On August 1st, 1914, Germany declared war on Russia. Also, Franz Kafka went swimming. Moreover, the Metamorphosis author mentioned both events in his diary, writing simply and strangely that “Germany has declared war on Russia — went swimming in the afternoon.” Was this odd phrasing intentional or a sign of the author’s self-absorption? In an article for Open Letters Monthly, Robert Minto reads all three volumes of Reiner Stach’s new biography.
In the late fifties, an old flame of Samuel Beckett, Ethna MacCarthy, fell ill and died of throat cancer in Dublin. Around this time, female voices began to enter Beckett’s work, which up until that point had featured almost exclusively male characters. Was there a connection? In a review of a new edition of Beckett’s letters, Fintan O’Toole suggests that there was. You could also read Elizabeth Winkler on the author’s bilingual oeuvre.