Assured debut in Kafka’s shoes
The Australian/ novel begins in 1908, Pericic’s Kafka dies of tuberculosis within a year, not in 1924). Instead of friends, Brod and Kafka are rivals, Brod playing the part of Salieri (or at least Peter Shaffer’s Salieri) to Kafka’s Mozart, alternately astonished by Kafka’s brilliance and tormented by “the sick poison of jealousy, the panic of self-preservation”. Yet, despite his desire to rid himself of Kafka, Brod cannot. Instead he finds Kafka invading his world on every side, charming the woman Brod loves, fascinating Brod’s publisher, supplanting Brod in the mind of the reading public.
Along the way the notion of identity becomes increasingly indeterminate. An actor Brod hires to play the part of Franz at a party performs his part with exceptional skill, yet only a few weeks later, when Brod hires a different actor to play the same part, his second subterfuge goes unnoticed, those who met the first impostor failing to detect the presence of the second. Photos of Kafka referred to in the editorial apparatus resist definitive identification,