The Glory of Life

Michael Kumpfmüller / Translated by Anthea Bell



The Glory of Life, elegantly translated by Anthea Bell, avoids of the pitfalls of kitsch and pathos. While it starts off rather slowly, it soon gathers momentum. The result is a painful, engrossing story in its own right, regardless of our prior interest in the protagonist. Its core themes – love in the face of death and the resilience of hope – are as timeless as Kafka’s own writings.’
Times Literary Supplement

The Glory of Life is a love story, and an unfashionably gentle and tender one.’
The Scotsman

‘this novel evokes the heartbreakingly brief and fragile happiness that the indecisive Kafka and his young last love created for themselves.’
Sydney Morning Herald

The Glory of Life is a story of the disintegration of a great writer who continued writing until the last days of his life, a story of love under the spectre of death, and the incredible resilience of hope.’
Washington Independent Review of Books

‘This beautifully written, meticulously researched, and sensitively translated work reveals love’s ability to carve out a small, simple paradise – a shelter from mounting chaos and respite, however temporary it might be, from the unrelenting approach of death.’
Foreward Reviews

‘Kumpfmüller sets a beautiful and overdue memorial that contrasts common depictions of Kafka as somber, lonely and Oedipal with a hitherto unprecedented lightness.’
Jewish Journal


In July 1923, Franz Kafka is convalescing by the Baltic Sea when he meets Doria Diamant and they fall in love. He is forty years old and is dying; she is twenty-five and seems to him to be the essence of life itself.

Set over the course of Kafka’s last year, The Glory of Life is the story of a fragile, tender romance. After a tentative first meeting an indecisive Kafka moves with Dora to Berlin – a city in the throes of political upheaval, rising anti-Semitism and the turmoil of Weimar-era hyper-inflation – before the tragic advance of his tuberculosis forces them to the Kierling Sanatorium near Vienna, threatening the paradise they have created.

Meticulously researched and beautifully crafted, The Glory of Life is a poignant portrait of one of the most enduring authors in world literature and an evocative rumination on the power of love and friendship.

MICHAEL KUMPFMÜLLER was born in Munich in 1961 and now lives in Berlin, working as a novelist and journalist. His novel The Adventures of a Bed Salesman was published to critical acclaim, and his 2009 novel Message to All won the Alfred Doblin Prize.

ANTHEA BELL‘s translations include W.G. Sebald’s Austerlitz, Wladyslaw Szpilman’s memoir The Pianist, E. T. A. Hoffmann’s The Life and Opinions of the Tomcat Murr, as well as a large selection of Stefan Zweig’s novellas and stories. Her prizes and awards include the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize with the author, the Helen and Kurt Wolff Prize, the Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize, and the Schlegel-Tieck Prize.

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