Corngold and Wagner frame Kafka’s writings as cultural events, each work reflecting the economic and cultural discourses of his epoch. In pursuing Kafka’s avowed interest in the theory and practice of insurance, the authors view the two systems of his literary worlds—the official and the personal—as a “bundling” together of the various cultural accidents of Kafka’s time. The work of two of the leading scholars of the single most influential writer of literary modernity, Franz Kafka: The Ghosts in the Machine constitutes a breathtakingly original advance in the study of both the more famous and less well-known works of this enigmatic master.
"Every page of this work is filled with surprising, even startling, new insights into Kafka's life and work—and the tense relation between the two. What could once be said of Deleuze and Guattari's Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature can now be said of Corngold and Wagner's The Ghosts in the Machine: here is where a joyful reading of Kafka begins in earnest." —Peter Fenves, author of The Messianic Reduction
"An astonishing achievement in Kafka studies. Combining dazzling imaginative flights and hermeneutic rigor, the authors trace the complex connections between Kafka's workplace documents and his fiction and thereby reveal an unexpected basis for many of its cultural allusions and literary intricacies. In addition to shedding new light on Kafka, the authors' approach to the linking of text and context, life and work, the quotidian and the extraordinary marks a revolutionary departure from traditional cultural studies, one in which the literary dimension is not obfuscated but superbly enhanced." —Vivian Liska, author of When Kafka Says We
"This engagingly written book, the product of fertile exchanges between two eminent Kafka scholars, sheds new light not only on Kafka's introspective probings but also on his subtle allusions to the once vibrant world of German-Jewish Prague." —Mark Harman, translator of The Castle and Amerika: The Missing Person
"Franz Kafka: The Ghosts in the Machine is the first sustained attempt to interpret Kafka's literary oeuvre through the prism of his day job. Placing the stories and novels into this context represents a change of direction from almost all interpretive work done on Kafka since his death. Much more than a report on Kafka's university studies or legal writings, the book aspires to give a synoptic view of the sociological, political, and legal epistemes that move through Kafka's fiction. Also remarkable are the immense erudition of both its authors, the experimental style, and the darling alignment of Kafka with a number of previously invisible intellectual precursors." —Paul North, author of The Problem of Distraction