Franz would be with us here

  • The Times Literary Supplement
  • 28 February 2003
  • Leo A. Lensing

The Posthumous Papers of Robert Klopstock, including 38 Kafka Letters

When Kafka first described Robert Klopstock to Max Brod, in a letter of February 1, 1921, the young Hungarian fellow patient had clearly already begun to win over the older man:

I was disturbed last night, but in a pleasant way. There's a twenty-one-year-old medical student here, a Budapest Jew, very ambitious, intelligent, also highly literary; incidentally he greatly resembles Werfel in appearance, though somewhat coarser on the whole. He has a hunger for people, the way a born doctor does. Is anti-Zionist; his guides are Jesus and Dostoevski.

That Klopstock may have made a less pleasant impression in his first encounter with Kafka is the gist of an anecdote told by Ludwig Hardt, the gifted recitationist who knew them both. In a memoir, published in 1945, Hardt remembered a "Doctor K-... who after seeing Kafka daily for many weeks finally inquired if he wasn't the Franz Kafka who wrote The Country Doctor". Kafka's answer - "Auch das noch!" ("On top of everything else - this!") - sounds incongruously comic. Salman Schocken, the intrepid publisher who was instrumental in realizing Max Brod's plans for a collected edition of Kafka's works, must have thought so, too. In a letter of November 13, 1946, written from Jerusalem, he informed Klopstock that he had been shown the text of Hardt's memoir, which had come to Max Brod via Hannah Arendt. Schocken thought he remembered Klopstock telling the story with a different denouement and asked him to clear up the confusion. Notes in the archives of Schocken Books show that the otherwise reticent doctor eventually did relate his version of that first meeting. After being repeatedly told by a fellow patient what a "wonderful human being" Kafka was, Klopstock finally crossed paths with him one day while walking on a country road. Kafka spoke first, noting that he was reading the same book that Klopstock had in his hands: Kierkegaard's Fear and Trembling. Thanks to Schocken's letter, we know that Hardt, ever the irrepressible performer, may have been embroidering on what he had heard.

This is just one important clarification awaiting discovery in the posthumous papers of Robert Klopstock that the Viennese antiquarian bookseller Inlibris is offering for sale and documenting in a forthcoming catalogue entitled Kafkas letzter Freund. Der Nachlaß Robert Klopstock (1899-1972). Mit kommentierter Erstveröffentlichung von 38 teils ungedruckten Briefen Franz Kafkas (412 pp. 113 illustrations. 3-9500813-8-9. 65 euros). Edited by Hugo Wetscherek with the assistance of Martin Peche and Christopher Frey, the catalogue begins with a thoroughly annotated edition of the letters from Kafka to this "last friend" that ambitiously combines the models of both the Stroemfeld and the S. Fischer editions of Kafka's works. Line and page breaks as well as insertions, corrections, struck-through words and other orthographical details of the manuscripts are faithfully rendered. Seven of the letters reproduced in full facsimile will allow careful readers to check the team's editorial handiwork.

The offering of such a substantial cache of Kafka letters, even without the context of a Nachlaβ crucial to the writer's biography, is a minor sensation in itself. The famous, previously published correspondence with Felice Bauer, auctioned at Sotheby's in New York in 1988, was the last major collection to be sold publicly. The number of letters to Robert Klopstock is, of course, small by comparison, and not all of them are here. Max Brod's Briefe 1902-1924, the edition of selected letters first published in 1958 and translated into English as Letters to Friends, Family, and Editors in 1977, contained sixty postcards and letters as well as almost one hundred of the so-called "Gesprächsblätter", which at one time were in Klopstock's possession. Kafka made what in retrospect seems like fascinating use of these "conversation slips" to communicate after the tubercular infection in his larynx made it difficult for him to speak. Among the thirty-eight manuscripts are six unpublished letters and one unknown conversational note. Moreover, fifteen letters of the thirty-one included in Brod's edition are published here for the first time with the omitted passages and postscripts by Kafka and other parties restored. The whereabouts of the other twenty plus letters is a mystery. Only one of them, arguably the most famous, first letter which contains a meditation on the patriarch Abraham inspired by Kierkegaard's Fear and Trembling, seems to have ever come on the market. In 1989, some six years before the death of Klopstock's wife Giselle in 1995, Sotheby's in New York sold this letter at auction.

Soon, two generations of readers will have come to know the Letters to Felice and the Letters to Milena as virtual epistolary novels with plots, characters, and particularly narrators all their own. Although the new comprehensive edition of the letters is in the process of reorganizing the correspondence in chronological order without regard to the recipients of the letters, its publisher, S. Fischer, created a third themed collection not so long ago with the publication of Max Brod, Franz Kafka. Eine Freundschaft (1989), the second volume of which is devoted to the correspondence of the two friends. If, as Julian Preece recently argued in the Cambridge Companion to Kafka, Max Brod is in fact the writer's third great correspondent after Felice Bauer and Milena Jesenská, then Robert Klopstock has a strong claim to being his significant fourth. Kafka's letters to the gifted young medical student and aspiring writer may be called, somewhat more modestly, an epistolary novella. Their consolidated publication offers a last opportunity to read them within the rich literary and biographical context that the integration of the correspondence into the larger edition will necessarily obscure.

Kafka's biographers have tended to see Klopstock as the one who courted the older man. Ernst Pawel surmised that the student's demanding brand of devotion proved to be as "troublesome as a love affair". Yet Kafka's initial reports about Klopstock, in letters to Max Brod and to his sistler Ottla, reflect his own unsettling fascination with this young admirer. To Ottla, he wrote on March 16, 1921: "The unfortunate medical student. I have not yet seen so diabolical a spectacle from close up. Hard to say whether good or evil powers are operating there; in any case, they are incredibly strong. In the Middle Ages, he would have been regarded as possessed." In a letter to Brod written just a month later, he captured his young friend in a calmer moment: "in bed, in nightshirt, with tousled hair, he has a boyish face like an engraving from Hoffmann's children's stories, earnest and tense, yet also dreamy - he's actually good-looking that way". Other letters that Kafka wrote from Matliary in the Tatra mountains, where he and Klopstock and a few other patients formed a kind of literary-artistic support group, indicate that the young man's rough charm did much to draw Kafka back into social interaction and even to writing during the eight months they spent together.

The emotional balance that apparently prevailed when Kafka and Klopstock were in each other's company often teetered precariously once they began to correspond. Kafka may well have found himself reminded of his own behaviour in the relationships with Felice Bauer and Milena Jesenská. His periodic references to two or even more letters from Klopstock that have gone unanswered suggests that it was he this time who was being overwhelmed by an epistolary flood. Although he famously wrote with some equanimity to Milena Jesenská in March 1922 that letter writing was an "intercourse with ghosts", he vigorously rejected the ghostly apparition of himself that he perceived being projected in Klopstock's missives to him: "this phantom, which first appeared in your letters, was built up in your letters by your own hand, which was not present in Matlar, and which I am supposed to be, and frightens me to the point of running away, to the point of keeping silent" (letter of March 1, 1922). Earlier, the receipt of yet another "Tadelbrief" (a letter of reproof) provoked him into a sharply worded reflection that set limits on the relationship as well as the genre:

Letters can cheer me, can move me, can seem worthy of admiration, but they mattered much more to me in the past, too much for them to serve me now as a significant form of life. I have not been deceived by letters but deceived myself with letters, literally warmed myself for years in advance in the warmth that finally engendered when the whole pile of letters went into the fire.
(letter of January 1922)

It presumably took someone with Klopstock's troubled, yet robust soul to get past such a devastating judgment. Yet this is not the whole story. In a late letter, of January 1924, published for the first time in the Inlibris catalogue, Kafka dispensed with the rhetorical aggressiveness of his earlier remonstrances and simply asked for Klopstock's understanding of his epistolary reticence:

Dear Robert, I was very pleased with your letter in spite of a number of sad things that are in it because it makes your situation understandable to me and allows me to take part in your life. I cannot make my own situation as understandable, I never could; please don't hold it against me and don't let it stop you from taking part in my life. That is still possible and probably more possible than if I were to write long reports about myself, for these long reports would, in keeping with my nature, be quite inadequate.

One would be hard put to find a more reconciliatory comment on the loaded topic of "letters" anywhere in Kafka's œuvre.

In contrast to the great letter-writing tempests that swirled around Felice Bauer and Milena Jesenská, the correspondence with Robert Klopstock reveals a tolerant friend who was both solicitious and practical-minded. Many letters revolve around advice and suggestions, references and even around realistic plans for the future. On the one hand, this meant mobilizing contacts and resources to enable Klopstock to resume his medical studies in Prague. As a Jew, his chances of continuing at the university in Budapest, where the imposition of a quota system had been encouraged by the anti-Semitic, nationalistic Horthy regime, were practically nil. On the other hand, Kafka took an active role in helping Klopstock secure information about his older brother Hugo, an engineer who had been detained in Russia after the First World War and taken up work in a Soviet factory. Oddly, Brod omitted all of the passages in Kafka's letters to Klopstock as well as those to himself. Why he would do this is puzzling, since the brother might well have expected to count on Brod's sympathy. He had, as Kafka wrote to Brod in April 1921, become a Zionist in Russia.

The restored passages and one previously unpublished short letter indicate that Klopstock sent Kafka his brother's letters to read and even a photograph of him. In the letter, Kafka reacted to the latter tentatively:

Thanks for the picture. I cannot see essentials in photographs, however. He looks a little like you and probably a lot like your mother. But he seems astonishingly calm, manly, cool, observant; he also looks rather good for Moscow conditions, and elegant enough, a very trustworthy bridegroom.

The marriage motif, which always interested Kafka, is also present in a passage left out of the preceding letter: "I'm enclosing your brother's letter. A little strange, isn't it? As though he were keeping silent about something, perhaps really a marriage or something else. His reasons for staying there actually are not reasons."

Any attentive reader of Kafka will recognize with some permutations - a fraternal friend in Russia, a marriage kept secret, misleading letters - the narrative outlines of The Judgement, a resemblance underlined by the appearance of the word itself (Urteil) four times in the first paragraph of the letter. This does not, of course, explain Brod's omission of the passage, but it does show how fascinating such once missing material can be.

The elimination of the substantial postscripts to four late letters written by Dora Diamant, the young Jewish woman from Poland who was Kafka's last companion, to four late letters constitutes a more unambiguous distortion. These extraordinarily evocative texts are of considerable biographical importance, especially since her diaries and Kafka's letters to her were confiscated by the Gestapo and presumably destroyed. The postscripts, which are sometimes longer than the laconic lines of Kafka they follow, convey a strong sense of the difficult, rapidly changing situations in which they found themselves in the last weeks of his life.

Dora's report following Kafka's letter of April 10, 1924, for example, predicts the horrifying experience he was about to undergo in the Vienna clinic of Professor Markus Hayek in sparse but chilling detail:

Robert help whatever can be helped! The medical doctors are at the end of their powers. Absolutely given up. Despair made me think of homeopathic medicine or some similar healing methods. Nothing more to lose. Am alone in Vienna, no one but myself to depend on (money I have.) The clinic Franz is getting into is terrible. It will hasten his end. He's lying between two horribly suffering people (also larynx with tubes) in a cell. Bed to bed. He cannot eat, cannot speak. Robert help! Advise what to start doing. Answer in a sealed envelope to the address above, under my name.

The choice of "cell", instead of "Krankenzimmer" (hospital room or sick room), for example, or even the incorrect dative in the sentence mentioning the clinic - "Die Klinik in der Franz kommt" suggests strongly "Die Klinik in der Franz umkommt" ("the clinic in which Franz dies") - amplify the already strong effects of this description.

Equally impressive is the more cheerful message appended to a postcard written just a week lager:

Robert you dear good person. Just received your telegram. Franz is doing a little better. If I just had hopes that things could get better. When I look at him. Into this happy lively laughing face, then I believe again in everything that is good. These eyes bursting with life and gaiety can promise only Creation and life. At such a moment I don't believe a word the doctors say I would not be against your coming but perhaps not right away. Wait just a little while In the meantime get Franz used to the idea

Even the incomplete or eccentric punctuation, which is incidentally not unlike Kafka's famous disregard for commas, adds to the liveliness of this simple prose. The manuscripts of these cards, one of which will be included in the catalogue as a laid-in facsimile, also show Kafka's and Dora's handwriting growing more and more alike, an effect to which the author himself attached great importance.

Not surprisingly, Kafka's own postscripts shine with meaning in a way denied to mere mortal correspondents. To an unpublished letter of November 1921, Kafka appended a message for a Dr Glauber, a member of the coterie of patients in Matliary to which he and Klopstock also belonged:

Dear Glauber, many greetings. Still in Matlar? And the plans for Poprad? And love? (whose feet I still have in my briefcase) And your health? Still the half-eaten apple? Half-eaten up with love or disease? After all, everything is relative; what a terrible disease love would be, for example, if it weren't such a common occurrence.

This seemingly dashed-off, informal greeting is in fact a deviously charming text. Even the assonance of the Slovakian place names seems calculated. Poprád, which was founded by German Saxons in the twelfth century, was also called Deutschendorf, after all. The initially witty inquiry into the young dentist's love life - the "feet" in the briefcase presumably belong to a love poem (Versfüße) - proceeds via the colorfully concrete allusion to Adam's transgression to a polished, printable aphorism. Throughout this fundamental questioning of lovesickness, which is emphasized further by the repeated interrogatives, resonates the knowledge of their common tuberculosis. Glauber, who is mentioned a number of times in the letters, died in 1923 almost a year earlier than Kafka.

As these examples show, Kafka's letters to Klopstock incorporate other voices and address other correspondents in ways that make them quite different from the focused, self-absorbed, sometimes monomaniacal missives to Felice Bauer and Milena Jesenská. This polyphonic content is also mirrored in the orthographical montage that characterizes some of the most interesting exemplars.

In a letter of mid-November 1923, Kafka responded to Klopstock's request for help with the translation of a prose sketch by the Hungarian writer Frigyes Karinthy (1887-1938) with various corrections and suggestions for a stronger title. The story features a first-person narrator who expresses his growing alienation from a friend by describing how the latter has literally lost his head, which sounds more Kafkaesque than Kafka or perhaps more like the surreal drawings of Kafka's acquaintance, the artist Alfred Kubin. Instead of the more elaborate, unnamed title in Klopstock's draft, Kafka suggests either "Ohne Kopf" or "Kopflos". The translation appeared in the Prague daily Bohemia with the former title and with other corrections and revisions that Kafka suggested. The manuscript of the letter also reveals that Kafka wrote it on a piece of paper that Klopstock had used for notes and queries. In another unusual postscript, Kafka switches from ink to pencil with which he writes the title of a contemporary Hebrew novel in Hebrew letters and glosses its two nouns. Brod's edition of the letters not only omits Klopstock's notes, it also renders the Hebrew words in transliterated form so that this distinctive feature is missing from the printed text. The omission of Klopstock's notes is particularly unfortunate, since they include a rare statement reflecting his views on style and language: "To me at least, it seems frivolous to make such useless puns merely because they present themselves - without an organic reason". This remark about the responsible use of wordplay calls to mind Karl Kraus, who is in fact the focus of the middle paragraph of the letter. Kafka thanks Klopstock for sending him a book by Kraus and adds that he has been reading little else and then only Hebrew, only to add in an afterthought Selbstwehr (Self-Defense), the Prague Zionist weekly.


These unlikely conjunctions - Kafka and Kraus, Karinthy and Kraus, Kraus and Hebrew - have not aroused much interest among Kafka scholars, perhaps because it has been more convenient to ignore the young medical student's literary interests and to see him primarily in the role of selfless care-giver. Yet the letters to Klopstock, particularly as published in their unabridged, annotated form in Kafkas letzter Freund, are a welcome reminder of his literary ambitions and his excellent connections to Hungarian literary circles. Karinthy, a major figure of the Nyugat movement central to Hungarian Modernism, was a writer primarily of parodies as well as humorous and satirical short prose that displays many parallels to the work of Karl Kraus. The late János Szábo devoted an entire monograph to comparing the two writers as satirical chroniclers of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Klopstock's plans to place his own Kafka translations in Nyugat itself is another indicator of his literary ambition. Nyugat (the title means "West") was founded in 1908 and in the 1920s still brought together in its pages the best writing of the divergent strands of modern Hungarian literature as well as important voices from Western Europe and beyond. In 1923 and 1924, for example, there were contributions by and about Thomas Mann, Abel Gance and Eugene O'Neill.

The letter of mid-November 1923 is one of four to Klopstock in which Kraus is mentioned, all of which are among the letters published in the Inlibris catalogue. In two instances, Kafka is either asking Klopstock to send the next issue of Kraus's satirical journal Die Fackel (The Torch), or thanking him for having done so. Scholars and commentators have duly noted this evidence of a sustained interest in Die Fackel but made very little of it, though Kafka's formulations cry out for interpretation. In the letter of June 30, 1922, for example, he asks Klopstock to send him the new issue of the journal after he has read it himself and adds: "diese süsse Speise aller guten und bösen Triebe will ich mir nicht versagen" ("I do not want to deny myself this sweet dessert of all good and evil instincts"). This image associates the Fackel with the forbidden fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil in Gen. 2-3 and suggests Kafka's voracious, not to say addictive appetite for it. The manuscript of this letter shows that Kafka's pen briefly got away from him, for he first wrote "guten bösen" and only afterwards inserted the conjunction that lessens the ambivalence he must have felt, but strengthens the biblical allusion.

This motif of passionate, even licentious reading reappears in the letter of February 29, 1924 in which Kafka thanks Klopstock for "Die Fackel, mit der ich die Ihnen schon bekannten entnervenden Orgien abendelang getrieben habe" ("Die Fackel, with which I indulged evening after evening in those enervating orgies of which you know"). This is just exaggerated enough to suggest an intertextual connection, and indeed Kafka's "orgies" of reading seem to allude to an aphorism from Kraus's Dicta and Contradictions (Sprüche und Widersprüche): "What are all the orgies of Bacchus compared to the intoxication of the man who abandons himself to unbridled abstinence." Abstinence as a form of intoxicating excess: this was the kind of paradoxical idea that Kafka thrived on, and it is easy to imagine him appreciating Kraus's witty, philosophical transformation of the classical allusion.

To what extent had Klopstock himself been willing to participate in Kafka's "orgies" of reading? Orgiastically or not, he and Kafka must have read and discussed the Fackel during the first half of 1921 when they were together at the sanatorium in Matliary. Kafka's first letter to Klopstock, written in June of that year, alludes subtly but unmistakably to Kraus's vituperative judgement on a literary work of great interest to him. Franz Werfel's first major Expressionist drama, Mirror Man. Magical Trilogy (1920), had impressed Kafka on first reading; but, as he explained in a letter to Milena Jesenská, he was bothered by "an sicklied-over part" of the play. This was doubtless the notorious "Solo" featuring a long monologue by the Mirror Man, who is clearly intended as a caricature of Karl Kraus. Even the Fackel itself is subjected to ineffectual ridicule when the Mirror Man decided to found a journal and considers calling it "The Lamp" or "The Candle Stub" before finally settling on "The Torch".

Kraus launched an initial attack on Werfel's play in the March 1921 issue of the Fackel, where he ostentatiously lumps Werfel together with the "Prague hack writers" and the "Expressionists" who "polemicize against me in 'magical trilogies'". In his letter to Klopstock of June 1921, which ruminates on the discrepancies between the Abraham of the Bible and the lesser patriarchs of the present, Kafka also refers to those Abrahams who hide "their faces in magical trilogies so as not to have to lift their eyes and see the mountain that stands in the distance". The unapologetic directness of this reference suggests that Kafka assumes Klopstock's concurrence in the dismissive irony implied by the plural form taken over from the Fackel. Several months later in November when he asks Klopstock whether he has been reading the serialization of Werfel's new play Goat Song in the Prager Presse, he is obviously less certain about the young man's position. And in fact Klopstock apparently avoided a response altogether; in January 1922 Kafka remarks: "You didn't say anything about Goat Song".

Kafka himself seems to have said nothing to Klopstock about Werfel's next play, Schweiger, to which he had reacted with barely suppressed fury. He was blunt enough when he reluctantly met with Werfel to talk about it, but in a notorious, apparently never posted letter, he accused his friend of betraying their entire generation. To Max Brod he wrote in December 1922 about the play's devastating effect on himself: "Had I felt only an ordinary dislike for the play, I could somehow get around it. But the play means a great deal to me; it disturbs me, affects me horribly on the most horrible level . . . . What was I to say to Werfel, whom I admire, whom I even admire in this play, although in this case only for his having the strength to wade through these three acts of mud?"

Several items in Klopstock's estate, which testify to the cordial relations that developed with Werfel in the years after Kafka's death, may also indicate an earlier difference of opinion. There is, first of all, the now famous letter of 1934 in which Werfel, responding to one of Klopstock's perhaps occasioned by the tenth anniversary of Kafka's death, praises the dead writer in quasi-religious terms. There is also a pair of presentation copies and a signed portrait photograph in an elegant frame with passepartout.

Given these material signs of a friendship based on a shared veneration for Kafka, it is not surprising that Max Brod, presumably with Klopstock's approval, omitted the following "conversation slip" from his edition of the letters:

Lesen Sie auch die Episode aus Werfels Roman. Es geht mir wieder so nah wie Schweiger, ich kann darüber nichts sagen.


Ihrem Kousin hat Dora telephoniert, er hat das Geld bekommen und wird Ihnen schreiben. Er hätte eine sehr angenehme Stimme, hat Dora vermerkt


(You should also read the episode from Werfel's novel. It disturbs me the way his Schweiger did, I can say nothing about it.


Dora telephoned your cousin, he has received the money and will write you. He has a very pleasant voice, Dora noted.)

Leaving aside what is perhaps the side effect of a further suppression of all references to Robert Klopstock's family, the publication of the first part of this note presents Kafka's biographers with a new challenge. Despite the record of Kafka's growing dissatisfaction with Werfel's plays in the years 1920-1922, the consensus has been that Kafka's attitude towards the once admired colleague had softened again. The fact of Kafka's having read or read in Werfel's Verdi: Novel of the Opera was bathed in the twilight glow of his last days. Not only the very cordial dedication in Kafka's copy of the novel - "Franz Kafka, to the deeply admired poet and friend with a thousand wishes for a quick recovery / Werfel" - gave this impression. Kafka's last letters to Max Brod written towards the end of April 1924 also reinforce this harmonious picture. Having written on April 2 that he was looking forward to the novel, because he "was frightfully hungry for a suitable book", Kafka adds a week later that he is reading it "with infinite slowness but regularly" and adds that "playing with books and magazines makes me happy". This image of a kind of Biedermeier tranquillity comes at the very end of Max Brod's edition of the letters, followed only by one final letter to Brod and the "Conversation Slips".

Kafka's new note about reading Werfel's Verdi clearly violated what Salman Schocken, in one of a number of letters to Klopstock that have survived in his Nachlaß, called the "overall composition of the volume". Here Kafka no longer appears as a happily playing reader, but rather as a disturbed one, a reader who is also disappointed in Werfel's failure to take seriously his role as a leading author of German-Jewish literature. The echo of the disturbing effect of Schweiger in the note about reading Verdi -the verb "nahegehen" is used in an almost identical formulation - suggests the depths of Kafka's pained disappointment. His injunction to Klopstock to read a specific episode in the novel is, however, further testimony to the alternative his young friend represented. With him, neither disappointment over Werfel, a would-be great of German-Jewish literature, nor cautious admiration for his truly great adversary Karl Kraus needed to remain taboo.

It seems that in retrospect Klopstock began to simplify the complex role he had played in Kafka's life. "Kafka died in Dr. Klopstock's arms" is how the New York Times, in an obituary that appeared on June 16, 1972, summed up the relationship between the most famous writer of the twentieth century and the young medical student whom he had befriended. As it turns out, Klopstock was probably the author of the phrase himself because it appears almost identically in Klaus Mann's diary in 1937: "Visit from Dr. Klopstock (in whose arms Kafka died)". Max Brod's biography that appeared in the same year describes Klopstock's actions more prosaically: Kafka's "last words were for his sister Elly. Klopstock held his head". As Brod goes on to report, Kafka died after Klopstock stepped away from his bed to clean a syringe. Klopstock's gentle mythmaking about this moment of helplessness must have been one of the motivations of his subsequent life and career. His determination to become a physician who could have made that moment turn out differently was certainly another. In a conversation with the Kafka scholar Angel Flores in New York in the early 1940s he admitted as much: "On another occasion he confessed to me: 'If I had known then what I know now, Franz would be talking with us here.'"

Besides the thirty-eight letters from Kafka, the Klopstock papers contain a rich trove of 426 items that should help to explain these motivations. Thanks to the careful researches of Christopher Frey, who catalogued the estate and wrote the biographical sketch of Klopstock and his wife Giselle in Kafkas letzter Freund, many of these documents have already begun to speak. All the evidence suggests that Robert Klopstock was or became an intensely private person. There are no diaries and next to no personal correspondence. Although his early literary efforts are only sparsely represented, the eighty-plus offprints of scientific publications related to his specialty, thoracic surgery, give the impression of comprehensiveness. Certificates, diplomas and transcripts are present in abundance. Among the letters of recommendation that helped to smooth Klopstock's way into the medical profession in the United States are those of Thomas Mann and Albert Einstein. In one of these Mann seems to have rewritten literary history for the good of the cause: "I first met Dr. Klopstock through the gifted young German writer Franz Kafka, for whom Dr. Klopstock did so much professionally and spiritually before he died."

By the early 1940s, as Mann's diaries reveal, the relationship had changed its focus. There is barely concealed irritation as "lung surgery" is tersely noted as the topic of lunches, teas and letters beween New York and Princeton. Even for the author of The Magic Mountain this must have been too much of a good thing. Whatever time Klopstock had left for literature seems to have been shared almost exclusively with his wife Giselle, whose own papers are full of unpublished manuscripts, including a novel. That its setting in a tuberculosis clinic did not dissuade Mann from recommending it to his American publisher suggests the discoveries still to be made in this extraordinary collection.