Szilárd Borbély

Kafka’s Son - Prose

With an afterword by Heike Flemming and Laszlo Kornitzer
(German title: Kafkas Sohn)
ca. 200 pages
Szilárd Borbély
Foto: Szilárd Borbély
© Lenke Szilágyi

Szilard Borbély was born in 1964 in Fehérgyarmat, the most northeastern corner of Hungary. He made his lyrical debut in 1988 and published roughly a dozen volumes of poetry and prose. Borbély was a university professor in Debrecen and translated numerous poems, including works by Monika Rinck, Robert Gernhardt and Durs Grünbein, from German and English. His debut novel The Dispossessed established him as one of the most important authors of contemporary Hungarian literature. Borbély committed suicide in February 2014.

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Szilárd Borbély, whose debut novel »The Dispossesed« was a literary sensation in Hungary, Germany and many other countries, wanted to dedicate his next major work to Franz Kafka. This collection of fragmentary texts (which come from his estate and were intended for publication) draws its intensity from the author’s passionate search for self and voice.

Kafka’s Son is a young Hungarian writer who learns to find his home within the world of writing. He calls language a cemetery that incorporates the dead; he wants to write stories that »obliterate the traces I myself could leave between the words«. Kafka as brother, projection, teacher, storyteller, a human being full of illness, doubt and unhappy love.

Borbély takes Kafka’s »Letter to My Father« as a means of coming to terms with his own relationship to his father. Despite its fragmentary, tentative and open-ended nature, his approach is powerful and captivating. The texts, here and there formally inspired by Jewish history and legends and in certain passages reminiscent of Kertész’s Galley Diary, function as both confession and legacy in one.

An essay on the meaning of Kafka in contemporary Hungarian literature in general and within Szilárd Borbély’s work in particular supplements the volume.


»… beautiful, extremely interesting, breathtakingly sad.« Judith von Sternburg, Frankfurter Rundschau

»Borbély has found an artistically detached language, highly poetic in its severity, in order to stave off the lapse into silence.« Nicole Henneberg, FAZ

»Kafka's Son displays Szilárd Borbély as a master of linguistic compression and keen observer, seeking a way out of forsakenness through writing.« Ilma Rakusa, NEUE ZÜRCHER ZEITUNG

Other publications

Die Mittellosen/The Dispossessed (2014)

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