Kafka's Last Trial: The Case of a Literary Legacy


Benjamin Balint - 2018
    Instead, Brod devoted his life to championing Kafka’s work, rescuing his legacy from obscurity and physical destruction.Nearly a century later, an international legal battle erupted to determine which country could claim ownership: Israel, where Kafka dreamed of living, or Germany, where Kafka’s three sisters perished in the Holocaust? Benjamin Balint offers a gripping account of the controversial trial in Israeli courts— brimming with dilemmas legal, ethical, and political—that determined the fate of Kafka’s manuscripts.“Thoughtful and provocative.” — Ruth Franklin, Wall Street Journal“A tale pitting two Goliaths against one octogenarian David, untangled in exacting, riveting detail. . . . A must- read.” — Rebecca Schuman, Slate“A gifted cultural historian with a scholarly sensibility.” — Lev Mendes, New York Times Book Review

The Event of Literature


Terry Eagleton - 2012
    What is literature? Can we even speak of "literature" at all? What do different literary theories tell us about what texts mean and do? In throwing new light on these and other questions he has raised in previous best-sellers, Eagleton offers a new theory of what we mean by literature. He also shows what it is that a great many different literary theories have in common.In a highly unusual combination of critical theory and analytic philosophy, the author sees all literary work, from novels to poems, as a strategy to contain a reality that seeks to thwart that containment, and in doing so throws up new problems that the work tries to resolve. The "event" of literature, Eagleton argues, consists in this continual transformative encounter, unique and endlessly repeatable. Freewheeling through centuries of critical ideas, he sheds light on the place of literature in our culture, and in doing so reaffirms the value and validity of literary thought today.

Unacknowledged Legislation: Writers in the Public Sphere


Christopher Hitchens - 2000
    Instead Hitchens argues that when all parties in the state were agreed on a matter, it was the individual pens that created the space for a true moral argument.

Nikolai Gogol


Vladimir Nabokov - 1944
    There have been many bad, but a few good, translations of his work available in English, and critics have often tended to put labels on him, to make him out "the Russian Dickens" or a forerunner of our own literary champions of the oppressed.In this brilliantly recreative study, Vladimir Nabokov shows us that Gogol's comedy was not Dickensian, but biting and salty, textured throughout by a use of the irrational not duplicated by any other writer; that, in his play The Government Inspector and his great novel Dead Souls , his depiction of the frauds of bureaucracy and the vagaries of Russian serf-owners were not so much intended to work social change as to serve as a framework for portraying the fantasies of the human spirit.Nabokov, whose own uniqueness is known through his novels Lolita and The Real Life of Sebastian Knight brings the uniqueness of Gogol to life—the strange, unhappy, self-deluding man and his singular literary methods and achievements.Nikolai Gogol was originally published by New Direction some years ago, when Edmund Wilson called it "one of the best volumes so far in the interesting series called 'Makers of the Modern Literature'." And B.G. Guerney said in the New Republic, "The creative reader (and student) who wishes to soar on Gogol's own wingéd-steed troika will choose Nabokov as his exhilarating courier."

Shakespeare's Philosophy: Discovering the Meaning Behind the Plays


Colin McGinn - 2006
    It is most unusual for a trained philosopher to give us his insight, as Colin McGinn does here, into six of Shakespeare's greatest plays—A Midsummer Night's Dream, Hamlet, Othello, Macbeth, King Lear, and The Tempest.In his brilliant commentary, McGinn explores Shakespeare's philosophy of life and illustrates how he was influenced, for example, by the essays of Montaigne that were translated into English while Shakespeare was writing. In addition to chapters on the great plays, there are also essays on Shakespeare and gender and his plays from the aspects of psychology, ethics, and tragedy.As McGinn says about Shakespeare, "There is not a sentimental bone in his body. He has the curiosity of a scientist, the judgement of a philosopher, and the soul of a poet." McGinn relates the ideas in the plays to the later philosophers such as David Hume and the modern commentaries of critics such as Harold Bloom. The book is an exhilarating reading experience, especially at a time when a new audience has opened up for the greatest writer in English.

Modernism


Peter Childs - 2000
    The author explains the pan-European origins of the radical literary changes which occurred in the novel, poetry and drama, as well as the many revolutions in art, film and aesthetic theory.

Ernest Hemingway


Anthony Burgess - 1978
    An assessment of Hemingway's writing tracing the rapidly changing scene: from the happy childhood to the grim reality of World War I and the vulgar unreality of Word War II; from the Paris of the 20s to the Spain of the Civil War, and from the African safari to the sombre last years in Cuba.

Reading Chekhov: A Critical Journey


Janet Malcolm - 2001
    In an effort to know one of her favorite writers better. Janet Malcolm -- who has brought light to the dark and complicated corners of psychoanalysis and has exposed the treacheries inherent within journalism--traveled to Russia and the places where Chekhov lived and worked. Out of her encounters with modern-day Russians she builds bridges backward in time to Chekhov and to the characters and ideas in his unexampled short stories and plays. The chapters are like pools of thought that coalesce into a profound, unified vision of one of Western literary culture's most important figures. For example, Chekhov's self-effacement prompts a consideration of his characters' odd un-pin-down-ability and then a discussion of limitations in writing biography.One need not know Chekhov's writing to enjoy and be enlightened by Reading Chekhov (though anyone who does will find it doubly edifying). It is a work in which as we watch one outstanding mind try to understand another, we learn more about ourselves--our own ways of reading, thinking, and behaving: generally, what it means to be human.

The Nightmare of Reason: A Life of Franz Kafka


Ernst Pawel - 1984
    A comprehensive and interpretative biography of Franz Kafka that is both a monumental work of scholarship and a vivid, lively evocation of Kafka's world.

Young Eliot: A Biography


Robert Crawford - 2015
    S. Eliot, Robert Crawford presents us with the first volume of a definitive biography of this poetic genius. Young Eliot traces the life of the twentieth century’s most important poet from his childhood in St. Louis to the publication of his revolutionary poem The Waste Land. Crawford’s depiction of Eliot’s childhood—laced with tragedy and shaped by an idealistic, bookish family in which knowledge of saints and martyrs was taken for granted—provides readers with a new understanding of the foundations of some of the most widely read poems in the English language. Meticulously detailed and incisively written, Young Eliot portrays a brilliant, shy, and wounded American who defied his parents’ wishes and committed himself to an artistic life as an immigrant in England, creating work that is astonishing in its scope and vulnerability.     Quoting extensively from Eliot’s poetry and prose as well as drawing on new interviews, archives, and previously undisclosed memoirs, the award-winning biographer Robert Crawford shows how the poet’s background in Missouri, Massachusetts, and Paris made him a lightning rod for modernity. Most impressively, Young Eliot reveals the way he accessed his inner life—his anguishes and his fears—and blended them with his omnivorous reading to create his masterpieces "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" and The Waste Land. At last, we experience T. S. Eliot in all his tender complexity as student and lover, penitent and provocateur, banker and philosopher—but most of all, Young Eliot shows us as an epoch-shaping poet struggling to make art among personal disasters.

Samuel Beckett


Anthony Cronin - 1996
    Anthony Cronin's biography is a revelation of this mythical figure as fully human and fallible, while confirming his enormous stature both as a man and a writer. Cronin explores how the sporty schoolboy of solid Protestant bourgeois stock became a prizewinning student at Trinity, flirted with scholarship, and, in Paris, found himself at the center of its literary avant-garde as an intimate friend of James Joyce. But he was a young man who struggled with complexities in his own nature as well as with problems of literary expression. In the small provincial city of Kassel, Germany, the cosmopolitan Beckett experienced a faltering entanglement with his cousin—one of the first in a series of problematic encounters with women. The war years, which he spent as a member of the Resistance and a refugee in the South of France, brought Beckett the self-probings and discoveries that led to the great works. Then, with his sudden and astonishing fame, the balloons of myth began to inflate and a stereotype was born—frozen in exile and enigma, solemnity and sanctity. Anthony Cronin bursts these balloons to see more clearly what lies behind. Without moralizing or psychologizing, without pretensions or piety, he uncovers the real Beckett, the way the life was lived, the way the art was made.

Romantic Moderns: English Writers, Artists and the Imagination from Virginia Woolf to John Piper


Alexandra Harris - 2010
    They showed that “the modern”need not be at war with the past: constructivists and conservatives could work together, and even the Bauhaus émigré László Moholy-Nagy was beguiled into taking photos for Betjeman’s nostalgic An Oxford University Chest.A rich network of personal and cultural encounters was the backdrop for a modern English renaissance. This great imaginative project was shared by writers, painters, gardeners, architects, critics, and composers. Piper abandoned purist abstracts to make collages on the blustery coast; Virginia Woolf wrote in her last novel about a village pageant on a showery summer day. Evelyn Waugh, Elizabeth Bowen,and the Sitwells are also part of the story, along with Bill Brandt and Graham Sutherland, Eric Ravilious and Cecil Beaton.

English Literature in Context


Paul Poplawski - 2007
    Its key mission is to help students understand the link between the historical context in which the literature developed, how this has influenced the literature of the period and how subsequent periods in literature have been influenced by those that precede them. The book is carefully structured for undergraduate use, with a rich range of illustrations and textboxes that enhance and summarise vital background material. The seven chronological chapters are written by a team of expert contributors who are also highly experienced teachers with a clear sense of the requirements of the undergraduate English curriculum. Each analyses a major historical period, surveying and documenting the cultural contexts that have shaped English literature, and focusing on key texts. In addition to the narrative survey, each chapter includes a detailed chronology, providing a quick-reference guide to the period; contextual readings of select literary texts; and annotated suggestions for further reading.

New Ways to Kill Your Mother: Writers and Their Families


Colm Tóibín - 2012
    In the piece on the Notebooks of Tennessee Williams, Tóibín reveals an artist "alone and deeply fearful and unusually selfish" and one profoundly tormented by his sister's mental illness. Through the relationship between W.B. Yeats and his father, or Thomas Mann and his children, or J.M. Synge and his mother, Tóibín examines a world of family relations, richly comic or savage in its implications. In Roddy Doyle's writing on his parents we see an Ireland reinvented. From the dreams and nightmares of John Cheever's journals Tóibín makes flesh this darkly comic misanthrope and his relationship to his wife and his children.The majority of these pieces were previously published in the Londron Review of Books, the New York Review Review of Books, and the Dublin Review. Three of the thirteen pieces have never appeared before.

Slow Reading in a Hurried Age


David Mikics - 2013
    We glance for a brief moment at whatever catches our eye and then move on. Slow Reading in a Hurried Age reminds us of another mode of reading--the kind that requires our full attention and that has as its goal not the mere gathering of information but the deeper understanding that only good books can offer.Slow Reading in a Hurried Age is a practical guide for anyone who yearns for a more meaningful and satisfying reading experience, and who wants to sharpen reading skills and improve concentration. David Mikics, a noted literary scholar, demonstrates exactly how the tried-and-true methods of slow reading can provide a more immersive, fulfilling experience. He begins with fourteen preliminary rules for slow reading and shows us how to apply them. The rules are followed by excursions into key genres, including short stories, novels, poems, plays, and essays.Reading, Mikics says, should not be drudgery, and not mere escape either, but a way to live life at a higher pitch. A good book is a pathway to finding ourselves, by getting lost in the words and works of others.