Now she can no longer retreat, any retreat would amount to a self-betrayal, now she must stand or fall by this demand of hers.
This is the final collection of Kafka’s writing that he oversaw himself. Kafka worked on the book during his final illness; it was published after his death. This is the best of the short Kafka collections I’ve read recently. It’s composed of four stories and it’s very clear that Kafka’s writing has improved. The best story is the title story, the tale of a performer who creates art out of extended public fasts. It’s a genuinely great story and incredibly well-written. The others are a bit more variable. It’s unfortunate that the worst story is also the final one in the collection, a bizarre fable about a mouse that can sing. The Little Woman is another quite good story. The narrator slowly unfolds his relationship with a woman, but as the story unfolds, you begin to really doubt whether he’s telling anything resembling the truth. This is Kafka finally able to really unfold a layered story. His previous collections have been mostly taken up with short sketches. This is the first time that you really feel like he’s writing actual stories. The title story is a masterpiece, I’d say; the rest of the book, not so much, though there are pleasures here and there. 2 ½ stars.
tl;dr – the final short story collection that Kafka oversaw himself features greatly improved writing and a stronger focus on actual story telling; the four stories here range from bad to great. 2 ½ stars.