Max Brod

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Max Brod

Max Brod (May 27 1884 - December 20 1968) was an ethnically Jewish German language author, composer, and journalist. Brod was born in Prague, which was then part of the province of Bohemia in Austria-Hungary, and is now the capital of the Czech Republic. A prolific writer in his own right, he is most famous as a friend, biographer, and literary executor of Franz Kafka.

He studied law at the Charles University of Prague (which at the time was divided into a German language university and a Czech language university; he attended the German one) and graduated in 1907 to work in the civil service. From 1912 he was a pronounced Zionist (which he attributed to the influence of Martin Buber) and when Czechoslovakia became independent in 1918 he briefly served as vice-president of the Jüdischer Nationalrat. From 1924, already an established writer he worked as a critic for the Prager Tagblatt.

In 1939, as the Nazis took over Prague, Brod and his wife Elsa Taussig emigrated to what was then the Palestine, where he lived until his death December 20 1968 in Tel Aviv, Israel. He continued to write and worked as a dramaturg for Habimah, later the Israeli national theatre.

Brod first met Kafka October 23, 1902, when both were students at the Charles University. Brod had given a lecture at the German student's hall on Arthur Schopenhauer. Kafka, one year older, addressed him after the lecture and accompanied him home. "He tended to participate in all the meetings, but up to then we had hardly considered each other," wrote Brod. The quiet Kafka "would have been... hard to notice... even his elegant, usually dark-blue, suits were inconspicuous and reserved like him. At that time, however, something seems to have attracted him to me, he was more open than usual, filling the endless walk home by disagreeing strongly with my all too rough formulations." (Max Brod: Über Franz Kafka, 45)

From then on, Brod and Kafka met frequently, often even daily, and remained close friends until Kafka's death. Kafka was a frequent guest in Brod's parents' house; there he met his future girlfriend and fiancee Felice Bauer, cousin of Brod's brother-in-law Max Friedmann. After graduating, Brod worked for a time for the post office. The relatively short working hours gave him time to begin a career as an art critic and freelance writer. For similar reasons, Kafka took a job at a an insurance agency involved in workmen's accident insurance.

Unlike Kafka, Brod rapidly became a prolific, successful published writer. His first novel and fourth book overall, Schloß Nornepygge, published in 1908 when he was only 24, was celebrated in Berlin literary circles as a masterpiece of expressionism. This and other works made Brod a well-known personality in German-langauge literature. He unselfishly promoted other writers and musicians; among his protoges was Franz Werfel, whom he would later fall out with as Werfel abandoned Judaism for Christianity; he would also write at various times both for and against Karl Kraus, a convert from Judaism to Roman Catholicism. His critical endorsement would be crucial to the popularity of Jaroslav Hašek's The Good Soldier Svejk, and he played a crucial role in the diffusion of Leoš Janáček's operas.

During Kafka's lifetime, Brod tried repeatedly to reassure Kafka in the latter's doubts about his own literary efforts and pushed him to publish his work. It is to be probably owing to Brod that Kafka began to keep a diary. He tried, but failed, to arrange common literary projects. Even after Brod's 1913 marriage with Elsa Taussig, he and Kafka remained each other's closest friends and confidantes, assisting each other in problems and life crises.

On Kafka's death in 1924 Brod was the administrator of the estate and preserved his unpublished works from incineration as stipulated in the will. Before even a line of Kafka's work had been published, Brod had already praised him as "as the greatest poet of our time", ranking with Goethe or Tolstoy. Brod edited and later published Kafka's papers, beginning 1925–1927 with the publication of fragments of Kafka's novels and extending in the 1930s to 6 volumes of collected works; in 1937 Brod wrote the first biography of his friend: Franz Kafka, eine Biographie. He always resisted one-sided interpretation of Kafka, and hated the term "Kafkaesque", arguing that it presented a picture of the man and his work contradicted by his own intimate knowledge.

Brod's musical compositions are little known. They include songs, works for piano and incidental music for his plays. He translated some of Leoš Janáček's operas into German, wrote a biography of him in 1924, and authored a study of Gustav Mahler, Beispiel einer Deutsch-Jüdischen Symbiose, in 1961.


  • Schloß Nornepygge (Nornepygge Castle, 1908)
  • Weiberwirtschaft (Woman's Work, 1913)
  • Über die Schönheit häßlicher Bilder (On the Beauty of Ugly Pictures, 1913)
  • Die Höhe des Gefühls (The Height of Feeling, 1913)
  • Tycho Brahes Weg zu Gott (Tycho Brahe's Way to God 1916)
  • Heidentum, Christentum und Judentum (Paganism, Christianity, and Judaism, 1922)
  • Reubeni, Fürst der Juden (Reubeni, Prince of the Jews, 1925)
  • Zauberreich der Liebe (The Charmed Realm of Love, 1930)
  • Biografie von Heinrich Heine (Biography of Heinrich Heine, 1934)
  • Die Frau, die nicht enttäuscht (The Woman Who Does Not Disappoint, 1934)
  • Novellen aus Böhmen (Novellas from Böhmen, 1936)
  • Rassentheorie und Judentum (Race Theory and Judaism, 1936)
  • Franz Kafka, eine Biographie (Franz Kafka, a Biography, 1937, later collected in Über Franz Kafka, 1974)
  • Franz Kafkas Glauben und Lehre (Franz Kafka's Thought and Teaching, 1948)
  • Verzweiflung und Erlösung im Werke Franz Kafkas (Despair and Release in the Works of Franz Kafka, 1959)
  • Beispiel einer Deutsch-Jüdischen Symbiose (An Example of German-Jewish Symbiosis, 1961)
  • Beinahe ein Vorzugsschüler (Almost a Gifted Pupil)
  • Die Frau, nach der man sich sehnt (The Woman For Whom One Longs)
  • Annerl
  • Rebellische Herzen (Rebel Hearts)
  • Die verkaufte Braut (The Sold-Off Bride)

Further reading

  • Kayser, Werner, Max Brod, Hans Christians, Hamburg, 1972 (in German)
  • Pazi, Margarita (Ed.): Max Brod 1884-1984. Untersuchungen zu Max Brods literarischen und philosophischen Schriften. Peter Lang, Frankfurt am Main, 1987 (in German)
  • Lerperger, Renate, Max Brod. Talent nach vielen Seiten (exhibit catalog), Vienna, 1987 (in German)
  • Wessling, Berndt W. Max Brod: Ein Portrait. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart, Berlin, Cologne and Mainz, 1969. New edition: Max Brod: Ein Portrait zum 100. Geburtstag, Bleicher, Gerlingen, 1984 (in German)


  • This article draws material from the corresponding article in the German-language Wikipedia, retrieved February 16, 2005. That in turn cites:
    • Brod, Max, Über Franz Kafka; edition not stated there, but presumably Fischer, Frankfurt am Main, 1974de:Max Brod

nl:Max Brod ja:マックス・ブロート


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