Kafka In Pieces

THE UNFINISHED DRAFT OF THE CASTLE, Franz Kafka’s third and final novel, ends mid-sentence. But when the manuscript made its initial entree into the world, the text had been edited into completion. Max Brod, Kafka’s friend and literary executor, who prepared the original 1926 edition, later reflected that his “aim was to present in accessible form an unconventional, disturbing work which had not been quite finished: thus every effort was made to avoid anything that might have emphasized its fragmentary state.” To accomplish this obfuscation of the novel’s incomplete form, Brod redacted nearly a fifth of the text. He eventually thought better of the choice, and in the second edition restored most of what he’d cut—but by then, his success at attracting interest in Kafka’s work had led to its placement on the Nazis’ “List of Harmful and Undesirable Literature.” This prevented the more faithful edition from reaching a wide German audience until the fall of the Reich. Meanwhile, Kafka’s readership grew abroad thanks to the 1930 English translations by Willa and Edwin Muir, who based their rendering of The Castle on Brod’s original edition—presenting the novel not as a fragment, but as a completed whole.

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