Books: Genius of the Blackest Impulses

LETTERS TO FRIENDS, FAMILY AND EDITORS by Franz Kafka; translated by Richard and Clara Winston. Schocken; 509 pages; $24.50

W.H. Auden once wrote: "Had one to name the author who comes nearest to bearing the same kind of relation to our age as Dante, Shakespeare and Goethe bore to theirs, Kafka is the first one would think of." Kafka has achieved a peculiar sort of extended immortality, alive not only in his books but also as an idea, an item of vocabulary employed by people who never read a phrase he wrote. It is...

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