WHEN I WAS contemplating a book about Nora Joyce, the chambermaid who became the wife of James Joyce, the late Richard Ellmann, Joyce's biographer, warned me off. 'I really am not too keen', he wrote, 'on book-length studies of people who are clearly not of great importance in themselves, but only as an adjunct to others, whether male or female.'
So why write biographies of adjuncts? Perhaps because every life is interesting; Joyce maintained that he had never met a boring person. Perhaps because even unimportant spouses and partners throw light on a famous person and his or her work. Or simply because - two compelling reasons - the biographer is obsessed with the subject and new information has come to light. Kathi Diamant, the author of Kafka's Last Love, is director of the Kafka Project at San Diego State University. Although she shares her subject's surname, she is no relation; yet she has conducted a fifteen-year personal quest for traces of the life of Dora Diamant, a young Polish-Jewish CmigrCe to Berlin who met Kafka in 1923 when she was cleaning fish in a kitchen at a resort on the Baltic Sea.
Dora fell in love with the forty-year-old tubercular Czech-Jewish