“You are at once both the quiet and the confusion of my heart; imagine my heartbeat when you are in this state.” ~Franz Kafka, Letters to Felice
Kafka wrote over 500 letters to Felice Bauer, which were published many years after his death as Letters to Felice. He was twice engaged to her. The two had met one evening when Kafka was visiting his friend Max Brod to go over the order of his upcoming volume of short works entitled Meditation. In his diary, he wrote the following about his impression of her, “I was not at all curious about who she was, but rather took her for granted at once. Bony, empty face that wore its emptiness openly. Bare throat. A blouse thrown on. Looked very domestic in her dress although, as it turned out, she by no means was.” This does not appear as the most flattering analysis, but Kafka had a habit of seeing life in its pure form. Something drew him to her. Perhaps, it was that she surprised him with her independence, confidence, and perspective—especially her interest in Hebrew and traveling to Palestine. The evening that they met, they made a pact to travel together to Palestine, but it never came into fruition. They did not meet again for seven months, but fell in love via mail. Over the next five years, while seldom in the same city, they became engaged, broke their engagement, became engaged again and finally broke up forever. During the period of his correspondence with her, Kafka produced some of his most famous works, including The Metamorphosis, In the Penal Colony, and his first draft of The Trial. He dedicated to her his short story The Judgement, which he wrote in one sitting. Kafka burned her letters to him, but she kept his. In 1955, Felice sold the letters to Schocken Books for $8,000 near the end of her life. At auction in 1987, the Letters to Felice brought Shocken Books over half a million dollars.
Photo: Felice Bauer and Franz Kafka in Budapest, 1917