Rebecca Schuman's new book is Schadenfreude, A Love Story: Me, the Germans, and 20 Years of Attempted Transformations, Unfortunate Miscommunications, and Humiliating Situations That Only They Have Words For.
From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:
Q: Why did Kafka become such a longtime passion for you, and how did it lead you to your fascination with all things German (given that, as you state in your new book, he wasn't German)?--Marshal Zeringue
A: Wow, great question. My relationship with Kafka has changed so much, and my relationship to the German language--and, by extension, culture--is directly traceable back to him.
My original attraction to Kafka was what, I think, attracts a lot of brainy-but-misunderstood teens: He was SO good at depicting this primal, visceral, almost desperate alienation from everyone around him. He was sort of the first-ever goth kid who nobody understands, you know?
There's this really short story (one of many he wrote) called "Bachelor's Unhappiness," about coming home to an empty house and having only a forehead to smack with your hand, and that just pierced directly into my soul when I was a teenager, largely ignored by boys (except for one REALLY important one, as the book reveals).
When you feel like nobody understands you, the best thing in the world is to find someone else to be misunderstood with. For me, that person was Franz Kafka.
But as I began to study him seriously, I realized that...[read on]