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Kafka’s Insight

Kafka: The Years Of Insight, Reiner Stach, Princeton University Press, 2013

The immense third and final part of Stach’s trilogy is almost too unbearable, too destabilizing, too unnerving, finally, perhaps, too fierce. The uncanny spheres found in Kafka’s writing are not, like Melville’s invisible ones, merely ‘formed in fright’, which is bad enough, but are gathered out of an insinuating dread whose force-field reaches out from the writing into the solitary act of reading itself. As I read about him nearly more than I can bear is at stake. The loneliness, horror, disgust and shame of writing are never more pronounced than in the awful presence of Kafka, even a Kafka mediated by biography. Writing is its own metaphor for that loneliness, horror, disgust, and shame. Kafka is a miracle of dissembling arts, the most dangerous of hunger artists whose writings are unavoidable shameful acts, a writer whose writing is exactly the explanation needed for why he writes, and who, by being shamed, disgusted, horrified and lonely, is justified without remainder.

Kafka played his game of lonely hide and seek with this dread as a kind of chiding, and the conditions for modern literature have been set by his intensity, his crazy frankness, his terrible acts of concentration. To read about it is to marvel at how he managed to almost disappear in front of his own eyes in order to appear elsewhere, for a little while, as a writer resisting annihilation through zealous contortion. Kafka becomes an equal partner with the disaster of being a writer for as long as he could. He was popular, smart, good looking enough to attract women, a joker and a writer with enough fame to feed the ego whilst not so much that would distract from the business. He was capable of acts of kindness but his erotic escapades were pretty dismal. Kafka was a creepy womanizer – at thirty he was stalking with the help of Max Brod some sixteen year old he saw one time at Goethe’s house and he built himself an impervious persona who was cruel, calculating and decisively self-serving when dealing with his never-ending erotic interests. He was also very successful at work, and was therefore a consummate bureaucrat of the Weberian ‘iron-cage’ variety. His fiction’s verisimilitude is provided by his insider’s knowledge and mastery of the hierarchy of authority, of impersonality, of efficiency and achievement driven operationalism, of the specialized division of labour and the written rules regulating all conduct that delivers the implacable power of his fantasies and continues to drive the managerialism of our contemporary workplaces.

His strange obsessions with health and food and his body strike Stach as a species of asceticism. ‘There is little doubt that anxiety about his porous identity and his fear of dissolution, liquifaction and, ultimately, death gradually compelled Kafka to develop an ascetic survival strategy… fear of sex… does not account for the single-mindedness with which he clung to asceticism for the rest of his life or the highly imaginative manner in which he subjugated one area of his after another – eventually even literature – to an ascetic form.’ Stach discusses the ascetic in terms of a purity. ‘Choosing a ‘pure’ life could mean any number of things. It was even possible for someone to be dirty and clean at once; Kafka later considered this combination “characteristic of people who think intensely.” But Stach’s book is good enough to allow for a gulf between his interpretation and a reader’s. Kafka writes letters and diaries that make clear that he has only one subject and that is himself as literature. ‘I have no literary interests; I am made of literature. I am nothing else and cannot be anything else.’ Decisive in this identity, Kafka frees himself from ties that bind those with merely an ‘artistic bent.’ In this Kafka is not an ascetic but rather a Nietzschean hedonist hell bent on following the ‘long logic’ of a life of genius where rules of the non-genius are irrelevant and dedication to his art his only consolation and purpose.

We know more than Kafka did about what happened next and because of that the life, just as the work, becomes treacherous and dangerous to interpret. In his strange, precise writings he rendered life as a catastrophe. This precision takes on an aura of prophecy because of these later events, and as we read it is tempting to fold world history into his singularity. But how much is gained by that is moot.

Nevertheless, Stach writes with a sense of dread attached to his vast undertaking. His test is whether he can write to this subject. ‘Kafka teaches us modesty. Anyone who tackles him has to anticipate failing.’ He fears ‘… the gulf between the explanations offered by the author and the interspersed Kafka citations.’ Stach claims that just as the biographer of a philosopher must be able to think then likewise, the biographer of a writer must be able to write. Stach has a kind of reverence for his subject.

Stach’s weird chapters have weird titles. One he calls ‘Ants of Prague’ and it begins with ‘a frosted region … a poor empty centre.’ The perky Kafka seems at times rather like this too – frosted with an empty centre. But that is because at his centre is the writing and the literary imagination of excessive pityless litigation that is a mysterious hole. At the threshold of the twentieth century European powers edged towards war. Kafka was fit enough for war but the Worker’s Accident Insurance Institute in Prague protected him. He was ‘excused indefinitely.’ War displays were trenches, zigzagging systems of dugouts, telephones, wire obstacles next to cafes and fancy women and recreation. Prague loved it and drank Pisener beer, ate sausages, wandered the parks, listened to the Imperial Infantry Regiment No 51 Band, watched a film and sent postcards to friends. The coming horror was literally unimaginable for these people. At this time Kafka wanted to get away from the place. He wanted the urbanity of Paris and Berlin. War bonds as a wager on victory interested Kafka. He instructed his mother to invest two thousand kronen and then went to look at the displayed trenches and wrote in an attempt to capture an image; ‘Sight of the people swarming like ants in front and inside the trench.’ A childhood friend had died. His condolences to the family were ‘nearly too late, as always.’ What intrigues is the gulf between what he knew and what he writes. What did Kafka know? He knew what he wrote, and whether that is the same as what we know when we read him now is probably indeterminate. The Nazis brought vivid horror to his personal history, annihilating surviving family members and lovers, exiling others, and this inevitably mutates our understanding . That his writing can contain the enormity of such horrors is why Kafka remains quintessentially contemporary. Our modernity, especially our world of work, seems more than ever like his imagination’s fruition. The disappointment in this biography is how little his worklife is discussed.

Stach quotes Karel Capek: ‘Strange what a feeling of solitude there is in failure’ but it’s not clear whether Kafka thought of himself as a failure. The word ‘impossible’ is Kafka’s signature adjective according to Stach. This was picked up by Cynthis Ozick’s ‘The Impossibility of Being Kafka’ in 1999. ‘One must not prostrate oneself before the minor impossibilities’ says Kafka, ‘… or else the major impossibilities would never come into view.’ But this then changes the way we have to understand Kafka. It isn’t possible to even attempt to do something you know is impossible, let alone fail. Kafka’s relation to his writings is peculiar. There’s no reason to think Kafka knew how it worked. He for sure knew he was a writer, and he could make no concessions to that. But how to understand what it might mean, why should he be expected to know anything over and above the compulsion to write and its content? Max Brod didn’t understand it. Stach tries to hone it and thinks Kafka sought the impossibility of perfection. He cites Kafka: ‘Although striving for perfection is only a small part of my big Gordian knot, in this instance every part is the whole and so what you are saying is correct. But this impossibility actually does exist, this impossibility of eating etc; it is just not as blatantly obvious as the impossibility of marriage.’

By the time Felice Bauer detected Kafka had changed so had she. She lost hope of ever marrying him. Enigmatic misunderstandings defined the relationship. She sensed his rhetoric was a means of maintaining silence and avoiding her. July 12th 1914 was a catastrophe for Kafka. On that day he dissolved their engagement in front of witnesses in the Askanischer Hof. Stach senses he hated Felice on that day. He says she was Grete Bloch in ‘The Trial.’ He hid the manuscript from Felice. ‘Basically the same primitive accusations are always being levelled against me. The highest representative of this form of accusation, which comes right from my father, is of course my father.’ In choosing writing over life, which may be a little too trite a way of seeing it but is nevertheless sort of what we see in Stach’s account, what is strange is how good at life Kafka was. He had many friends, a deep relationship with his sister and his rather adolescent diatribes against his family were largely occasions allowing him to write. And he was good at his job. Even the hundred page letter to his father was never sent. All that mattered was to write, not to crush his dad.

Three weeks after breaking with Felice war broke out. He called them disasters that ‘dug into the same wound.’ He called them ‘… catastrophes of loneliness.’ Kafka remembered Felice’s wounded accusation: ‘a terrible saying… Now you’ve got what you wanted ’ and it would become another site for his writing. Hopes of escape from Prague were dashed. His favourite sister Ottla had a boyfriend and this inconvenient relationship robbed him of their intimate conversations. He was jealous and further isolated. ‘At these times I feel as though I am standing not in front of my house but in front of myself while I am sleeping…’ And again we need to be aware that perhaps all that’s happening in these diary entries and his letters are examples of the writer perfecting his images. Who can know what he actually felt, or even care?

In ‘The Burrow’ the creature defends his deep intricate burrow by standing guard outside of it. ‘It got to the point that at times I was seized by the childish desire never to go back to the burrow at all but to settle in here near the entrance and spend my life watching the entrance and find my happiness in realizing all the time how the burrow would keep me secure if I were inside it.’ Oddly Stach doesn’t drive home the link between this story, the autobiographical crux and the earlier identification of ‘impossibility.’ There’s the hint of the impossible act of sitting outside one’s own life, observing it. But to do so would require another self sitting outside the life of the observer, observing the observer, and then another observer to observe the observer observing … and so on in an infinite regress. From ‘The Burrow’ to ‘The Castle’ and ‘The Trial’ isn’t so far. The same paradoxical nightmares arise and their repecussions either grip you or they don’t.

To Grete, a witness and judge at the catastrophe at the Askanischer Hof he wrote; ‘ Even if everyone were to hate you, I don’t hate you… in reality I was sitting in your place and have not left it to this day.’ Stach sees this letter as a series of defensive gestures. He thinks it is aggressive. He says the central message was ‘Stay away from me.’ But Kafka is just writing and the more you read the life you see that everything he wrote was about getting the writing precise, not the life right. The reality is a pretty funny and banal soap-opera episode: he’d been caught out chatting up two women and then found himself sitting with them both having to explain himself. All that is extraordinary is that he uses it as a platform for producing startling images and narratives of such weirdness that they breech hermeneutic form and settle as opaque allegory.

Hours before he had written that he had contemplated suicide. Stach sees the letter as a new way of dealing with his situation with Felice, ‘living in the trenches.’ Stach notes that his rhetoric no longer fazed Felice. ‘If I were another person observing myself and the course of my life I would have to say that everything must end in futility, consumed by never ending doubt, creative only in self-torment. But as someone involved, I go on hoping.’ Stach writes ‘ He left the burrow, hid nearby, kept watch on the entrance, embraced the entire entrenchment including the naked creature hiding inside, and enjoyed the view from an untouchable distance.’ Kafka reports on himself in the third person: ‘he is frightened. He says he stayed there too long…’ The chapter ends with a trip to Karlsbad and an error.

Karl Kraus writes: ‘ Any sacrifice should be made for art – except from the sacrifice of art itself.’ ‘The Trial’, if completed, would bring him success and he had guaranteed support from well established literary circles. Stach insists he worried about failure but I think Stach identifies failure with non-completion and this is a mistake. Symptoms of exhaustion in 1915 continued. Kafka fell into a kind of silence and he no longer read his diary aloud to friends. For those with an idea that Kafka was Kafkaesque, this fact alone ought to disabuse them of that thought. Who reads their diaries aloud to friends? This is a confident guy, this is one for whom life is merely the ground for what he thinks is serious. Only a few works were published at the start of 1915, ‘Meditation’ and ‘The Stoker’ and scattered stories. Nothing sold well and Stach talks about the paltry interest from promised publishers alongside his lack of work completed. In mid October 1915 he was informed that ‘The Metamorphosis’ had been published in ‘Die Weissen Blatter’ without his seeing the galleys. The publisher Meyer used aggressive advertising campaigns to sell his authors. This was advanced thinking. Authors were asked to contribute to the promotion of their own books. Meyer pushed for the Fontane Prize money to go to Kafka even though the prize was to go to the millionaire writer Sternheim. Kafka insisted that no drawing of the insect was put on the cover: ‘Not that, please not that!… the insect itself cannot be drawn. It cannot even be shown from a distance.’ Kafka turned down the offer at first but then accepted it and wrote a strange letter of thanks to Sternheim who never replied. Stach has a brilliant phrase when he writes that all attempts to encourage Kafka went astray ‘ in some strange way’. I like the furtive mystery Stach hangs on it.

The war was misunderstood at the start and its contours of disaster only slowly learned and psychologically mapped. The war moved towards mechanization. The battle of Gorlice-Tarnow was a turning point. Stach thinks Kafka meanwhile ‘integrated the war into his hypochondriac game.’ He wrote to Felice, ‘ it would be my good fortune… to become a soldier… You ought to wish for me to be accepted, the way I want it to work out.’ He spoke of resigning from his job. He had ludicrous plans. He thought Rilke wrote regrettable poetry of ‘lofty, ultimate form’. But the new circumstances were beyond him in life. ‘The disturbing part is not the fact of the war, but rather that it is being used and exploited in a commercialized world that is nothing but profane’ he wrote. ‘Throughout this war, rash lies spread by the newspapers came up with one new fact after another; you get the impression that since there has been this press coverage carried to an extreme, a war cannot stop once it has started. Those disgraceful papers are always one step ahead of the actual events.’ Zweig and Hofmannsthal remained delusional about the war. Rilke was luckily sent to the war archives not the front. Kafka never got to wore uniform but was released for a long vacation by his bosses Pfohl and Marschner. He didn’t think this good fortune.

Stach insists he understood the truth about the war. On top of everything else there was the ‘hellish official channel to the war for Workers’ Accident Insurance Institute staff members.’ On top of the reports and the physically mutilated were the Kriegszitterer whose ‘facial tics, stuttering, muteness, deafness, blindness, and especially “hysterical tremors” accompanied by violent shivering and uncontrolled trembling that could go on for months and years undiminished …’ Stach is of course right. Kafka understood the war in his writing ‘The Penal Colony’ in 1914 and now it had crawled out of his imagination into the streets ‘… right there in the centre of Prague.’ Kafka recognized that the Institute’s ‘Committee on Therapy’ needed ‘fewer regulations and more philanthropy.’ When Kafka was employed to write messages about the war they were platitudinous and patriotic propaganda. No one asked him which sanatorium would be best for returning traumatized soldiers despite his personal experience.

It was in ‘The Penal Colony’ that he knew about the horrors of war. His life story tracks nothing but the usual mix of cowardice and bravery mixed with luck, both good and bad. ‘It would have been half a lie if I had asked for an immediate lengthy leave and for my dismissal if it were refused. It would have been the truth if I had given notice. I didn’t dare to do either, so it was a total lie.’ When he had dreamed of leaving for Berlin longing for an erotic encounter with Felice at the time of writing ‘The Judgment’ in 1912 he had lost his nerve. Here he had stepped away from trenches and the hospital. ‘Captivity, disability, the void.’ By this point he had not the energy to even ‘vizualise a concrete end to his life.’ Writing was stifled by ‘headaches, insomnia and increasing isolation.’ Kafka’s decisions were not determined by considerations, convictions or concepts. ‘He never used deductive reasoning for the mere sake of reasoning.’ He took the war personally. He reacted to gazes not arguments. He read out all pressure from faces. He suspected slanders from all quarters. Everything was processed by his writing. He was taking literally his claim to be literature. Only the art could redeem his life.

Darkness descended on Kafka in the summer of 1915. He read military campaigns of Napoleon, and the Bible. He stopped going to the movies and reading contemporary writers. Relationships making demands on him disintegrated. Kafka made an inventory of suffering that included no people. Heimito von Doderer’s ‘The Strudlhof Steps’ of 1951 deliberately used dry lifeless inadequate language like ‘The Trial’ and ‘The Castle’ where it says ‘Only in an operetta can the happy man be someone who forgets what cannot be changed.’ He rifled through paperwork but refused to see that life is the decision maker. He had a three week break and went by rain to Marienbad. Stach writes: ‘… he sought and found an image that united near and far, the mysterious distance of what appears closest to us and the provocative presence of the unattainable, yet nearly attainable, off in the distance: a dialectical image, a thought image.’

This was ‘the door.’ Doors in his work are open but inaccessible or have peepholes or open by themselves or invite torture and death by touching them or that alter their degrees of accessibility. This last one he invented on his thirty third birthday in Marienbad with Felice. They switched hotels and constant rain fell. ‘I arrived at a human relationship of a kind that I had never known before and that came very near in quality to the relationship we had achieved at our best periods as one letter writer to another.’ Kafka and Felice were turning their backs on their social circles. She would continue to work. They would marry. This was the single most visible consequence of the war. Accusations of accompanying hedonism were misfires: people took whatever was still there. It won’t make any difference now was the frantic, defeated, scared generality. In the proximity of death life becomes livelier. Schloss Balmoral gave him a glimpse of a utopian visual image. And this shattering detail: ” [H]e may have opened his notebook and sought a metaphor, a fitting image for this impossibility, but he did not find it. But then it slipped in on a postcard, in the form of a tiny careless mistake, of the kind he made so often. He intended to write Schloss (castle) Balmoral as the sender’s address, but it nearly came out Schoss (lap).’

Kafka asked ‘What do I have in common with Jews?’ He met the rabbi of Belz in Marienbad after Felice had left. He scrutinised the rabbi to see what features qualified him for the role. He was interested in the mystery of authority. ‘L tries to find the deeper or thinks he finds deeper meaning in everything; I think that the deeper meaning is that there is none and in my opinion this is quite enough. It is absolutely a case of divine right, without the absurdity that an adequate basis would give to it.’ Kafka found something that went beyond sectarian religiosity, ‘deeper than Judaism itself.’ Truth was a force field, untaught and lived. It included ‘vegetarians, eastern Jewish actors, calisthenics devotees, and pietists and other mystics. A true life, dans le vrai.’

He became preachy to Felice. The didactic dodges fail to impress her. He involved himself in Martin Buber’s Zionism but looked for authenticity as a basis of avowals of any sort. He found examples in the Old Testament, Napoleon, Grillparzer, Dostoevsky, Hauptmann, Rudolph Steiner, Morris Schnitzer, the Pietists of Herrnhut, the rabbi of Belz, Feigl’s married life and Lily Braun’s ‘Memoirs of a Socialist. ’What do I have in common with the Jews? I barely have anything in common with myself.’ He turned Buber down. Reviewers pigeon-holed him as either a German or Jewish writer. Brod saw Kafka in terms of his own fierce Zionism and so they disagreed. Felice was involved in Jewish community work and education though she was no Zionist. For Kafka what was unworkable was not valueless if it was truthful.

He kept his own interpretation to himself. He read ‘The Penal Colony’ in Munich, the only reading he ever gave outside of Prague, in Goltz’s art gallery, and met Rilke. Rilke had read everything. He worked in his sister’s cottage. Wrestling with impossibilities. People started starving as the war dragged on. Stach keeps imagining what his Kafka might have said throughout: ‘Kafka might have replied that this was the age of the ascetics. A dark time, an icy time, to write.’ ‘I was stiff and cold, I was a bridge.’ ‘No one will read what I am writing here.’ ‘We had set up camp in the oasis. My companions were asleep.’ ‘Yesterday a swoon came to me. She lives in the house next door.’ He writes ‘Red Peter’ in a free monologue.

The notebooks are testing grounds. No manipulation of language, no word coinings, no pointless alliteration, no imitation of oral speech, misue of grammar, accumulations of dashes or exclamation points. He tried a play and it remains a fragment. ‘The Warden of the Tomb.’ It has not grown the significance yet of other fragments such as ‘ A Country Doctor’, ‘The Bridge,’ ‘Up in the Gallery,’ ‘The Next Village,’ ‘The Bucket Rider,’ ‘A Fratricide,’ all written in December and January. ‘Jackals and Arabs,’ and ‘The New Attorney’ were written in February. ‘An Old Page,’ ‘Eleven Sons’ were written in March. ‘The Cares of a Family Man,’ ‘A visit to a Mine,’ ‘A Crossbreed,’ and ‘ A report to an Academy,’ in April. The ‘Hunter Gracchus’ project ran from January to April. In March through April ‘My Neighbour,’ ‘The Knock At The Manor Gate,’ and ‘The Great Wall of China’, all these ‘ensured a worldwide exegesis of Kafka, a humble approach to writing to his writing, groping its way with eye and index finger and taking the text as revelation, snatching it away from the realm of mere mortal criticism once and for all. In particular, the mystifying texts from Kafka’s octavo notebooks lured critics, and then general readers, into picking them apart letter by letter in the quest for meaning – an approach that would eventually extend to Kafka’s entire oeuvre.’

These were texts ‘of unreal fullness and perfection’ without ‘trace of genesis’ where their deathly atmosphere was a symbol of his day. Daily nuisances were written as harbingers of epochal catastrophes. This was literature as redemptive art and again supports a Nietzschean understanding of what he was doing. ‘ This apartment might not restore my inner peace, but it would at least give me a chance to work; the gates of paradise would not fly open again, but I might find two slits for my eyes in the wall.’ The motto of his future work was that, plus the ‘cramped stage, open at the top.’ He called himself ‘the Rat of Palais Schonborn.’ His rhetoric obscures through analytic precision. He grew closer to his sister and supported her rebellions against their family. He met with Felice and reengaged with her before they parted realizing that they would never marry. The famous picture of the two of them is taken then and is full of disillusion.

His publication was slow and ludicrous. He wrote animal stories as dark sayings that accumulate into parables. They are written to keep their secrets and to exclude their readers. He lives in the Alchimistengasse. Alchemists of the crazy Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II lived there in 1600. ‘My life is just monotonous and proceeds within the prison of my innate, threefold misfortune, in a manner of speaking. When I can’t do anything, I am unhappy, when I can do something, there isn’t enough time; and when I look to the future for hope, the next thing I know is that the fear is there, the wide-ranging fear, and then I am less able to work. An exquisitely calculated hell. Yet – and this is the main point – it is not without its good moments.’

Saturday, August 11, 1917, 4 A.M Stach tells us that he wakes coughing blood. ‘You don’t have a long way to go’ says his housekeeper. TB was a disease from outside his social milieu. He avoided the medical diagnosis and instead talked about it as if it were a mental illness, a final defeat, a punishment, a symbol. Brod had no sympathy with this. Many were angry with his attitude where ‘the language is of a distraught piety.’ ‘There is undoubtedly justice in this illness…’ writes Kafka, and again there’s the sense of his working to the pressurized intensity of pure writing. It substitutes for spirituality and psychology and therefore flies around madly. Stach thinks Kafka found TB easier to bear than moral and social pressures. Kafka says ‘It is almost a relief.’ The ‘almost’ should make us defer judgment and at least consider bravado in the teeth of fear. Kafka goes for three months in Zurau. He said he couldn’t get married with TB. ‘Then Kafka pointed to a suitcase and said, ‘Take the coffin.’

Zurau was teeming with animals. Good weather brought the farm to the brink of destruction. He emphasized the unsexualized bliss with his sister because of the impending decision about Felice. When Felice came to him she met a changed man. He was bored with her. He said he was brooding on big ideas. She had come to help. Brutally rejected, she had to fight embarrassment and humiliation. He writes a letter Canetti finds distressing, ‘an unworthy myth and a false one’. He was tormented but not unhappy. Stach thinks Brod and (later) Canetti fail to appreciate that Kafka ‘was struggling for psychological survival.’ They’re probably all right to some extent. But on balance, I think he acted like a coward with most of the women, and was a bullshitter and liar in equal measure. On December 27th he helped Felice onto a train and never saw her again. He cried harder than he had ever done, and was proud of feeling wretched.

His was a solipsistic furtiveness. That in itself raises deadly paradox. He was out to avoid self-judgement. He took courses in Hebrew with a sexy teacher. He reads Dickens, Herzen, the diaries of Tolstoy, Schopenhauer, JMR Lenz, Hans Bluher, Theodor Tagger – and of these only Kierkegaard was explicitly religious. Of the Dane he read ‘The Moment’, ‘Fear and Trembling,’ and ‘Repetition.’ He heard his own questions in them. The Zurau meditations say ‘ the direction is correct; there it is, but your eyes don’t reach far enough to see it, and they never will.’ This is an image that is a gesture to ‘The Trial.’

What is the difference between the last insight and the last attempt at rescue? Happy in his unhappiness he forges a condition of profound dislocation from the world where ‘everything has fallen apart’, where ‘no voice can reach out to him clearly any longer and so he cannot follow it straightforwardly.’ He perfects a calm and laconic tone to express catastrophes. A way in to understanding Beckett is to begin by noting that Beckett hated this tone and expressed his catastrophes in a different register. Beckett’s characters are all wreckages, Kafka’s aren’t. And what’s the answer to the question we started with? Probably no more than an undiscoverable misreading, just like much else.

Returning to Prague he missed his sister. He escalated his Purism, swam in the Moldau river, walked, did Pomology, Viniculture, Horticulture. He wrote another masterpiece and he died horribly. He nearly made it with another woman but it was too late for the kind of games he liked to play. The details of his death seem too intrusive and are a bit ill-judged here. Stach’s book is aptly strange. It is profuse but the lens is jumpy, so the focus is at times a close up and at other times from far off. The volume is staggering, possibly more impressive by dint of its oddness than a more straightforward telling would have been. The connection between it and the previous volume seems a little fragmented, and there is an as yet unwritten first volume. The hold-up has been a law-suit.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Richard Marshall is still biding his time.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Sunday, September 8th, 2013.