One has just been sent out as a biblical dove, has found nothing green, and slips back
into the darkness of the ark -- Kafka

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Felice Bauer (1887 - 1960)

Felice Bauer (18 November 1887 – 15 October 1960) was a fiancée of Franz Kafka, whose letters to her were published as Letters to Felice.

Early Life

Felice Bauer was born in Neustadt in Upper Silesia (today Prudnik), into a Jewish family. Her father Carl Bauer (c. 1850–1914) was an insurance agent, her mother Anna, née Danziger (1849–1930) was the daughter of a local dyer. Felice had four siblings: Else (1883–1952), Ferdinand (called Ferri, 1884–1952), Erna (1885–1978) and Antonie (called Toni, 1892–1918). In 1899 the family moved to Berlin.[1]

Felice began attending a Handelsschule, a vocational school for commerce, but had to give it up in 1908 because her family could not afford it. From 1909 on, she worked as a stenographer at the Berlin record company Odeon.[1] One year later, she moved to the Carl Lindström Company, a manufacturer of gramophones and "Parlographs", then the most advanced dictation machines.[1][2] After a short while she was promoted. She worked in marketing and represented the company at trade fairs. In April 1915 she began working at the Technische Werkstätte Berlin.[1] She contributed substantially to the income of her family.[2]


Felice met Franz Kafka in Prague on 13 August 1912, when he visited his friend Max Brod and his wife.[3] Brod's sister Sophie was married to a cousin of Felice's; Felice was in Prague on a trip to Budapest to visit her sister Else.[1] A week after the meeting, on 20 August, Kafka entered in his diary:
Miss FB. When I arrived at Brod's on 13 August, she was sitting at the table. 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. (I alienate myself from her a little by inspecting her so closely ...) Almost broken nose. Blonde, somewhat straight, unattractive hair, strong chin. As I was taking my seat I looked at her closely for the first time, by the time I was seated I already had an unshakeable opinion.[3]
Soon after the meeting he began to send her almost daily letters, expressing disappointment if she did not respond as frequently.[4] He dedicated to her his short story "Das Urteil" ("The Judgment", literally: The verdict), which he had written the night of 22 September 1912.[3][5] They met again for Easter of 1913, and he proposed marriage in a letter at the end of July that year. The engagement took place on Pentecost Sunday 1914, in the presence of Kafka's parents and sister Ottla, but was broken a few weeks later, in August.[2][4]

After difficult communication, again mostly in letters,[4] and spending ten days together in Marienbad in July 1916, they met for a second engagement on 12 July 1917, planning to marry soon and live together in Prague.[2][3] Suffering symptoms of the tuberculosis that was to lead to his death, Kafka broke the engagement again in December that year.[2][3] She departed on 27 December.[2]

She saved Kafka's more than 500 letters to her, which were published as Letters to Felice; her letters to him did not survive.[2][3][6] Elias Canetti titled his book on the letters Kafka's Other Trial / The Letters to Felice, referring to Kafka's novel The Trial, which he describes as "a novel ... in which Kafka's engagement to Felice is re-imagined as the mysterious and menacing arrest of the hero". Michiko Kakutani notes in a review for The New York Times, "Kafka's Kafkaesque Love Letters" that Kafka's letters have:
[the] earmarks of his fiction: the same nervous attention to minute particulars; the same paranoid awareness of shifting balances of power; the same atmosphere of emotional suffocation – combined, surprisingly enough, with moments of boyish ardor and delight.[4]
[From Wikipedia:]
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