Letters to Milena

As I mentioned a few days ago, I’d like to expand the scope of this blog from just my dogs to include my other passion – books. More than ever before, thanks in no small part to social media, books and authors have the power to impact our lives in ways we never imagined. The book I finished today is a prime example.

The backstory:

A couple years ago, I picked up a “smart romance” by Penny Reid called Neanderthal Seeks Human. I’d never been a fan of contemporary romance and only read a handful of historical romances to that point. I can’t even remember why I bought and read Penny’s book. I can only tell you that it was truly life-changing. I loved the book, signed up for her newsletter, and joined the Facebook fan group. The Sharks of Awesome are just that…awesome. I’ve not encountered a better group of people on the Internet. A couple months ago, members started sharing a new obsession- Turkish television series, specifically a new show called Erkenci Kuş (Early Bird). I started watching, and along with several hundred of my new BFFs, became hopelessly addicted. In one of the episodes, our hero, Can Divit, is reading a Turkish translation of the book pictured above. Our heroine, Sanem Aydin, picks up the book and admits that she’s memorized the entire thing. My obsession with this show is so strong that despite truly hating the only work of Kafka’s I have read (The Metamorphosis), I promptly ordered my own English copy from Amazon and started reading almost as soon as it arrived on my doorstep, August 11th.

The review:

Are you still with me? Good. I struggle to rate this book. I’ve been sitting here for hours trying to figure out how I feel about it and I’m perplexed by my own emotions. Is it that good or that bad? It’s hard to say. It took me forever to read, nearly two full months, as I could only read it in short sections before my mind would wander. Yet, I could never bring myself to abandon it completely, and I’m not afraid to bail on books that I don’t love. There is something compelling about these letters. Something that reaches off the page, sinks its hooks into the reader’s psyche, and forces her to keep reading.

In a letter dated March 1922, Kafka writes, “writing letters is actually an intercourse with ghosts and by no means just with the ghost of the addressee but also with one’s own ghost, which secretly evolves inside the letter one is writing…” (pg. 230). I think it is these ghosts that haunt the reader, who demand that their spirits be nurtured by the process of reading. Part of me feels like reading this private correspondence is a betrayal of Kafka and Milena. These were personal letters written by a man to a married woman he obviously respected, admired, and loved. They start off professional, but over time become more private, personal, and heart wrenching, and such correspondence is not meant for public consumption. But, part of me appreciates the peek behind the curtain, into the heart and soul of another human being, his thoughts, desires, and fears. I almost want to give The Metamorphosis another chance, and for this collection of letters to create feelings like that, is nothing short of miraculous.

TL;DR: Do yourself a favor, and grab a copy of these letters. Give yourself time and space to absorb Kafka’s writing. Visit with his ghost, and that of Milena. Be prepared to reach the end feeling a little melancholy. Yes. It’s that good.

~ by Rachel on October 9, 2018.

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