Conversations with Kafka

Conversations with Kafka

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by Gustav Janouch

As Francine Prose notes in her preface, Janouch was only seventeen years old when he met Franz Kafka. They "fell into the habit of taking long strolls through the city, strolls on which Kafka seems to have said many amazing, incisive, literary, and personal things to...the teenage Boswell of Prague." For instance: "Life is infinitely great and profound as the immensity of the stars above us. One can only look at it through the narrow keyhole of one's personal experience. But through it one perceives more than one can see. So above all one must keep the keyhole clean."

They discuss writing, of course Kafka's own works, but also his favorite writers, such as Edgar Allan Poe and Arthur Rimbaud, who "transforms vowels into colors." Other topics, as summarized by Prose, include "technology, film, photography, crime, money, Darwinism, Chinese philosophy, street fights, insomnia, Hindu scripture, suicide, art and prayer."