Kafka's emotional agony. He tormented himself endlessly with misgivings about his worth as a man, his literary abilities, his future. He constantly reproached himself for the shortcomings he saw in himself. Periodically he became blocked and unable to write, and berated himself for this. He suffered from headaches and insomnia and had frankly hypochondriacal worries. His ruminations had a strongly masochistic flavoring which set the tone of much of the Diaries.

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