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Leonardo Petersen Lamha (Universidade Federal Fluminense)

Leonardo Petersen Lamha

Leonardo Petersen Lamha

Fellow in Research Area 2: "Travelling Matters"

April – September 2024

The Wish to Become a Sign: Meta-Epistolarity, Postal Literature and Translation in Kafka’s Letters to Milena

Lamha’s project explores the letter as object and letter-writing as practice in Kafka’s Letters to Milena, regarding both through the lens of media and translation in order to question the relationship between the letter as form, the letter as media and our 21st century connected mediascape. An intense meta-epistolarity pervades Kafka’s correspondence with Milena via discussions, images and representations of the letter and letter-writing as both enabling and hindering communication. Moreover, the letter was not a mere support for Kafka’s messages, but a material object present in form and content in singular ways, bearing complex relationships with the figure of the messengers in Kafka’s fiction. Seen against a historical-medial background, Kafka’s messengers can thus shed light on the literary and mediatic strategies employed by Kafka in his love letters. Kafka’s Letters to Milena’s narrative arc begins with the letter as a smooth form of communication and ends with it being attacked as an obstacle to love and communication and conceptualised as part of media history. Investigating such an arc with the aid of historical research on the uses and meanings of the letter at the beginning of the 20th century, Lamha aims to show how Kafka created fictions and fabulations – an entire Postal Literature – out of the medial and material aspects of the letter to deal with the problems posed by the materiality of the letter and the question of distance and desire. The project also encompasses a significative sample translation of the letters to Milena, for the first time translated into Brazilian Portuguese from the German original.

Leonardo Petersen Lamha is a PhD candidate in comparative literature and a translator. He studied communication studies and holds a master’s degree in literary studies, with a thesis entitled "Addiction, distance and media in Kafka’s Letters to Milena". He has published papers on Kafka, German media theory, Friedrich Kittler and Brazilian literature as well as literary essays and criticism in the Brazilian media. As a translator into Portuguese, his publications include Harold Innis’ Empire and Communications and he has translated into English essays by poets of the Brazilian concretism movement, such as Haroldo and Augusto de Campos, both forthcoming. He has been awarded a DAAD Winter Course Scholarship at Leipzig University (2022) and an Erasmus+ Scholarship for doctoral research at the University of Vienna (2023-24). Currently, he is writing his PhD thesis and working on a translation of Kafka’s Letters to Milena into Brazilian Portuguese.