Franz Kafka is seen as many things, author, genius, national treasure, but also friend. Marija Peričić ventures into this last aspect of the Bohemian writer’s life and particularly into his strong friendship with Max Brod, whose perspective is used in The Lost Pages to narrate a unique interpretation of their dynamics and bond. The book is largely influenced by Kafka’s previously suppressed papers – the subject of a long legal battle regarding their rightful home – which also contained enlightening correspondence between him and Brod. Peričić’s debut novel won the 2017 Australian/Vogel’s Literary Award and here are some key reasons why, other than its overall link to Kafka.
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The Lost Pages digs – and plays – deep into Brod’s psychology, circumstances and experience of encountering the unbridled genius of Kafka. The story vibrates with the protagonist’s paranoia and frustration at being eclipsed by this newcomer, but what complicates things is his vulnerability filtering through the whole ordeal. Sympathy for Brod clashes with issues of integrity, among other twists and turns. At the same time, his character shows us the world, its subtleties and indiscretions, through the eyes of someone suffering from depression and physical disability.
In addition to reflecting how disheartening and treacherous a career as an author can be, the narrative takes you on a discomforting ride alongside a spiralling protagonist. As someone incapable of watching Mr. Bean out of sheer sympathetic embarrassment, my stomach clenched several times throughout Brod’s journey to a – thankfully! – surprising and satisfying ending. This is an example of literature that asks readers to persevere, examine their own disturbed emotions and appreciate how much a text can affect them.
It doesn’t happen as often with books as it does with films, for example, but The Lost Pages achieves just that: a desire to read particular scenes, if not the whole thing, again. Peričić has created a layered plot that prompts little questions, their resolution earning an intrigued gasp. By the end of the story new conceptual levels are formed for readers and especially Kafka fans to puzzle over. In fact, this book has many themes and features to have fun picking apart.
The Lost Pages is a fascinating experience to add to your bookshelf, one that draws on real facts related to Kafka and Brod, including their elusive papers, and moulds them into a thrilling reimagining of a friendship.
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