The Sorrows of Young Werewolf (eyeteeth) wrote,
The Sorrows of Young Werewolf

Die Hungerkünstler

Of course, as far as I know we have only Max's word for it that he'd already told Franz he wouldn't destroy his writing. The way he told it, they were having a chat about what they would put in their wills and Franz said he had only the one wish: you burn everything. Max said nope, you'll have to get someone else to do that, Franz. If that did happen, you have to wonder why Franz would make the request again on his deathbed, but he was dying painfully of pulmonary and laryngeal tuberculosis, a thing I didn't even know existed until I started reading about Kafka's life, and one can forgive him for being a little forgetful. Or maybe he thought his pitiful condition might move his friend to relent. On the other hand, he was editing a collection of short stories for publication right up until his death, and why would he do that if he didn't want them published? Was he that committed to absurdism? That committed to his craft? Was it that Martin Luther thing about planting your apple tree even if you know the world is going to end tomorrow? Or simply that he didn't want anything published that he hadn't absolutely perfected?

Sadly, though Kafka died because he had TB, that wasn't the proximate cause of his death. When you have TB of the larynx your larynx swells up, making eating progressively more difficult and painful until finally it becomes impossible. In 1924, there was no way of addressing this problem. So, I'm very sorry to say, Kafka starved to death. Think of him editing away in the hospital as he starves. And what was he editing? The collection of short stories called A Hunger Artist.

Harper Lee, happily, is more than twice as old as Kafka ever got to be, but many people are justifiably asking if the eighty-eight-year-old author, who lives in an assisted-living facility, has really consented in a meaningful way to the publication of a first draft from over fifty years ago. If she has, why the sudden about-face from a lifelong refusal to publish anything besides To Kill a Mockingbird? And tangentially, can you imagine anyone trying to pull something like this on J. D. Salinger? There would have been an uproar, because when a male writer is secretive and private, that's a goddamn religion. I can't remember a time in my life when I didn't know the mythos of Salinger, can you? But in writing as in everything else, a woman's consent is like fancy clothes: nice to have, but not a necessity.
Tags: franz kafka, harper lee, writing
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