Letters to Milena, by Franz Kafka

Letters to Milena, by Franz Kafka

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Kafka first made the acquaintance of Milena Jesenska in 1920 when she was translating his early short prose into Czech, and their relationship quickly developed into a deep attachment. Such was his feeling for her that Kafka showed her his diaries and, in doing so, laid bare his heart and his conscience.

Milena, for her part, was passionate and intrepid, cool and intelligent in her decisions but reckless when her emotions were involved. Kafka once described her as living her life ‘so intensely down to such depths’. If she did suffer through him, it was part of her great appetite for life.

However while at times Milena's ‘genius for living’ gave Kafka new life, it ultimately exhausted him, and their relationship was to last little over two years. In 1924 Kafka died in a sanatorium near Vienna, and Milena died in 1944 at the hands of the Nazis, leaving these letters as a moving record of their relationship.

 “An extraordinary document—touching, horrifying, brilliant, sickly, heartbreaking, and infinitely convoluted . . . It reveals him most clearly (which is relative, and Kafka remains mystifying enough), and it is - aside from the beauty of the letters themselves - the most significant key we have for a reading of the author's novels and short stories.” - The New York Times