Mann’s and Kafka’s lives and work stand at opposite poles of modern German biography and literature. Mann was a patrician North German Protestant, Kafka a middle-class Czech Jew. Mann was a high school graduate and professional writer, Kafka a doctor of law and high-ranking civil servant. Mann had a wealthy wife and six children, Kafka was a bachelor with no issue. Mann lived in America for fourteen years, Kafka wrote an imaginary account of the country. Mann, an ironic realist, was an internationally revered novelist who won the Nobel Prize and died at the age of eighty. Kafka, an expressionistic modernist, published very little in his lifetime and was not well known when he died at the age of forty.

Both novelists keenly appreciated each other’s work. Kafka, who admired Mann as the greatest contemporary German writer, praised “Tonio Kröger” in a letter...

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