Pulitzer Prize winner Saul Friedlander’s new biography of Franz Kafka, The Poet of Shame and Guilt, explores the iconic writer and noted sex fiend‘s personal life, which apparently included a fair amount of homosexual longing.
Though known as a “serial womanizer,” Friedlander contends that Kafka was more sexually ambiguous than we give him credit for. To wit, at age 19 he posed as the “patron saint of gays” St. Sebastian — in all his nude, arrow-bestrewn beauty.
According to a review of Friedlander’s book by Open Letters Monthly, The Poet of Shame and Guilt reveals a “Kafka who was sexually attracted to men as well as (or far more so than) women.” He seemed particularly smitten by pouty-lipped Prague writer Franz Werfel:
“Today in the coffee-house with Werfel,” Kafka wrote in April 1914. “How he looked from the distance, seated at the coffee table. Stooped, half reclining even in the wooden chair, the beautiful profile of his face pressed against his chest … His dangling glasses make it easier to trace the delicate outlines of his face.”
Friedlander claims that “it is highly improbable that Kafka ever considered the possibility of homosexual relations,” but Franz at least thought about considering it:
Later again, in mid-November 1917, Kafka wrote to Brod about a dream, the ambiguity of which he himself commented on: “If I go on to say that in a recent dream I gave Werfel a kiss, I stumble right into the middle of Bluher’s book. But more of that later. The book upset me [es hat mich aufgeregt, “the book excited me”]; I had to put it aside for two days …” Bluher, a leading figure in the German youth movement, wrote about male erotic bonding in his 1917 work The Role of Eroticism in Male Society.
Funny story, in the original draft of The Metamorphosis, Gregor Samsa wakes to find himself turned into a homosexual, but Kafka didn’t think it was believable. That and other phallic fallacies can be found in Queerty’s Unauthorized Gay Histories.