This Critically Acclaimed Show About Franz Kafka Is Coming to U.S. Audiences – Kveller
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This Critically Acclaimed Show About Franz Kafka Is Coming to U.S. Audiences

The miniseries about one of the most celebrated writers of the 20th century pays tribute to his Jewish roots and loves.


via ORF/Superfilm/Nicole Albiez

On June 6, the streaming platform ChaiFlicks will premiere “Kafka,” a six-episode mini series that takes us into the worlds — external and internal — of iconic Jewish Bohemian author Franz Kafka. Swiss actor Joel Basman (“The Awakening of Motti Wolkenbruch”) plays the author of books like “The Castle” and “The Trial,” the son of a middle-class German-speaking Jewish family who spent most of his life in Prague.

Each of the show’s six episodes focuses on one aspect of the author’s life.

One is dedicated to his friendship with Max Brod, played in the show by “The Reader” and “War Horse” star David Kross (not to be mistaken for American Jewish comedian David Cross). Brod was an author himself, and he was Kafka’s closest writing confidante, someone who saw and believed in his skill, and perhaps, most importantly, was his literary executor. In 1939, almost a decade and a half after Kafka’s death and as the Nazis occupied Prague, Brod left the city for Palestine with a suitcase full of Kafka’s writings.

One episode is dedicated to Kafka’s Jewish family, especially his relationship with his domineering father, Hermann Kafka, as well as his relationship with Zionism and his close friendship with Yiddish theater actor Yizhak Löwy. It delves into how a confrontation between Löwy and his father inspired Kafka’s most famous story, “The Metamorphosis.”

Another focuses on his day job as a lawyer in an insurance firm — a role that he excelled at, hated and also buoyed him through much of his writing career and saved him from having to serve in World War I.

Three episodes are dedicated to the three women who marked his life the most — Felice Bauer, Brod’s cousin, played by Lia von Blarer, to whom Kafka was engaged despite having spent little time with, a woman to whom he wrote many letters which are collected in the tome “Letters to Felice.” Bauer and Kafka broke off their engagement twice. In 1936, she settled in America with he husband and children. Her great-grandson is musician Adam Green of The Moldy Peaches.

There’s author Milena Jesenská, with whom Kafka had an affair that started when she asked to translate one of his stories from German to Czech. Jesenská was married to Jewish intellectual Ernst Pollak at the time, and would not leave her husband for the author. Jesenská, who wasn’t Jewish, became part of the underground resistance as the Nazis occupied Prague, and helped Jews escape the country. She was arrested for the Gestapo for her work and died in the concentration camp Ravensbrück in 1944. She’s been named as a Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem, and is played by Liv Lisa Fries, of “Babylon Berlin” fame, in the series.

The sixth and final episode of the show is dedicated to his Kafka’s last lover, Dora Diamant, played by Tamara Romera Ginés.

Diamant grew up in an Orthodox Jewish family and met Kafka at Müritz Baltic Sea Resort, where she worked as a supervisor of a holiday camp that belonged to a Jewish social center, and where Kafka was being treated for tuberculosis, the disease which led to his untimely death at age 40 in 1924. Diamant cared for the author until his death, and the two even lived together briefly.

The show’s trailer is as eerie and discombobulating, disturbing and hypnotizing as Kafka’s work — dark and also strangely funny. We see Brod extolling his friend as perhaps the greatest author in the world, while Kafka tells Felice how terrible it is to be in his head. “What kind of Jews are you?” Kafka and his family gets asked. We get to see Gregor Samsa, the hero of “The Metamorphosis,” as a giant cockroach.

“For you, it’s a book, but for us, it’s our life,” an older Brod says in the trailer about Kafka’s work.


German-Austrian novelist Daniel Kehlmann (“You Should Have Left,” “Tyll”) co-wrote the show and David Schalko (“Braunschlag”) directed all six episodes, which are based on a biography of Kafka written by Reiner Stach. The show about one of the 20th century’s most iconic authors has been praised by some of the most seminal writers of our time. Salman Rushdie described it as “perfectly cast, stunningly acted and weaving the work into the life with extraordinary skill.” Ian McEwan called it “a drama of enormous emotional and intellectual power.”

The show will be available to stream on ChaiFlicks on June 6, during the week that marks the 100th anniversary of Kafka’s death.

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