Publisher: Rain Mountain Press; First Edition edition (March 31, 2014)
Review by: Russell Reece
From the opening paragraph you will know this book is something special.
Rosalind Palermo Stevenson has used two actual incidents in the life of the legendary existentialist writer, Franz Kafka, to frame this memorable work of fiction. In March of 1911, Kafka visited the mystical philosopher, Rudolf Steiner in Prague. There, in Stevenson’s story, we encounter a typical Kafka conundrum: “I was faced with a dilemma: it was where to place the hat I had removed from my head.” Kafka’s resolution gives us our first insight into the man and sets the tone of what’s to follow. This visit to Steiner and Steiner’s writings and philosophy are laced throughout the main story of Kafka’s 1913 stay at the von Hartungen sanatorium in Riva where he actually met and fell in love with a young Christian woman he calls, W.
Throughout this short volume (20 pages) the author intersperses the real and the imagined to create an early 20th century dreamscape. Stevenson’s spare and poetic prose – “I have put up the oars so we can drift, we are the only boaters on the lake, drifting; imperceptible movement…” – her masterful use of sentence fragments, and her wonderful descriptions – a folded shawl, oars that sit stiffly at the bottom of a boat – swept me up in this story and kept me there to the end.
There’s a lot to get into here. First and foremost is the heartwarming relationship between Kafka and W, a mutual love confined by both the social mores of the day – “The desire to let my cheek come to rest against hers” – and Kafka’s struggle between his outward life and his internal, self-reflective interests. The story is a wonderful tribute to Franz Kafka. You know and like this man in spite of his dark perspective and feelings of being an outsider. The story also foreshadows the evil that will soon overrun Europe and ultimately result in the Holocaust.
I encourage you to take an hour, find a quiet place and sit down and read this jewel of a book. Then read it again. You will be glad you did.
You can find the book here: http://www.amazon.com/Rudolf-Steiners-Rosalind-Palermo-
Russell Reece is a fiction editor for The Fox Chase Review and can be found in Delaware or here: http://www.russellreece.com/