As­sured de­but in Kafka’s shoes

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Books -

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,

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