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The Escape Artist


Discussed in this essay:

Forest Dark, by Nicole Krauss. HarperCollins. 304 pages. $27.99.

In 1939, fifteen years after his death, Franz Kafka finally found his way to Palestine. An ambivalent Zionist for much of his life, he had been thinking about making aliyah since at least 1912, when he discussed it with Felice Bauer at their first meeting. (Bauer would become his fiancée but not his wife; Kafka was even more ambivalent about marriage than he was about Zionism.) On the evening of that encounter, which took place at the home of their mutual friend Max Brod, he was carrying the latest issue of Palästina, a German-language Zionist monthly. Writing to Bauer in Berlin afterward, he reminded her that she had promised to one day accompany him to the Jewish homeland.

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is the author of, most recently, Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life (Liveright). Her essay “Trial and Error” appeared in the November 2015 issue of Harper’s Magazine.

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