The glory of life by Michael Kumpfmüller

The glory of life by Michael Kumpfmüller

German fiction

Original title – Die Herrlichkeit des Lebens

Translator – Anthea Bell

Source – Review copy


Come on skinny love just last the year
Pour a little salt, we were never here
My, my, my, my, my, my, my, my
Staring at the sink of blood and crushed veneer

Tell my love to wreck it all
Cut out all the ropes and let me fall
My, my, my, my, my, my, my, my
Right in this moment this order’s tall

And I told you to be patient
And I told you to be fine
And I told you to be balanced
And I told you to be kind

well skinny love by bon Iver  is about doomed love rather like Franz and Dora is . Source 

Well when I got an email from Haus books about two upcoming books from Germany in translation I jumped at the chance with the knowledge that German lit month was coming up , this book won the Jean monnet prize for European literature prize , his earlier book has won the Alfred Doblin prize one of the most prestigious prizes in literature in Germany   .Michael Kumpfmüller he studied history at university , after he finished his studies he became a freelance writer for several papers within Germany , his first book came out in 2000 a collection of short stories , he has since written three novels .He also in 2005 joined a red/green movement run by the German writer Gunter Grass .

Dora sits at the kItchen table , getting fish for supper .She has been thinking of him for days , and suddenly here he is .Tile of all people , has brought him , and he’s alone , the woman she saw on the beach isn’t with him .He stands in the doorway , looking first at the fish , then at her hands , a little censoriously she thinks .But there is no doubt about it ,this is the man from the beach

Franz meets her alone for the first time .

The glory of life is a novel partly based on true fact , the story follows the last year in the life of the Czech writer Franz Kafka .The story is told through the eyes of Dora Diamant a twenty-five year old woman , who meet the dying Kafka whilst he was recovering on the Baltic coast , she sees the boy with in this forty-year old man and he see life in this much younger woman as the romance starts .We then follow them over course of his last year as we follow the pair to Berlin ,of course the is just the time when fascism is on the rise so apart from the romance between Franz and Dora , we also see Franz having to deal with the Anti Semitism .But he is also growing weaker all the time this means he eventually ends up at a sanatorium in Austria. We see a love that burns bright but is very doomed since the start .

He has seemed to be better again for the last few days .She doesn’t really know why : is it his work on the proofs , is it the whispering at night when she tells him silly things ,what she was like as a little girl , her refusal to have her hair cut after her mothers death ? instead she wore two long braids .

Dora loves him til the end , I love the fact she isn’t sure if it the love or the writer in Franz driving him , I ‘d love to think it was the love !

This is an imagined year , yes Franz Kafka had a relationship with Dora Diamant ,but no real evidence of how this relationship went on so , Michael has done a real good job in imagining the world they lived in , I of course have read Kafka , but it was almost twenty years ago and I have since read bits about his life , I think most of us that read any amount of books in translation know the story of how we are able to read Kafka , he had ask his friend Max Brod to destroy all his work after he died , of course he didn’t thus we are able to read him ,Max is a character in this book .This book could have easily felt like historic document ,but it didn’t no what we get is a blossoming love affair that is doomed from the start ,we know this but Dora and Franz don’t .MIchael Kumpfmüller  has brought us a story of lovers that will I’m sure touch any reader that like me is a romantic at heart .As for Dora , her life after this book is really interesting  she also had some of Kafka’s work but lost it to the Gestapo , one can wonder what was lost to us the reader .

Have you read Kafka or anything about his life ?


14 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. MarinaSofia
    Nov 03, 2014 @ 11:38:42

    This does sound interesting – I was obsessed with Kafka when I was younger, and have all of his novels, stories, letters, diaries – so a must-read for me! I imagine any love affair with him must have been really tortured (his letters to Felice are eye-opening in that respect).


  2. kaggsysbookishramblings
    Nov 03, 2014 @ 14:51:06

    I read a lot of Kafka about 30 years ago – must revisit….. 🙂


  3. Caroline
    Nov 03, 2014 @ 16:38:46

    I’m reading this at the moment and like it a great deal.
    I never knew before that that he had so many relationships and was quite passionate.


  4. jacquiwine
    Nov 03, 2014 @ 17:18:11

    This does sound like an interesting find, Stu. It’s been since I read Kafka as I was in my twenties at the time.


  5. 1streading
    Nov 03, 2014 @ 20:39:28

    Just finished this but will read your review once I’ve written mine. It got a great review in the Scotsman from Allan Massie which drew my attention to it.


  6. Violet
    Nov 04, 2014 @ 07:49:47

    I’ve been tossing up whether to buy this or not because I haven’t had a lot of good experiences with biographical historical fiction. Often, the author writes the characters in a way that I can’t relate to, but I’ll probably buy this because it sounds so good.


  7. Mytwostotinki
    Nov 07, 2014 @ 11:30:02

    When it comes to Kafka, I am a bit of an addict. I read probably anything written by him, even his Amtliche Schriften, the “works” he wrote in his professional function for the insurance company for which he worked. Kafka was probably the only writer of his time that visited factories on a regular basis and took an interest in improving their working conditions (he wrote among other texts the first draft of an accident prevention regulation for woodworking machinery).
    The best book about Kafka is without doubt the wonderful biography of Reiner Stach (3 volumes). I read also Brod’s book, Johannes Urzidil’s There Goes Kafka (reviewed on my blog), Canetti’s essay on the correspondence between Kafka and Felice Bauer, and the book by Deleuze and Guattari on Kafka, amongst others.


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November 2014


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