The following blog post is dedicated to two authors, who became more famous after they died.
(July 3rd 1883 – June 3rd 1924)
Notable works: The Trial, The Castle, Amerika, Contemplation, The Metamorphosis
Franz Kafka is today regarded as one of the greatest European writers of the 20th Century. Born in Prague in what was then The Austro-Hungarian Empire, Kafka did not find fame during his lifetime and what little of his writing was published received only scant attention from the public. Kafka, though always committed to his writing, spent his days working in a variety of roles in the insurance sector and later, managing a family-owned asbestos factory.
The author, who had suffered bad health for many years met his demise when a bout of laryngeal tuberculosis left him being unable to eat because of the pain, resulting in Kafka starving to death in Vienna in 1924.
Posthumous fame came quickly for the German language author when the first of his three novels, The Trial, was published a year after his death in 1925. The following year, The Castle was published and the third of Kafka’s novels, Amerika, followed in 1927. The author’s reputation has only increased over time and his insights into the human condition are viewed by many as being amongst the most poignant of any writer.
(October 27th 1932 – February 11th 1963)
Notable works: The Bell Jar, Ariel, The Collected Poems
The Boston born American writer studied at Cambridge University and later wed British poet Ted Hughes. Sylvia Plath was well regarded as a poet during her short-life, examples of her early success included winning The Glascock Prize for poetry in 1955. In 1960 Plath’s first book of poems, The Colossus, was published.
Plath, who had a history of depression, committed suicide in 1963 by poisoning herself with carbon monoxide, in her own kitchen. Much controversy surrounded her death, with some claiming that Plath had not meant to kill herself, whilst others, particularly feminists blamed Hughes, Plath’s husband, claiming that he had been abusive.
Death did nothing to stop the writer’s growing popularity and respect from the literary establishment. Her semi-autobiographical novel The Bell Jar, published a month before her death in the UK, was published in the US in 1971 and went on to achieve critical acclaim. In 1982 Plath won the coveted Pulitzer Prize posthumously for The Collected Poems and then in 1985 her letters, titled Letters Home: Correspondence 1950 -1963 were published.
There is no doubt that Sylvia Plath’s premature death brought her much attention and was a major factor in her becoming something of a martyr to the feminist movement. However her lasting legacy is that today she is regarded as one America’s greatest ever female writers.
Click here to read Posthumously Famous Authors part 1.