Willy Haas: Exiled in India

by Dr. Pragya Suman

I reread the book “Kafka’s letters to Milena” edited by Willy Haas. This book is a collection of letters Franz Kafka wrote to his lover Milena. Reading the whole book at one stretch is difficult for me. I like fragmented reading. Truth in the whole teaches us to renounce the world, and the flexible fact that sips among fragments, makes our detour a fragmented fun on this planet. Franz Kafka’s letters to Milena are widely known worldwide, but it is strange that the person behind it is still obscure. Willy Hass was born in Prague( 1891–1973). His father was a lawyer in Prague. Willy, Kafka, and Max Brod were school friends and confided in each other. Haas took admission to Law college, but soon he got bored of the law profession. He served as an officer in world war 1, and after it, he arrived in Berlin. He changed his career and began writing critical essays, film manuscripts, and reviews. He edited a weekly literary journal. After it, the escaping phase of Hass started. Nazis seized the power of Germany in 1938. Haas then returned to Prague, and he became news editor. But destiny had written another story for him. The Nazis invaded  Czechoslovakia in 1939. Haas then left Prague and came to India. He searched for work in the Bombay Film Industry and was soon established as a film writer. He was an admirer of Hindu mythology and mysticism. Haas remained in India for eight years, in 1948 he went to Hamburg and settled as a literary and drama critic.

Milena gave him Kafka’s letters in the spring of 1939, shortly after Nazis invaded the Prague. Willy Haas kept letters as coveted Jewell and compiled them. Soon, the world got acquainted with the epistolary merit of Franz Kafka. Kafka published only seven works during his life and gave the unpublished work to his chum Max Brod. He left directions for Max that his works should be destroyed. Max Brod forbade to follow the instructions. Franz Kafka carved his whole life for death. After death, he was resurrected due to Max and became immortal. Willy Haas did the same thing, but strangely he is not as famous as Max Brod. Kafka’s both school friends are responsible for his Immortality.

In his autobiography Willy Haas has scripted recollections about India. He saw an Indian film in Venice in 1937 and wondered if he could ever work as a scriptwriter in the Indian film Industry. In childhood, he had read Rudyard Kipling’s Kim, and India became a dreamland for him. Though he reached India in his fifties, the world was in turmoil. He could have lived in India, and he felt the need to live in a German-speaking environment. He says, “ I was already over 50–much too late to put down roots anywhere.”

In the editor’s note, Willy Haas reveals a peculiar quality of Kaka. He says,” Kafka was jealous of female friends of Milena, not her men friends.”

About the Author:

Dr. Pragya Suman is a doctor by profession and an award-winning author from  India. She won the Gideon poetry award for the poetry in her debut book Lost Mother and her second prose poetry book was published recently by Ukiyoto Publishing, Canada.

Dr. Pragya Suman is Editor in Chief, Arc Magazine, India.

Comments are closed.