Alice, 106

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At 106 years old, Alice Herz-Sommer is profiled in Haaretz. She is a musician, Holocaust survivor, and is also said to be the last living acquaintance of Kafka.

Kafka was a slightly strange man,” Sommer recalls. “He used to come to our house, sit and talk with my mother, mainly about his writing. He did not talk a lot, but rather loved quiet and nature. We frequently went on trips together. I remember that Kafka took us to a very nice place outside Prague. We sat on a bench and he told us stories. I remember the atmosphere and his unusual stories. He was an excellent writer, with a lovely style, the kind that you read effortlessly,” she says, and then grows silent. “And now, hundreds of people all over the world research and write doctorates about him.

To simply pull that quote, though, is to do Ms. Herz-Sommer a disservice. The confidence the spews from the way she talks about her life and music and children is, yes, inspiring, but more-so, unabashedly truthful. It’s not truthful in a mathematical sense (2+3=5, etc.), but the type of truthfulness that makes you shudder in simplistic bliss, glad that there is someone out there that makes confidence justifiable.


Hans Kulla-Mader studied writing at Sarah Lawrence College and is currently living in San Francisco. More from this author →