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PUBLISHERS WEEKLY: San Diego State University News Clip Service: Review, Kafka’s Last Love

Franz Kafka's story is well known, Dora Diamant's is not. She was, as the title states, his "last love," and the author (no relation), director of the Kafka Project at San Diego State University, has assiduously tracked the traces of her subjects through personal recollections, private papers and newly opened archives in the former Soviet bloc.

Dora (1898 - 1952) and Kafka first met at a Baltic resort, and she was instantly captivated by his intelligence and deep sensitivity. Kafka in turn was swept away by the vivacious 25-year-old Polish-born Jew, who had fled her Orthodox family for the broader intellectual currents of Weimar Germany. But Yiddish was her first language and she knew Jewish traditions, and Kafka found her a beacon for the religion his own family had rejected.

The author describes at great length the one year the lovers lived together in Berlin, but more interesting is the account of Dora and her larger family history after Kafka's painful death in 1924. Here was a woman intent on keeping Kafka's flame alive, who was forced by war and political upheaval to flee from one country after another. Many relatives died in the Holocaust. Her treasured possessions, Kafka's last diaries, were seized by the Gestapo and have never been found.

For 15 years her husband, having served time in Nazi prisons and the Soviet gulag, lived in East Berlin, unaware that Dora and their daughter had survived the war. The remarkable story continues in Moscow, London, San Francisco and Tel Aviv, the far-flung points of dispersal of a family caught in the maelstroms of fascism, communism and the Holocaust.