This Day in Jewish History / August 13

On this day in 1912, Franz Kafka met his muse, Felice Bauer.

On this day in 1912, the writer Franz Kafka met Felice Bauer at the Prague home of Max Brod, Kafka's friend and Bauer's relative. Although his initial impression of her was not positive (He wrote in his diary that she had “a bony, empty face that wore its emptiness openly … almost broken nose … unattractive hair”), the two quickly began exchanging letters and less than a year later, became engaged for the first of two times. Their relationship was intense but took place mainly through the mail. Kafka (1883-1924) broke off the relationship for good in 1917 after he contracted tuberculosis – something that didn’t stop him from going on to have other romantic relationships, most notably with Milena Jesenska.

But it is clear that Felice Bauer served as an important muse for Kafka. It was during their relationship that he began his serious writing, including “The Metamorphosis,” “The Judgment” and the beginnings of “The Trial. Kafka also wrote some 500 letters to Bauer, in which he talked about his work and confessed his insecurities.

Long after Kafka’s death, Bauer sold the letters to the publisher Salman Schocken (the late owner of this newspaper) who released many of them in a volume called “Letters to Felice.” Bauer married a banker, with whom she moved to the United States in 1936. She died in Rye, New York, in 1960.