Max Brod


It was following Oskar Pollak’s departure for Rome and the weakening of Kafka’s ties with Ewald Felix Příbram on account of their differing interests, that a firm and lifelong relationship started to develop with Max Brod, whom Kafka had known since 1902, when they had met at the German Student Reading and Lecture Hall. Brod’s wider circle of friends (mostly graduates of the German High School in Štěpánská Street) and Kafka’s wider circle (graduates of the German High School in the Old Town) gave rise to a foursome that Max Brod transformed into the core of the entire generation of Prague German writers of the time, dubbing it the Prague Circle: Max Brod, Franz Kafka, Oskar Baum and Felix Weltsch.
© Archiv Klaus Wagenbach, Berlin
A versatile writer, novelist, playwright, poet, journalist, theatre, music and literary critic, editor and composer, translator, cultural organizer and prominent intermediary between German and Czech cultures. The best friend of Franz Kafka, whose exceptional gifts he recognized early on. Brod is the source of most of the testimonies to Kafka’s life and work, including the most important ones, such as his biography (Franz Kafka, 1936), as well as other studies, numerous articles and diary entries (most of them unfortunately lost). There are also extensive references to Kafka in Brod’s autobiographical works A Life of Struggle (1960) and The Prague Circle (1966). Brod saved most of Kafka’s works from destruction, having decided to ignore Kafka’s explicit instructions, twice expressed in the form of a will, that Brod should burn all his unpublished works unconditionally. On the contrary, immediately after Kafka’s death, Brod started to publish his writings, first his novels in the 1920s, then his Writings in six volumes in the 1930s, republished in expanded form in eight volumes at the end of the 1940s. An extremely capable impresario, it is thanks to Brod that a number of leading Czech composers and authors achieved world renown (Janáček, Smetana, Hašek). These days his name is linked chiefly with Kafka, with whom he maintained a lifelong friendship in spite of their very different personalities. Their relationship varied in intensity, being stronger and more open in their younger years than later in life, but from it emerged an epoch-making cultural phenomenon: Brod’s correspondence with Kafka, the most authentic document and most valuable in literary terms for discovering Kafka’s life as well as the private and cultural atmosphere within which his works were created.