John Gray

‘The God That Failed’

Politics and the Novel During the Cold War


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Kafka died in 1924, twenty years before the start of the Cold War, but he understood the absurdities of life under totalitarian rule better than many of the protagonists in the conflict. The accuracy of Kafka’s insight was admitted even by the Marxist literary critic Georg Lukács, an abject Stalinist who denigrated the Czech writer for deviating from the tenets of ‘progressive humanism’. Appointed Minister of Culture in Imre Nagy’s government during the Hungarian Revolution, Lukács was arrested by the Soviets and transported to a castle in Romania, where he and the other prisoners lived at times as visiting dignitaries and at others as criminals. After some days of this treatment, David Caute tells us, Lukács commented, ‘So Kafka was a realist after all!’

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