"A Friend of Kafka" - A Short Story by Issac Bashevis Singer - Translated by the author and Elizabeth Shub from the Yiddish - originally published in The New Yorker -March 15,1968
Issac Singer (1902-1901-born Poland) won the Nobel Prize in 1986 for the full body of his work. He is best known to the public as the author of Yentil, the basis for a very popular movie. Singer's, even though he left Poland in 1935 because of the rise of the Nazis, work is very rooted in the culture in which he was raised. He became an American citizen. Singer died and is buried in Florida. . He indicated his biggest influences as a short story writer were Anton Chekhov and Guy de Maupassant
You can read the story in the Kindle sample of the book pictured above. It is included in The Collected Short Stories of Issac Bashevis Singer as well as the Library of America collection of his works.
A few days ago I read a wonderful story by Issac Singer, "The Gentleman from Cracow" set among farmers, merchants of Ashkanazi heritage in Cracow,Poland. Today's story, "A Friend of Kafka" is set in Warsaw amongst people involved in the Yiddish theater, highly literate men, women play a big part in the story but pretty much as the sexually attract the men in the story. There are aristocrats among the characters. The narrative is structured around the conversations of two friends. A lot is about the relationship of one of the men to Franz Kafka. One of the characters used to be big in the theater, the other is a writer. A good deal happens in the story. An old man's sexual capacity is restored in a sexual encounter with a countess hiding from a murderous lover.
The narrator always has to loan money to the old actor who loves to hear himself talk on everything from the brothel visit he took Kafka on to his chess game with the fates.
“Didn’t you once ask what makes me go on, or do I imagine that you did? What gives me the strength to bear poverty, sickness, and, worst of all, hopelessness? That’s a good question, my young friend. I asked the same question when I first read the Book of Job. Why did Job continue to live and suffer? So that in the end he would have more daughters, more donkeys, more camels? No. The answer is that it was for the game itself. We all play chess with Fate as a partner. He makes a move; we make a move. He tries to checkmate us in three moves; we try to prevent it. We know we can’t win, but we’re driven to give him a good fight"
"A Friend of Kafka" is ten minutes of delight, funny, and made me feel I was getting private gossip from old Warsaw.
There are about 40 Singer Short stories in the edition I have of his work. I hope to read all of them