Writing in The New Republic in 1941, W. H. Auden expressed his regret that The Great Wall of China, “which contains, in my opinion, Kafka’s finest work and is certainly the best introduction to him, has yet to appear here [in America].”

The English version of Beim Bau der Chinesischen Mauer, which was published in German almost a decade after Kafka’s untimely death in 1924 as collected and edited by Hans-Joachim Schoep and Kafka’s friend Max Brod, did not arrive in the immigration line in New York Harbor, as Karl Rossmann does at the beginning of Kafka’s (misnamed) novel Amerika, until 1946, when it did so in the translation of Willa and Edwin Muir.

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