Franz Kafka
Overview
Franz Kafka was a culturally influential German-language
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

 author of short stories
Short Stories
Short Stories may refer to:*A plural for Short story*Short Stories , an American pulp magazine published from 1890-1959*Short Stories, a 1954 collection by O. E...

 and novel
Novel
A novel is a book of long narrative in literary prose. The genre has historical roots both in the fields of the medieval and early modern romance and in the tradition of the novella. The latter supplied the present generic term in the late 18th century....

s. Contemporary critics and academics, including Vladimir Nabokov
Vladimir Nabokov
Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov was a multilingual Russian novelist and short story writer. Nabokov wrote his first nine novels in Russian, then rose to international prominence as a master English prose stylist...

, regard Kafka as one of the best writers of the 20th century
20th century in literature
See also: 20th century in poetry, 19th century in literature, other events of the 20th century, 21st century in literature, list of years in literature.Literature of the 20th century refers to world literature produced during the 20th century...

. The term "Kafkaesque" has become part of the English language.

Kafka was born to middle class German-speaking Jewish
Jews
The Jews , also known as the Jewish people, are a nation and ethnoreligious group originating in the Israelites or Hebrews of the Ancient Near East. The Jewish ethnicity, nationality, and religion are strongly interrelated, as Judaism is the traditional faith of the Jewish nation...

 parents in Prague
Prague
Prague is the capital and largest city of the Czech Republic. Situated in the north-west of the country on the Vltava river, the city is home to about 1.3 million people, while its metropolitan area is estimated to have a population of over 2.3 million...

, Bohemia
Bohemia
Bohemia is a historical region in central Europe, occupying the western two-thirds of the traditional Czech Lands. It is located in the contemporary Czech Republic with its capital in Prague...

, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire
Austria-Hungary
Austria-Hungary , more formally known as the Kingdoms and Lands Represented in the Imperial Council and the Lands of the Holy Hungarian Crown of Saint Stephen, was a constitutional monarchic union between the crowns of the Austrian Empire and the Kingdom of Hungary in...

. The house in which he was born, on the Old Town Square
Old Town Square (Prague)
Old Town Square is a historic square in the Old Town quarter of Prague in the Czech Republic at .Located between Wenceslas Square and the Charles Bridge, Prague's Old Town Square is often bursting at the seams with tourists in the summer. Featuring various architectural styles including the...

 next to Prague's Church of St Nicholas, now contains a permanent exhibition devoted to the author.

Most of Kafka's writing, including the large body of his unfinished work, was published posthumously.
Kafka was born into a middle-class Ashkenazi Jewish
Ashkenazi Jews
Ashkenazi Jews, also known as Ashkenazic Jews or Ashkenazim , are the Jews descended from the medieval Jewish communities along the Rhine in Germany from Alsace in the south to the Rhineland in the north. Ashkenaz is the medieval Hebrew name for this region and thus for Germany...

 family in Prague (now the Czech Republic).
Quotations

Now the Sirens have a still more fatal weapon than their song, namely their silence... Someone might possibly have escaped from their singing; but from their silence, certainly never.

"The Silence of the Sirens" (October 1917)

As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a monstrous vermin.

Original: Als Gregor Samsa eines Morgens aus unruhigen Träumen erwachte, fand er sich in seinem Bett zu einem ungeheuren Ungeziefer verwandelt.

The true way is along a rope that is not spanned high in the air, but only just above the ground. It seems intended more to cause stumbling than to be walked upon.

1

All human errors are impatience, the premature breaking off of what is methodical, an apparent fencing in of the apparent thing.

2; Variant translation: All human errors are impatience, a premature breaking off of methodical procedure, an apparent fencing-in of what is apparently at issue.

There are two main human sins from which all the others derive: impatience and indolence. It was because of impatience that they were expelled from Paradise; it is because of indolence that they do not return. Yet perhaps there is only one major sin: impatience. Because of impatience they were expelled, because of impatience they do not return.

Encyclopedia
Franz Kafka was a culturally influential German-language
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

 author of short stories
Short Stories
Short Stories may refer to:*A plural for Short story*Short Stories , an American pulp magazine published from 1890-1959*Short Stories, a 1954 collection by O. E...

 and novel
Novel
A novel is a book of long narrative in literary prose. The genre has historical roots both in the fields of the medieval and early modern romance and in the tradition of the novella. The latter supplied the present generic term in the late 18th century....

s. Contemporary critics and academics, including Vladimir Nabokov
Vladimir Nabokov
Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov was a multilingual Russian novelist and short story writer. Nabokov wrote his first nine novels in Russian, then rose to international prominence as a master English prose stylist...

, regard Kafka as one of the best writers of the 20th century
20th century in literature
See also: 20th century in poetry, 19th century in literature, other events of the 20th century, 21st century in literature, list of years in literature.Literature of the 20th century refers to world literature produced during the 20th century...

. The term "Kafkaesque" has become part of the English language.

Kafka was born to middle class German-speaking Jewish
Jews
The Jews , also known as the Jewish people, are a nation and ethnoreligious group originating in the Israelites or Hebrews of the Ancient Near East. The Jewish ethnicity, nationality, and religion are strongly interrelated, as Judaism is the traditional faith of the Jewish nation...

 parents in Prague
Prague
Prague is the capital and largest city of the Czech Republic. Situated in the north-west of the country on the Vltava river, the city is home to about 1.3 million people, while its metropolitan area is estimated to have a population of over 2.3 million...

, Bohemia
Bohemia
Bohemia is a historical region in central Europe, occupying the western two-thirds of the traditional Czech Lands. It is located in the contemporary Czech Republic with its capital in Prague...

, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire
Austria-Hungary
Austria-Hungary , more formally known as the Kingdoms and Lands Represented in the Imperial Council and the Lands of the Holy Hungarian Crown of Saint Stephen, was a constitutional monarchic union between the crowns of the Austrian Empire and the Kingdom of Hungary in...

. The house in which he was born, on the Old Town Square
Old Town Square (Prague)
Old Town Square is a historic square in the Old Town quarter of Prague in the Czech Republic at .Located between Wenceslas Square and the Charles Bridge, Prague's Old Town Square is often bursting at the seams with tourists in the summer. Featuring various architectural styles including the...

 next to Prague's Church of St Nicholas, now contains a permanent exhibition devoted to the author.

Most of Kafka's writing, including the large body of his unfinished work, was published posthumously.

Life and work

Kafka was born into a middle-class Ashkenazi Jewish
Ashkenazi Jews
Ashkenazi Jews, also known as Ashkenazic Jews or Ashkenazim , are the Jews descended from the medieval Jewish communities along the Rhine in Germany from Alsace in the south to the Rhineland in the north. Ashkenaz is the medieval Hebrew name for this region and thus for Germany...

 family in Prague (now the Czech Republic). His father, Hermann Kafka (1852–1931), was described as a "huge, selfish, overbearing businessman" and by Kafka himself as "a true Kafka in strength, health, appetite, loudness of voice, eloquence, self-satisfaction, worldly dominance, endurance, presence of mind, [and] knowledge of human nature". Hermann was the fourth child of Jacob Kafka, a shochet or ritual slaughterer
Shechita
Shechita is the ritual slaughter of mammals and birds according to Jewish dietary laws...

, and came to Prague from Osek, a Czech-speaking Jewish village near Písek
Písek
Písek is a town in the South Bohemian Region of the Czech Republic. It has a population of 29 909 .-About:Písek is usually called "The Athens of the South", although Athens is much more southerly, because it has many high schools and schools of higher education, e.g. the Film School in Písek...

 in southern Bohemia. After working as a traveling sales representative, he established himself as an independent retailer of men's and women's fancy goods and accessories, employing up to 15 people and using a jackdaw
Jackdaw
The Jackdaw , sometimes known as the Eurasian Jackdaw, European Jackdaw or Western Jackdaw, is a passerine bird in the crow family. Found across Europe, western Asia and North Africa, it is mostly sedentary, although northern and eastern populations migrate south in winter. Four subspecies are...

 (kavka in Czech) as his business logo. Kafka's mother, Julie (1856–1934), was the daughter of Jakob Löwy, a prosperous brewer in Poděbrady
Podebrady
Poděbrady is a historical spa town in the Central Bohemian Region, Czech Republic. It lies on the river Labe 50 km east of Prague on the D11 highway. A historic milestone in the life of the town was the year 1905, when it was visited by the German estate owner Prince von Bülow...

, and was better educated than her husband.

Franz was the eldest of six children. He had two younger brothers: Georg and Heinrich, who died at the ages of fifteen months and seven months, respectively, before Franz was seven; and three younger sisters, Gabriele ("Elli") (1889–1944), Valerie ("Valli") (1890–1944) and Ottilie ("Ottla") (1892–1943). On business days, both parents were absent from the home. His mother helped to manage her husband's business and worked in it as many as 12 hours a day. The children were largely reared by a series of governesses and servants. Kafka's relationship with his father was severely troubled as explained in the Letter to His Father
Letter to His Father
Letter to His Father is the name usually given to the letter Franz Kafka wrote to his father Hermann in November 1919, indicting him for his emotionally abusive and hypocritical behavior towards him....

in which he complained of being profoundly affected by his father's authoritarian and demanding character.

During World War II, the Nazi
Nazism
Nazism, the common short form name of National Socialism was the ideology and practice of the Nazi Party and of Nazi Germany...

 Germans deported Kafka's sisters with their families to the Łódź Ghetto and they died there or in extermination camps. Ottla was sent to the concentration camp at Theresienstadt
Theresienstadt concentration camp
Theresienstadt concentration camp was a Nazi German ghetto during World War II. It was established by the Gestapo in the fortress and garrison city of Terezín , located in what is now the Czech Republic.-History:The fortress of Terezín was constructed between the years 1780 and 1790 by the orders...

 and then on 7 October 1943 to the death camp at Auschwitz
Auschwitz concentration camp
Concentration camp Auschwitz was a network of Nazi concentration and extermination camps built and operated by the Third Reich in Polish areas annexed by Nazi Germany during World War II...

.

Education

Kafka's native language was German, in which he exclusively composed all his literary works. He was also fluent in Czech and took an interest in Czech literature. Later, Kafka acquired some knowledge of French language and culture; one of his favorite authors was Flaubert
Gustave Flaubert
Gustave Flaubert was a French writer who is counted among the greatest Western novelists. He is known especially for his first published novel, Madame Bovary , and for his scrupulous devotion to his art and style.-Early life and education:Flaubert was born on December 12, 1821, in Rouen,...

. From 1889 to 1893, he attended the Deutsche Knabenschule, the boys' elementary school at the Masný trh/Fleischmarkt (meat market), the street now known as Masná street. His Jewish education was limited to his Bar Mitzvah celebration at 13 and going to the synagogue four times a year with his father, which he loathed. After elementary school, he was admitted to the rigorous classics-oriented state Gymnasium, Altstädter Deutsches Gymnasium, an academic secondary school with eight grade levels, where German was also the language of instruction, at Old Town Square
Old Town Square (Prague)
Old Town Square is a historic square in the Old Town quarter of Prague in the Czech Republic at .Located between Wenceslas Square and the Charles Bridge, Prague's Old Town Square is often bursting at the seams with tourists in the summer. Featuring various architectural styles including the...

, within the Kinsky Palace. He completed his Matura
Matura
Matura or a similar term is the common name for the high-school leaving exam or "maturity exam" in various countries, including Albania, Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy, Kosovo, Liechtenstein, Macedonia, Montenegro, Poland, Serbia,...

 exams in 1901.

Admitted to the Charles-Ferdinand University
Charles University in Prague
Charles University in Prague is the oldest and largest university in the Czech Republic. Founded in 1348, it was the first university in Central Europe and is also considered the earliest German university...

 of Prague, Kafka first studied chemistry, but switched after two weeks to law. This offered a range of career possibilities, which pleased his father, and required a longer course of study that gave Kafka time to take classes in German studies and art history. At the university, he joined a student club, named "Lese- und Redehalle der Deutschen Studenten", which organized literary events, readings and other activities. In the end of his first year of studies, he met Max Brod
Max Brod
Max Brod was a German-speaking Czech Jewish, later Israeli, author, composer, and journalist. Although he was a prolific writer in his own right, he is most famous as the friend and biographer of Franz Kafka...

, who would become a close friend of his throughout his life, together with the journalist Felix Weltsch
Felix Weltsch
Felix Weltsch , Dr. jur et phil., was a German-speaking Jewish librarian, philosopher, author, editor, publisher and journalist...

, who also studied law. Kafka obtained the degree of Doctor of Law on 18 June 1906 and performed an obligatory year of unpaid service as law clerk for the Civil and criminal courts.

Employment

On 1 November 1907, he was hired at the Assicurazioni Generali
Assicurazioni Generali
Assicurazioni Generali S.p.A. is the largest insurance company in Italy and one of the largest in Europe. It has its headquarters in Trieste...

, an Italian insurance company, where he worked for nearly a year. His correspondence, during that period, witnesses that he was unhappy with his working time schedule—from 8 a.m. (8:00) until 6 p.m. (18:00)—as it made it extremely difficult for him to concentrate on his writing. On 15 July 1908, he resigned, and two weeks later found more congenial employment with the Worker's Accident Insurance
Workers' compensation
Workers' compensation is a form of insurance providing wage replacement and medical benefits to employees injured in the course of employment in exchange for mandatory relinquishment of the employee's right to sue his or her employer for the tort of negligence...

 Institute for the Kingdom of Bohemia
Kingdom of Bohemia
The Kingdom of Bohemia was a country located in the region of Bohemia in Central Europe, most of whose territory is currently located in the modern-day Czech Republic. The King was Elector of Holy Roman Empire until its dissolution in 1806, whereupon it became part of the Austrian Empire, and...

. The job involved investigating personal injury
Personal injury
Personal injury is a legal term for an injury to the body, mind or emotions, as opposed to an injury to property. The term is most commonly used to refer to a type of tort lawsuit alleging that the plaintiff's injury has been caused by the negligence of another, but also arises in defamation...

 to industrial workers, such as lost fingers or limbs, and assessing compensation. Industrial accidents of this kind were commonplace at this time. Management professor Peter Drucker
Peter Drucker
Peter Ferdinand Drucker was an influential writer, management consultant, and self-described “social ecologist.”-Introduction:...

 credits Kafka with developing the first civilian hard hat
Hard hat
A hard hat is a type of helmet predominantly used in workplace environments, such as construction sites, to protect the head from injury by falling objects, impact with other objects, debris, bad weather and electric shock. Inside the helmet is a suspension that spreads the helmet's weight over the...

 while he was employed at the Worker's Accident Insurance Institute, but this is not supported by any document from his employer. His father often referred to his son's job as insurance officer as a "Brotberuf", literally "bread job", a job done only to pay the bills. While Kafka often claimed that he despised the job, he was a diligent and capable employee. He was also given the task of compiling and composing the annual report
Annual report
An annual report is a comprehensive report on a company's activities throughout the preceding year. Annual reports are intended to give shareholders and other interested people information about the company's activities and financial performance...

 and was reportedly quite proud of the results, sending copies to friends and family. In parallel, Kafka was also committed to his literary work. Together with his close friends Max Brod and Felix Weltsch
Felix Weltsch
Felix Weltsch , Dr. jur et phil., was a German-speaking Jewish librarian, philosopher, author, editor, publisher and journalist...

, these three were called "Der enge Prager Kreis", the close-knit Prague circle, which was part of a broader Prague Circle, "a loosely knit group of German-Jewish writers who contributed to the culturally fertile soil of Prague from the 1880s till after World War I."

In 1911, Karl Hermann, spouse of his sister Elli, asked Kafka to collaborate in the operation of an asbestos
Asbestos
Asbestos is a set of six naturally occurring silicate minerals used commercially for their desirable physical properties. They all have in common their eponymous, asbestiform habit: long, thin fibrous crystals...

 factory known as Prager Asbestwerke Hermann and Co. Kafka showed a positive attitude at first, dedicating much of his free time to the business. During that period, he also found interest and entertainment in the performances of Yiddish theatre
Yiddish theatre
Yiddish theatre consists of plays written and performed primarily by Jews in Yiddish, the language of the Central European Ashkenazi Jewish community. The range of Yiddish theatre is broad: operetta, musical comedy, and satiric or nostalgic revues; melodrama; naturalist drama; expressionist and...

, despite the misgivings of even close friends such as Max Brod, who usually supported him in everything else. Those performances also served as a starting point for his growing relationship with Judaism
Judaism
Judaism ) is the "religion, philosophy, and way of life" of the Jewish people...

.

Personality

Some sources have claimed that Kafka possessed a schizoid personality disorder
Schizoid personality disorder
Schizoid personality disorder is a personality disorder characterized by a lack of interest in social relationships, a tendency towards a solitary lifestyle, secretiveness, emotional coldness, and sometimes apathy, with a simultaneous rich, elaborate, and exclusively internal fantasy world...

 – rather a rare type/trait according to some authors. His work, they claim, not only in The Metamorphosis
The Metamorphosis
The Metamorphosis is a novella by Franz Kafka, first published in 1915. It is often cited as one of the seminal works of short fiction of the 20th century and is widely studied in colleges and universities across the western world...

, but in various other writings, appear to show medium to low-level schizoid characteristics which explain much of his surprising work. However, a study of Kafka's family and early life by psychoanalyst Alice Miller
Alice Miller (psychologist)
Alice Miller née Rostovski was a psychologist and world renowned author, who is noted for her books on child abuse by their own parents, translated in several languages...

 in her book Thou Shalt Not Be Aware offers a different angle on the sources of Kafka's psychological anguish and his expression of his painful early life in his writings.

There are speculations regarding Kafka's sexuality and a possible eating disorder. In a 1988 paper published by the Psychiatric Clinic of the University of Munich "evidence for the hypothesis that the poet Franz Kafka had suffered from an atypical anorexia nervosa
Anorexia nervosa
Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by refusal to maintain a healthy body weight and an obsessive fear of gaining weight. Although commonly called "anorexia", that term on its own denotes any symptomatic loss of appetite and is not strictly accurate...

 is presented." In his 1995 book Franz Kafka, the Jewish Patient, Sander Gilman
Sander Gilman
Sander L. Gilman is an American cultural and literary historian, who is particularly well-known for his contributions to Jewish studies and the history of medicine. He is the author or editor of over eighty books....

 is said to investigate "why a Jew might have been considered 'hypochondriac' or 'homosexual' and how Kafka incorporates aspects of these ways of understanding the Jewish male into his own self-image and writing."

Later years

In 1912, at Max Brod's home, Kafka met Felice Bauer, who lived in Berlin and worked as a representative for a dictaphone
Dictaphone
Dictaphone was an American company, a producer of dictation machines—sound recording devices most commonly used to record speech for later playback or to be typed into print. The name "Dictaphone" is a trademark, but in some places it has also become a common way to refer to all such devices, and...

 company. Over the next five years they corresponded a great deal, met occasionally, and were engaged twice. Their relationship finally ended in 1917.

That same year, Kafka began to suffer from tuberculosis
Tuberculosis
Tuberculosis, MTB, or TB is a common, and in many cases lethal, infectious disease caused by various strains of mycobacteria, usually Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Tuberculosis usually attacks the lungs but can also affect other parts of the body...

, which required frequent convalescence during which he was supported by his family, most notably his sister Ottla. Despite his fear of being perceived as both physically and mentally repulsive, he impressed others with his boyish, neat and austere good looks, a quiet and cool demeanor, obvious intelligence and dry sense of humor.

From 1920 Kafka developed an intense relationship with Czech journalist and writer Milena Jesenská
Milena Jesenská
Milena Jesenská was a Czech journalist, writer, editor and translator, who refused to abandon her Jewish friends and was deported to and died alongside them in Ravensbrück concentration camp....

. In July 1923, throughout a vacation to Graal-Müritz
Graal-Müritz
Graal-Müritz is a Seeheilbad in the German state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. It is located in the Rostock district, near Rostock, Ribnitz-Damgarten and Stralsund....

 on the Baltic Sea
Baltic Sea
The Baltic Sea is a brackish mediterranean sea located in Northern Europe, from 53°N to 66°N latitude and from 20°E to 26°E longitude. It is bounded by the Scandinavian Peninsula, the mainland of Europe, and the Danish islands. It drains into the Kattegat by way of the Øresund, the Great Belt and...

, he met Dora Diamant
Dora Diamant
Dora Diamant is best remembered as the lover of the writer Franz Kafka and the person who kept some of his last writings in her possession until they were confiscated by the Gestapo in 1933...

 and briefly moved to Berlin in the hope of distancing himself from his family's influence to concentrate on his writing. In Berlin, he lived with Diamant, a 25-year-old kindergarten teacher from an orthodox Jewish family, who was independent enough to have escaped her past in the ghetto. She became his lover, and influenced Kafka's interest in the Talmud
Talmud
The Talmud is a central text of mainstream Judaism. It takes the form of a record of rabbinic discussions pertaining to Jewish law, ethics, philosophy, customs and history....

.

Kafka's tuberculosis worsened and he returned to Prague. He went to Dr. Hoffmann's sanatorium
Sanatorium
A sanatorium is a medical facility for long-term illness, most typically associated with treatment of tuberculosis before antibiotics...

 in
Kierling
Klosterneuburg
Klosterneuburg is an attractive small town in Lower Austria, Austria with a population of 24,442.It is located on the Danube, immediately north of Vienna, from which it is separated by the Kahlenberg and Leopoldsberg hills...

 near Vienna
Vienna
Vienna is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Austria and one of the nine states of Austria. Vienna is Austria's primary city, with a population of about 1.723 million , and is by far the largest city in Austria, as well as its cultural, economic, and political centre...

 for treatment, where he died on 3 June 1924, apparently from starvation. The condition of Kafka's throat made eating too painful for him, and since parenteral nutrition had not yet been developed, there was no way to feed him. He was age 40 years and 11 months. His body was ultimately brought back to Prague where he was buried on 11 June 1924, in the New Jewish Cemetery (sector 21, row 14, plot 33) in Prague-Žižkov
Žižkov
Žižkov is a cadastral district of Prague, Czech Republic. Most of Žižkov lies in the municipal and administrative district of Prague 3, except for very small parts which are in Prague 8 and Prague 10. Prior to 1922, Žižkov was an independent city....

.

Political views

Kafka attended meetings of the Klub Mladých, a Czech anarchist, anti-militarist
Antimilitarism
Antimilitarism is a doctrine commonly found in the anarchist and, more globally, in the socialist movement, which may both be characterized as internationalist movements. It relies heavily on a critical theory of nationalism and imperialism, and was an explicit goal of the First and Second...

 and anti-clerical
Anti-clericalism
Anti-clericalism is a historical movement that opposes religious institutional power and influence, real or alleged, in all aspects of public and political life, and the involvement of religion in the everyday life of the citizen...

 organization. Hugo Bergmann, who attended both the same elementary and high schools as Kafka, had a falling out with Kafka during their last academic year (1900–1901) because "[Kafka's] socialism and my Zionism
Zionism
Zionism is a Jewish political movement that, in its broadest sense, has supported the self-determination of the Jewish people in a sovereign Jewish national homeland. Since the establishment of the State of Israel, the Zionist movement continues primarily to advocate on behalf of the Jewish state...

 were much too strident." "Franz became a socialist, I became a Zionist in 1898. The synthesis of Zionism and socialism did not yet exist." Bergmann claims that Kafka openly wore a red carnation to school to show his support for socialism
Socialism
Socialism is an economic system characterized by social ownership of the means of production and cooperative management of the economy; or a political philosophy advocating such a system. "Social ownership" may refer to any one of, or a combination of, the following: cooperative enterprises,...

. In one diary entry, Kafka made reference to influential anarchist philosopher Peter Kropotkin
Peter Kropotkin
Prince Pyotr Alexeyevich Kropotkin was a Russian zoologist, evolutionary theorist, philosopher, economist, geographer, author and one of the world's foremost anarcho-communists. Kropotkin advocated a communist society free from central government and based on voluntary associations between...

: "Don't forget Kropotkin!" He later stated, regarding the Czech anarchists: "They all sought thanklessly to realize human happiness. I understood them. But ... I was unable to continue marching alongside them for long."

Judaism and Zionism

Kafka was well versed in Yiddish literature
Yiddish literature
Yiddish literature encompasses all belles lettres written in Yiddish, the language of Ashkenazic Jewry which is related to Middle High German. The history of Yiddish, with its roots in central Europe and locus for centuries in Eastern Europe, is evident in its literature.It is generally described...

, and loved Yiddish theatre
Yiddish theatre
Yiddish theatre consists of plays written and performed primarily by Jews in Yiddish, the language of the Central European Ashkenazi Jewish community. The range of Yiddish theatre is broad: operetta, musical comedy, and satiric or nostalgic revues; melodrama; naturalist drama; expressionist and...

.

In his essay, Sadness in Palestine?!, Dan Miron
Dan Miron
Dan Miron is an Israeli literary critic and author. Miron is a Professor emeritus at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is currently the Leonard Kaye Professor of Hebrew and Comparative Literature in the Department of Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures at Columbia University.-Awards...

 explores Kafka's connection to Zionism. "It seems that those who claim that there was such a connection and that Zionism played a central role in his life and literary work, and those who deny the connection altogether or dismiss its importance, are both wrong. The truth lies in some very elusive place between these two simplistic poles."
According to James Hawes
James Hawes (author)
James Hawes is a British novelist who has also written screen adaptations for two of his works.He was born in 1960 and grew up in Gloucestershire. He graduated from Hertford College, Oxford and then worked as an English teacher in Spain. After a short stint as an archaeologist in Wales, he studied...

, Kafka, though much aware of his own Jewishness, did not incorporate his Jewishness into his work. "There is zero actual Jewishness" nor any Jewish characters or specifically Jewish scenes in his work, says Hawes. In the opinion of literary critic Harold Bloom
Harold Bloom
Harold Bloom is an American writer and literary critic, and is Sterling Professor of Humanities at Yale University. He is known for his defense of 19th-century Romantic poets, his unique and controversial theories of poetic influence, and his prodigious literary output, particularly for a literary...

, author of The Western Canon, however, "Despite all his denials and beautiful evasions, [Kafka's writing] quite simply is Jewish writing." Lothar Kahn is likewise unequivocal: "The presence of Jewishness in Kafka's oeuvre is no longer subject to doubt." Pavel Eisner
Pavel Eisner
Pavel Eisner , also known as Paul Eisner and under the pseudonym Vincy Schwarze, was Czech-German linguist and translator and the author of many studies about Czech language...

, one of Kafka's first translators, interprets the classic, The Trial, as the "triple dimension of Jewish existence in Prague is embodied in Kafka's The Trial: his protagonist Josef K. is (symbolically) arrested by a German (Rabensteiner), a Czech (Kullich) and a Jew (Kaminer). He stands for the "guiltless guilt" that imbues the Jew in the modern world, although there is no evidence that he himself is a Jew."

Livia Rothkirchen calls Kafka the "symbolic figure of his era." His era included numerous other Jewish writers (Czech, German and national Jews) who were sensitive to German, Czech, Austrian and Jewish culture. According to Rothkirchen, "This situation lent their writings a broad cosmopolitan outlook and a quality of exaltation bordering on transcendental metaphysical contemplation. An illustrious example is Franz Kafka."

Literary career

Kafka's writing attracted little attention until after his death. During his lifetime, he published only a few short stories. He finished the novella "The Metamorphosis
The Metamorphosis
The Metamorphosis is a novella by Franz Kafka, first published in 1915. It is often cited as one of the seminal works of short fiction of the 20th century and is widely studied in colleges and universities across the western world...

", but never finished any of his full length novels. Kafka left his published and unpublished work to his friend and literary executor
Literary executor
A literary executor is a person with decision-making power in respect of a literary estate. According to Wills, Administration and Taxation: a practical guide "A will may appoint different executors to deal with different parts of the estate...

 Max Brod with explicit instructions that it should be destroyed on his (Kafka's) death; Kafka wrote: "Dearest Max, my last request: Everything I leave behind me ... in the way of diaries, manuscripts, letters (my own and others'), sketches, and so on, [is] to be burned unread." Brod decided to ignore this request and went on to publish the novels and collected works between 1925 and 1935. The remaining papers were consigned to suitcases which he carried with him when he fled to Palestine in 1939. (His lover, Dora Diamant, also ignored his wishes, secretly keeping up to 20 notebooks and 35 letters until they were confiscated by the Gestapo
Gestapo
The Gestapo was the official secret police of Nazi Germany. Beginning on 20 April 1934, it was under the administration of the SS leader Heinrich Himmler in his position as Chief of German Police...

 in 1933. An ongoing international search is being conducted for these missing Kafka papers.) Brod, in fact, would oversee the publication of most of Kafka's work in his possession, which soon began to attract attention and high critical regard.

Max Brod encountered significant difficulty in compiling Kafka's notebooks into any chronological order as Kafka was known to start writing in the middle of notebooks, from the last page towards the first, etc.

All of Kafka's published works, except several letters he wrote in Czech to Milena Jesenská
Milena Jesenská
Milena Jesenská was a Czech journalist, writer, editor and translator, who refused to abandon her Jewish friends and was deported to and died alongside them in Ravensbrück concentration camp....

, were written in German.

Translation of Kafka's work into English

Kafka often made extensive use of a characteristic peculiar to the German language allowing for long sentences that sometimes can span an entire page. Kafka's sentences then deliver an unexpected impact just before the full stop—that being the finalizing meaning and focus. This is achieved due to the construction of certain sentences in German which require that the verb be positioned at the end of the sentence. Such constructions are difficult to duplicate in English, so it is up to the resourceful translator to provide the reader with the same (or at least equivalent) effect found in the original text.

Another virtually insurmountable problem facing translators is how to deal with the author's intentional use of ambiguous terms and of words that have several meanings. One such instance is found in the first sentence of The Metamorphosis. English translators have often sought to render the word Ungeziefer as "insect"; in Middle German, however, Ungeziefer literally means "unclean animal not suitable for sacrifice" and is sometimes used colloquially to mean "bug" – a very general term, unlike the scientific sounding "insect". Kafka had no intention of labeling Gregor, the protagonist of the story, as any specific thing, but instead wanted to convey Gregor's disgust at his transformation. Another example is Kafka's use of the German noun Verkehr in the final sentence of The Judgment
The Judgment
"The Judgment" is a short story written by Franz Kafka in 1912. It is about the relationship between a man and his father.-Plot summary:...

. Literally, Verkehr means intercourse and, as in English, can have either a sexual or non-sexual meaning; in addition, it is used to mean transport or traffic. The sentence can be translated as: "At that moment an unending stream of traffic crossed over the bridge." What gives added weight to the obvious double meaning of 'Verkehr' is Kafka's confession to Max Brod that when he wrote that final line, he was thinking of "a violent ejaculation".

Critical interpretations

Critics have interpreted Kafka's works in the context of a variety of literary schools, such as modernism
Modernism
Modernism, in its broadest definition, is modern thought, character, or practice. More specifically, the term describes the modernist movement, its set of cultural tendencies and array of associated cultural movements, originally arising from wide-scale and far-reaching changes to Western society...

, magic realism
Magic realism
Magic realism or magical realism is an aesthetic style or genre of fiction in which magical elements blend with the real world. The story explains these magical elements as real occurrences, presented in a straightforward manner that places the "real" and the "fantastic" in the same stream of...

 and so on. The apparent hopelessness and absurdity that seem to permeate his works are considered emblematic of existentialism
Existentialism
Existentialism is a term applied to a school of 19th- and 20th-century philosophers who, despite profound doctrinal differences, shared the belief that philosophical thinking begins with the human subject—not merely the thinking subject, but the acting, feeling, living human individual...

. Others have tried to locate a Marxist
Marxism
Marxism is an economic and sociopolitical worldview and method of socioeconomic inquiry that centers upon a materialist interpretation of history, a dialectical view of social change, and an analysis and critique of the development of capitalism. Marxism was pioneered in the early to mid 19th...

 influence in his satirization of bureaucracy
Bureaucracy
A bureaucracy is an organization of non-elected officials of a governmental or organization who implement the rules, laws, and functions of their institution, and are occasionally characterized by officialism and red tape.-Weberian bureaucracy:...

 in pieces such as In the Penal Colony
In the Penal Colony
"In the Penal Colony" is a short story by Franz Kafka written in German in October 1914, revised in November 1918, and first published in October 1919....

, The Trial
The Trial
The Trial is a novel by Franz Kafka, first published in 1925. One of Kafka's best-known works, it tells the story of a man arrested and prosecuted by a remote, inaccessible authority, with the nature of his crime revealed neither to him nor the reader.Like Kafka's other novels, The Trial was never...

and The Castle, whereas others point to anarchism
Anarchism
Anarchism is generally defined as the political philosophy which holds the state to be undesirable, unnecessary, and harmful, or alternatively as opposing authority in the conduct of human relations...

 as an inspiration for Kafka's anti-bureaucratic viewpoint. Still others have interpreted his works through the lens of Judaism (Borges
Jorge Luis Borges
Jorge Francisco Isidoro Luis Borges Acevedo , known as Jorge Luis Borges , was an Argentine writer, essayist, poet and translator born in Buenos Aires. In 1914 his family moved to Switzerland where he attended school, receiving his baccalauréat from the Collège de Genève in 1918. The family...

 made a few perceptive remarks in this regard), through Freudianism
Sigmund Freud
Sigmund Freud , born Sigismund Schlomo Freud , was an Austrian neurologist who founded the discipline of psychoanalysis...

 (because of his familial struggles), or as allegories of a metaphysical quest for God
God
God is the English name given to a singular being in theistic and deistic religions who is either the sole deity in monotheism, or a single deity in polytheism....

 (Thomas Mann
Thomas Mann
Thomas Mann was a German novelist, short story writer, social critic, philanthropist, essayist, and 1929 Nobel Prize laureate, known for his series of highly symbolic and ironic epic novels and novellas, noted for their insight into the psychology of the artist and the intellectual...

 was a proponent of this theory).

Themes of alienation and persecution are repeatedly emphasized – and with good reason – but the over-emphasis on this quality, notably in the work of Marthe Robert, partly inspired the counter-criticism of Gilles Deleuze
Gilles Deleuze
Gilles Deleuze , was a French philosopher who, from the early 1960s until his death, wrote influentially on philosophy, literature, film, and fine art. His most popular works were the two volumes of Capitalism and Schizophrenia: Anti-Oedipus and A Thousand Plateaus , both co-written with Félix...

 and Félix Guattari
Félix Guattari
Pierre-Félix Guattari was a French militant, an institutional psychotherapist, philosopher, and semiotician; he founded both schizoanalysis and ecosophy...

, who argued in Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature that there was much more to Kafka than the stereotype of a lonely figure writing out of anguish, and that his work was more deliberate, subversive and more "joyful" than it appears to be. Furthermore, an isolated reading of Kafka's work—focusing on the futility of his characters' struggling without the influence of any studies on Kafka's life—reveals the humor of Kafka. Kafka's work, in this sense, is not a written reflection of any of his own struggles, but a reflection of how people invent struggles. Biographers have said that it was common for Kafka to read chapters of the books he was working on to his closest friends, and that those readings usually concentrated on the humorous side of his prose. Milan Kundera
Milan Kundera
Milan Kundera , born 1 April 1929, is a writer of Czech origin who has lived in exile in France since 1975, where he became a naturalized citizen in 1981. He is best known as the author of The Unbearable Lightness of Being, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, and The Joke. Kundera has written in...

 refers to the essentially surrealist humour
Surreal humour
Surreal humour is a form of humour based on violations of causal reasoning with events and behaviours that are logically incongruent. Constructions of surreal humour involve bizarre juxtapositions, non-sequiturs, irrational situations, and/or expressions of nonsense.The humour arises from a...

 of Kafka as a main predecessor of later artists such as Federico Fellini
Federico Fellini
Federico Fellini, Cavaliere di Gran Croce OMRI , was an Italian film director and scriptwriter. Known for a distinct style that blends fantasy and baroque images, he is considered one of the most influential and widely revered filmmakers of the 20th century...

, Gabriel García Márquez
Gabriel García Márquez
Gabriel José de la Concordia García Márquez is a Colombian novelist, short-story writer, screenwriter and journalist, known affectionately as Gabo throughout Latin America. He is considered one of the most significant authors of the 20th century. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in...

, Carlos Fuentes
Carlos Fuentes
Carlos Fuentes Macías is a Mexican writer and one of the best-known living novelists and essayists in the Spanish-speaking world. He has influenced contemporary Latin American literature, and his works have been widely translated into English and other languages.-Biography:Fuentes was born in...

 and Salman Rushdie. García Márquez said it was the reading of Kafka's The Metamorphosis
The Metamorphosis
The Metamorphosis is a novella by Franz Kafka, first published in 1915. It is often cited as one of the seminal works of short fiction of the 20th century and is widely studied in colleges and universities across the western world...

that showed him "that it was possible to write in a different way."

The point is that the multivalent nature of Kafka's prose allows for a number of interpretations. Literary scholars are increasingly aware that there is no reason to push readings (whether biographical, humorous, marxist, exotic etc.) from the field.

Law in Kafka's fiction

Many attempts have been made to examine Kafka's legal background and the role of law in his fiction. These attempts remain relatively few in number compared to the vast collection of literature devoted to the study of his life and works, and marginal to legal scholarship. Mainstream studies of Kafka's works normally present his fiction as an engagement with absurdity, a critique of bureaucracy or a search for redemption, failing to account for the images of law and legality which constitute an important part of "the horizon of meaning" in his fiction.

However, James Hawes argues many of Kafka's descriptions of the legal proceedings in The Trial – metaphysical, absurd, bewildering and "Kafkaesque" as they might appear – are, in fact, based on accurate and informed (although exaggerated) descriptions of German and Austrian criminal proceedings of the time, not well understood by many British or American people, who were familiar with an adversarial
Adversarial system
The adversarial system is a legal system where two advocates represent their parties' positions before an impartial person or group of people, usually a jury or judge, who attempt to determine the truth of the case...

 rather than inquisitorial system
Inquisitorial system
An inquisitorial system is a legal system where the court or a part of the court is actively involved in investigating the facts of the case, as opposed to an adversarial system where the role of the court is primarily that of an impartial referee between the prosecution and the defense...

 of justice. Similarly, the requirement for the traveller to register with the authorities in The Castle to stay a night seems repressive and odd to Britons and Americans, whereas in the present-day Germans (and most continental Europeans) are required to register their address (and hoteliers their guests) with the local authorities.

The significance of law in Kafka's fiction is also neglected within legal scholarship, for as Richard Posner pointed out, most lawyers do not consider writings about law in the form of fiction of any relevance to the understanding or the practice of law. Regardless of the concerns of mainstream studies of Kafka with redemption and absurdity, and what jurists such as Judge Posner might think relevant to law and legal practice, the fact remains that Kafka was an insurance lawyer who, besides being involved in litigation, was also "keenly aware of the legal debates of his day" (Ziolkowski, 2003, p. 224).

In a recent study which uses Kafka's office writings as its point of departure, Reza Banakar argues that "legal images in Kafka's fiction are worthy of examination, not only because of their bewildering, enigmatic, bizarre, profane and alienating effects, or because of the deeper theological or existential meaning they suggest, but also as a particular concept of law and legality which operates paradoxically as an integral part of the human condition under modernity. To explore this point Kafka's conception of law is placed in the context of his overall writing as a search for Heimat
Heimat
Heimat is a German word that has no simple English translation. It is often expressed with terms such as home or homeland, but these English counterparts fail to encapsulate the true meaning of the word.-The meaning of Heimat:...

 which takes us beyond the instrumental understanding of law advocated by various schools of legal positivism and allows us to grasp law as a form of experience" (see Banakar 2010).

Publications

Much of Kafka's work was unfinished, or prepared for publication posthumously by Max Brod. The novels The Castle (which stopped mid-sentence and had ambiguity on content), The Trial
The Trial
The Trial is a novel by Franz Kafka, first published in 1925. One of Kafka's best-known works, it tells the story of a man arrested and prosecuted by a remote, inaccessible authority, with the nature of his crime revealed neither to him nor the reader.Like Kafka's other novels, The Trial was never...

(chapters were unnumbered and some were incomplete) and Amerika (Kafka's original title was The Man who Disappeared) were all prepared for publication by Brod. It appears Brod took a few liberties with the manuscript (moving chapters, changing the German and cleaning up the punctuation), and thus the original German text was altered prior to publication. The editions by Brod are generally referred to as the Definitive Editions.

According to the publisher's note for The Castle, Malcolm Pasley
Malcolm Pasley
Sir John Malcolm Sabine Pasley, 5th Baronet, FBA , commonly known as Malcolm Pasley, was a literary scholar best known for his dedication to and publication of the works of Franz Kafka.-Early life:...

 was able to get most of Kafka's original handwritten work into the Oxford
University of Oxford
The University of Oxford is a university located in Oxford, United Kingdom. It is the second-oldest surviving university in the world and the oldest in the English-speaking world. Although its exact date of foundation is unclear, there is evidence of teaching as far back as 1096...

 Bodleian Library
Bodleian Library
The Bodleian Library , the main research library of the University of Oxford, is one of the oldest libraries in Europe, and in Britain is second in size only to the British Library...

 in 1961. The text for The Trial
The Trial
The Trial is a novel by Franz Kafka, first published in 1925. One of Kafka's best-known works, it tells the story of a man arrested and prosecuted by a remote, inaccessible authority, with the nature of his crime revealed neither to him nor the reader.Like Kafka's other novels, The Trial was never...

was later acquired through auction and is stored at the German literary archives at Marbach
Marbach am Neckar
Marbach am Neckar is a town on the river Neckar in Baden-Württemberg, Germany. The nearest larger cities are Ludwigsburg and Stuttgart ....

, Germany.

Subsequently, Pasley headed a team (including Gerhard Neumann
Gerhard Neumann
Gerhard Neumann was a German-American aviation engineer and executive for General Electric's aircraft engine division .-Childhood and education:...

, Jost Schillemeit and Jürgen Born) in reconstructing the German novels and S. Fischer Verlag
S. Fischer Verlag
The German publishing house S. Fischer Verlag was founded in 1886 by Samuel Fischer in Berlin and is a leading German address for literary publications and fiction.Originally, it was renowned for naturalism literature...

 republished them. Pasley was the editor for Das Schloß (The Castle), published in 1982, and Der Prozeß (The Trial)
The Trial
The Trial is a novel by Franz Kafka, first published in 1925. One of Kafka's best-known works, it tells the story of a man arrested and prosecuted by a remote, inaccessible authority, with the nature of his crime revealed neither to him nor the reader.Like Kafka's other novels, The Trial was never...

, published in 1990. Jost Schillemeit was the editor of Der Verschollene (Amerika) published in 1983. These are all called the "Critical Editions" or the "Fischer Editions." The German critical text of these, and Kafka's other works, may be found online at The Kafka Project. This site is continuously building the repository.

There is another Kafka Project based at San Diego State University
San Diego State University
San Diego State University , founded in 1897 as San Diego Normal School, is the largest and oldest higher education facility in the greater San Diego area , and is part of the California State University system...

, which began in 1998 as the official international search for Kafka's last writings. Consisting of 20 notebooks and 35 letters to Kafka's last companion, Dora Diamant (later, Dymant-Lask), this missing literary treasure was confiscated from her by the Gestapo in Berlin 1933. The Kafka Project's four-month search of government archives in Berlin in 1998 uncovered the confiscation order and other significant documents. In 2003, the Kafka Project discovered three original Kafka letters, written in 1923. Building on the search conducted by Max Brod and Klaus Wagenbach in the mid-1950s, the Kafka Project at SDSU has an advisory committee of international scholars and researchers, and is calling for volunteers who want to help solve a literary mystery.

In 2008, academic and Kafka expert James Hawes accused scholars of suppressing details of the pornography Kafka subscribed to (published by the same man who was Kafka's own first publisher) in order to preserve his image as a quasi-saintly "outsider".

In 2010 a series of boxes containing writings, letters and sketches of the author thought to be lost were opened. Among the writings was a short story by Kafka.

Translations

There are two primary sources for the translations based on the two German editions. The earliest English translations were by Edwin
Edwin Muir
Edwin Muir was an Orcadian poet, novelist and translator born on a farm in Deerness on the Orkney Islands. He was remembered for his deeply felt and vivid poetry in plain language with few stylistic preoccupations....

 and Willa Muir and published by Alfred A. Knopf
Alfred A. Knopf
Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. is a New York publishing house, founded by Alfred A. Knopf, Sr. in 1915. It was acquired by Random House in 1960 and is now part of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group at Random House. The publishing house is known for its borzoi trademark , which was designed by co-founder...

. These editions were widely published and spurred the late-1940s surge in Kafka's popularity in the United States. Later editions (notably the 1954 editions) had the addition of the deleted text translated by Eithne Wilkins and Ernst Kaiser. These are known as "Definitive Editions." They translated both The Trial, Definitive and The Castle, Definitive among other writings. Definitive Editions are generally accepted to have a number of biases and to be dated in interpretation.

After Pasley and Schillemeit completed their recompilation of the German text, the new translations were completed and published – The Castle, Critical by Mark Harman (Schocken Books
Schocken Books
Schocken Books is a publishing company that was established in Berlin with a publishing office in Prague in 1931 by the Schocken Department Store owner Salman Schocken. It published the writings of Martin Buber, Franz Rosenzweig, Franz Kafka and S. Y...

, 1998), The Trial, Critical by Breon Mitchell (Schocken Books, 1998) and Amerika: The Man Who Disappeared by Michael Hoffman (New Directions Publishing, 2004). These editions are often noted as being based on the restored text.

Published works

Short stories
  • "Description of a Struggle
    Description of a Struggle
    "Description of a Struggle" is a short story by Franz Kafka.-Origins:"Description of a Struggle" is one of Kafka's earliest stories that was not destroyed and is usually the earliest included in collections of his work...

    " ("Beschreibung eines Kampfes", 1904–1905)
  • "Wedding Preparations in the Country
    Wedding Preparations in the Country
    Wedding Preparations in the Country is an incomplete work by Franz Kafka which depicts in great detail the journey of the groom, Raban, travelling to the country to meet his future wife, Betty...

    " ("Hochzeitsvorbereitungen auf dem Lande", 1907–1908)
  • Contemplation
    Contemplation (Kafka)
    Contemplation, or Meditation is a sequence of eighteen short stories by Franz Kafka written between 1904 and 1912. Eight of these stories were published under the same title in the bimonthly Hyperion and were Kafka's first publication. Some of the stories are also included, in whole or in part, in...

    (Betrachtung, 1904–1912)
  • "The Judgment
    The Judgment
    "The Judgment" is a short story written by Franz Kafka in 1912. It is about the relationship between a man and his father.-Plot summary:...

    " ("Das Urteil", 22–23 September 1912)
  • "The Stoker
    The Stoker
    "The Stoker" is a short story by Franz Kafka. Kafka intended to include the story as the first chapter in a novel he did not complete; the novel was posthumously published under the title Amerika.-Plot :...

    " ("Der Heizer", 1913)
  • "The Aeroplanes At Brescia
    The Aeroplanes At Brescia
    "The Aeroplanes At Brescia" is a short story by Franz Kafka published in the newspaper Bohemia in September 1909. It describes an airshow in the Italian town Brescia in which Kafka with two of his friends took part during their journey to Italy. It was the first description of aeroplanes in...

    " ("Die Aeroplane in Brescia", September 1909)
  • "In the Penal Colony
    In the Penal Colony
    "In the Penal Colony" is a short story by Franz Kafka written in German in October 1914, revised in November 1918, and first published in October 1919....

    " ("In der Strafkolonie", October 1914)
  • "The Village Schoolmaster
    The Village Schoolmaster
    "The Village Schoolmaster", or "The Giant Mole" is an unfinished short story by Franz Kafka. The story, written in December 1914 and the beginning of 1915, was not published in Kafka's lifetime. It first appeared in Beim Bau der Chinesischen Mauer and in English translation in Great Wall of China...

    " ("Der Dorfschullehrer" or "Der Riesenmaulwurf", 1914–1915)
  • "Blumfeld, an Elderly Bachelor
    Blumfeld, an Elderly Bachelor
    Blumfeld, an Elderly Bachelor is an incomplete story by Franz Kafka. Probably written in the beginning of 1915, it first appeared in Beschreibung eines Kampfes . It relates part of the life of Blumfeld, an elderly bachelor, who upon arriving home finds two balls bouncing off the ground of their...

    " ("Blumfeld, ein älterer Junggeselle", 1915)
  • "The Warden of the Tomb
    The Warden of the Tomb
    The Warden of the Tomb is an expressionist play by Franz Kafka. Written in the winter of 1916-1917, it was published for the first time in Description of a Struggle.-Characters:...

    " ("Der Gruftwächter", 1916–1917), the only play Kafka wrote
  • "The Hunter Gracchus
    The Hunter Gracchus
    The Hunter Gracchus is a short story written by Franz Kafka.The story presents a death boat carrying the long dead Hunter Gracchus as it arrives at a port. The Burgomaster of Riva enters the boat and inside he meets Gracchus who gives him an account of his death while hunting and how he is...

    " ("Der Jäger Gracchus", 1917)
  • "The Great Wall of China
    The Great Wall of China (short story)
    The Great Wall of China is a short story written by Franz Kafka in 1917. It was not published until 1931, seven years after his death. Contained within the story is a paragraph that was separately published as A Message from the Emperor...

    " ("Beim Bau der Chinesischen Mauer", 1917)
  • "A Report to an Academy
    A Report to an Academy
    A Report to an Academy" is a short story by Franz Kafka, written and published in 1917. In the story, an ape named Red Peter, who has learned to behave like a human, presents to an academy the story of how he effected his transformation...

    " ("Ein Bericht für eine Akademie", 1917)
  • "Jackals and Arabs
    Jackals and Arabs
    "Jackals and Arabs" is a short story by Franz Kafka, written and published in 1917. The story was first published by Martin Buber in the German monthly Der Jude. It appeared again in a 1919 collection titled A Country Doctor .-Plot:A European traveler from the North, accompanied by Arab guides,...

    " ("Schakale und Araber", 1917)
  • "A Country Doctor" ("Ein Landarzt", 1919)
  • "An Old Manuscript
    An Old Manuscript
    "An Old Manuscript" , alternatively translated as "An Old Leaf", is a short story by Franz Kafka. It was originally written in 1919 in German.-Plot summary :...

    " ("Ein altes Blatt", 1919)
  • "The Refusal
    The Refusal
    The Refusal is a short story by Franz Kafka. Written in the autumn of 1920, it was not published in Kafka's lifetime.The story involves the narration of a young boy living in a small town that is fairly distanced from its capital...

    " ("Die Abweisung", 1920)
  • "A Hunger Artist
    A Hunger Artist
    "A Hunger Artist" , also translated as "A Fasting Artist" and "A Starvation Artist", is a short story by Franz Kafka published in Die Neue Rundschau in 1922. The story was also included in the collection A Hunger Artist published by Verlag Die Schmiede soon after Kafka's death...

    " ("Ein Hungerkünstler", 1924)
  • "Investigations of a Dog
    Investigations of a Dog
    "Investigations of a Dog" is a short story by Franz Kafka written in 1922 and published posthumously in 1931. Told from the perspective of a dog, the story concerns the nature and limits of knowledge, by way of the dog's inquiries into the practices of his culture."Investigations of a Dog" was...

    " ("Forschungen eines Hundes", 1922)
  • "A Little Woman
    A Little Woman
    "A Little Woman" is a short story by Franz Kafka written between December 1923 and the end of January 1924. It was first published in the Easter supplement of Prager Tagblatt on 20 April 1924...

    " ("Eine kleine Frau", 1923)
  • "First Sorrow
    First Sorrow
    "First Sorrow" is a short story by Franz Kafka probably written between the fall of 1921 and the spring of 1922. It appeared in Kurt Wolff Verlag's art periodical Genius, III no. 2 and in the Christmas 1923 supplement to the "Prager Presse"...

    " ("Erstes Leid", 1921–1922)
  • "The Burrow
    The Burrow (short story)
    The Burrow is an unfinished short story by Franz Kafka in which a mole-like being burrows through an elaborate system of tunnels it has built over the course of its life....

    " ("Der Bau", 1923–1924)
  • "Josephine the Singer, or the Mouse Folk" ("Josephine, die Sängerin, oder Das Volk der Mäuse", 1924)

Many collections of the stories have been published, and they include:
  • The Penal Colony: Stories and Short Pieces
    The Penal Colony: Stories and Short Pieces
    The Penal Colony: Stories and Short Pieces is a collection of short stories and recollections by Franz Kafka, with additional writings by Max Brod. First published in 1948 by Schocken Books, this volume includes all the works Kafka intended for publication, and published during his lifetime...

    . New York: Schocken Books, 1948.
  • The Complete Stories
    The Complete Stories of Franz Kafka
    The Complete Stories of Franz Kafka is a compilation of all Kafka's short stories. With the exception of Kafka's three novels , this collection includes all of Kafka's narrative work. The book was originally edited by Nahum N. Glatzer and published by Schocken Books in 1971...

    , (ed. Nahum N. Glatzer). New York: Schocken Books, 1971.
  • The Basic Kafka. New York: Pocket Books, 1979.
  • The Sons
    The Sons
    The Sons is a collection of stories by Franz Kafka.In 1913 Kafka wrote to his publisher Kurt Wolff requesting that three of his stories be placed in a single volume:...

    . New York: Schocken Books, 1989.
  • The Metamorphosis, In the Penal Colony, and Other Stories. New York: Schocken Books, 1995.
  • Contemplation
    Contemplation (Kafka)
    Contemplation, or Meditation is a sequence of eighteen short stories by Franz Kafka written between 1904 and 1912. Eight of these stories were published under the same title in the bimonthly Hyperion and were Kafka's first publication. Some of the stories are also included, in whole or in part, in...

    . Twisted Spoon Press, 1998.
  • Metamorphosis and Other Stories. Penguin Classics, 2007
  • Kafka's Greatest Stories. Vook
    Vook
    Vook is a New York-based company that publishes digital books that combine text, video, links to the internet and social media into singular applications available both online and as mobile applications...

    , 2010. (Enhanced with video providing historical background on Kafka's life and influences.)


Novellas
  • The Metamorphosis
    The Metamorphosis
    The Metamorphosis is a novella by Franz Kafka, first published in 1915. It is often cited as one of the seminal works of short fiction of the 20th century and is widely studied in colleges and universities across the western world...

    (Die Verwandlung, November – December 1915)


Novels
  • The Trial
    The Trial
    The Trial is a novel by Franz Kafka, first published in 1925. One of Kafka's best-known works, it tells the story of a man arrested and prosecuted by a remote, inaccessible authority, with the nature of his crime revealed neither to him nor the reader.Like Kafka's other novels, The Trial was never...

    (Der Prozeß, 1925) (includes short story Before the Law
    Before the Law
    "Before the Law" is a parable in the novel The Trial , by Franz Kafka. "Before the Law" was published in Kafka's lifetime, while The Trial was not published until after Kafka's death.-"Before the Law":...

    )
  • The Castle (Das Schloß, 1926)
  • Amerika (Amerika or Der Verschollene, 1927)


Diaries and notebooks
  • Diaries 1910–1923
    Franz Kafka's Diaries
    Franz Kafka's Diaries, written in German language between 1910-1923, include casual observations, details of daily life, reflections on philosophical ideas, accounts of dreams, and ideas for stories...

  • The Blue Octavo Notebooks
    The Blue Octavo Notebooks
    The Blue Octavo Notebooks is a series of eight notebooks written by Franz Kafka from late 1917 until June 1919. The name was given to them by Max Brod, Kafka's literary executor, to differentiate them from the regular quarto-sized notebooks Kafka used as diaries...



Letters
  • Letter to His Father
    Letter to His Father
    Letter to His Father is the name usually given to the letter Franz Kafka wrote to his father Hermann in November 1919, indicting him for his emotionally abusive and hypocritical behavior towards him....

  • Letters to Felice
    Letters to Felice
    Letters to Felice is a book collecting some of Franz Kafka's letters to Felice Bauer from 1912 to 1917. Schocken Books acquired these letters from Felice Bauer in 1955, in addition to roughly half of Kafka's letters to Grete Bloch, Bauer's friend. Additional letters to Bloch were acquired at a...

  • Letters to Ottla
    Letters to Ottla
    Letters to Ottla & the Family is a book collecting Franz Kafka's letters to his sister Ottla , as well as some letters to his parents Julie and Hermann Kafka. These letters were composed between 1909 and 1924; though Ottla died in the Holocaust, the letters were preserved by her husband and children...

  • Letters to Milena
    Letters to Milena
    Letters to Milena is a book collecting some of Franz Kafka's letters to Milena Jesenská from 1920 to 1923.-Publication history:The letters were originally published in German in 1952 as Briefe an Milena, edited by Willy Haas, who decided to delete certain passages which he thought might hurt people...

  • Letters to Family, Friends, and Editors
    Letters to Family, Friends, and Editors (Franz Kafka)
    Letters to Family, Friends, and Editors is a book collecting some of Franz Kafka's letters from 1900 to 1924. The majority of the letters in the volume are addressed to Max Brod. Originally published in Germany in 1959 as Briefe 1902-1924, the collection was first published in English by Schocken...


Commemoration

Franz Kafka has a museum dedicated to his work in Prague, Czech Republic.

The term "Kafkaesque" is widely used to describe concepts, situations and ideas which are reminiscent of Kafka's works, particularly The Trial
The Trial
The Trial is a novel by Franz Kafka, first published in 1925. One of Kafka's best-known works, it tells the story of a man arrested and prosecuted by a remote, inaccessible authority, with the nature of his crime revealed neither to him nor the reader.Like Kafka's other novels, The Trial was never...

and The Metamorphosis
The Metamorphosis
The Metamorphosis is a novella by Franz Kafka, first published in 1915. It is often cited as one of the seminal works of short fiction of the 20th century and is widely studied in colleges and universities across the western world...

.

The term has been described as "marked by a senseless, disorienting, often menacing complexity: Kafkaesque bureaucracies" and "marked by surreal distortion and often a sense of impending danger: Kafkaesque fantasies of the impassive interrogation, the false trial, the confiscated passport ... haunt his innocence."
It can also describe an intentional distortion of reality by powerful but anonymous bureaucrats. "Lack of evidence is treated as a pesky inconvenience, to be circumvented by such Kafkaesque means as depositing unproven allegations into sealed files..." Another definition would be an existentialist state of ever-elusive freedom while existing under unmitigable control.
The adjective refers to anything suggestive of Kafka, especially his nightmarish style of narration, in which characters lack a clear course of action, the ability to see beyond immediate events, and the possibility of escape. The term's meaning has transcended the literary realm to apply to real-life occurrences and situations that are incomprehensibly complex, bizarre, or illogical.

In Mexico, the phrase "Si Franz Kafka fuera mexicano, sería costumbrista" (If Franz Kafka were Mexican, he would be a Costumbrista writer) is commonly used in newspapers, blogs and online forums to tell how hopeless and absurd the situation in the country is.

Asteroid
Asteroid
Asteroids are a class of small Solar System bodies in orbit around the Sun. They have also been called planetoids, especially the larger ones...

 3412 Kafka
3412 Kafka
3412 Kafka is a small main belt asteroid. It was discovered by Randolph L. Kirk and Donald James Rudy in 1983. It is named after Franz Kafka, the Austrian-Czech writer. Its period is about 1212 days , so it is passed by Earth about every 523 days ....

 was named after the author.

The Franz Kafka Prize
Franz Kafka Prize
The Franz Kafka Prize is an international literary award presented in honour of Franz Kafka, the German language novelist. The prize was first awarded in 2001 and is co-sponsored by the and the city of Prague, Czech Republic. At a presentation held annually at the end of October in the Old Town...

 was established in 2001, to recognize the artwork's "humanistic character and contribution to cultural, national, language and religious tolerance, its existential, timeless character, its generally human validity and its ability to hand over a testimony about our times."

Literary and cultural references

  • Nobel Prize
    Nobel Prize
    The Nobel Prizes are annual international awards bestowed by Scandinavian committees in recognition of cultural and scientific advances. The will of the Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, established the prizes in 1895...

     winner Isaac Bashevis Singer
    Isaac Bashevis Singer
    Isaac Bashevis Singer – July 24, 1991) was a Polish Jewish American author noted for his short stories. He was one of the leading figures in the Yiddish literary movement, and received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1978...

     wrote a short story called "A Friend of Kafka," which was about a Yiddish actor called Jacques Kohn who said he knew Franz Kafka. In this story, according to Jacques Kohn, Kafka believed in the Golem
    Golem
    In Jewish folklore, a golem is an animated anthropomorphic being, created entirely from inanimate matter. The word was used to mean an amorphous, unformed material in Psalms and medieval writing....

    , a legendary creature from Jewish folklore. Kafkaesque by Tachyon Publications
    Tachyon Publications
    Tachyon Publications is an independent press specializing in science fiction and fantasy books. Founded in San Francisco in 1995 by Jacob Weisman, Tachyon books have tended toward high-end literary works, short story collections, and anthologies....

     is an anthology of short stories inspired by the works of Franz Kafka. Kafka Americana
    Kafka Americana
    Kafka Americana is a 1999 collection of short stories by Jonathan Lethem and Carter Scholz based on the life and works of Franz Kafka. Originally published in a limited edition by Subterranean Press, it was released as a trade paperback by W. W...

    by Jonathan Lethem
    Jonathan Lethem
    Jonathan Allen Lethem is an American novelist, essayist and short story writer. His first novel, Gun, with Occasional Music, a genre work that mixed elements of science fiction and detective fiction, was published in 1994. It was followed by three more science fiction novels...

     and Carter Scholz is a collection of stories based on Kafka's life and works. Other works inspired by Kafka include Kafka on the Shore
    Kafka on the Shore
    is a 2002 novel by Japanese author Haruki Murakami. John Updike described it as a "real page-turner, as well as an insistently metaphysical mind-bender"...

    by Haruki Murakami
    Haruki Murakami
    is a Japanese writer and translator. His works of fiction and non-fiction have garnered him critical acclaim and numerous awards, including the Franz Kafka Prize and Jerusalem Prize among others.He is considered an important figure in postmodern literature...

    , The Kafka Effekt
    The Kafka Effekt
    The Kafka Effekt is the debut book of American author D. Harlan Wilson. It contains forty-four irreal short stories and flash fiction and has been said to combine the milieu's of Franz Kafka and William S. Burroughs. Along with Carlton Mellick III's Satan Burger, Vincent Sakowski's Some Things...

    by American bizarro
    Bizarro fiction
    Bizarro fiction is a contemporary literary genre, which often utilizes elements of absurdism, satire, and the grotesque, along with pop-surrealism and genre fiction staples, in order to create subversive works that are as weird and entertaining as possible. The term was adopted in 2005 by the...

     author D. Harlan Wilson
    D. Harlan Wilson
    D. Harlan Wilson is an American short-story writer and novelist whose body of work has been associated with the genres of irrealism, science fiction, fantasy, horror, bizarro fiction, megalofiction, splatterpunk, absurdism, literary fiction, ultraviolence, and postmodernism...

    , a chapter from Vertigo
    Vertigo (book)
    Vertigo is a book by German author W. G. Sebald. The book functions along with Sebald's subsequent critically successful works The Emigrants and The Rings of Saturn as a trilogy...

    by W. G. Sebald
    W. G. Sebald
    W. G. Maximilian Sebald was a German writer and academic. At the time of his death at the age of 57, he was being cited by many literary critics as one of the greatest living authors and had been tipped as a possible future winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature...

    , and Kafka's Soup
    Kafka's Soup
    Kafka's Soup is a literary pastiche in the form of a cookbook. It contains 14 recipes each written in the style of a famous author from history. As of 2007 it had been translated into 18 languages and published in 27 countries. Excerpts from the book have appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald and...

    by Mark Crick
    Mark Crick
    Mark Crick is a British photographer and author, best known for his literary parodies Kafka's Soup and Sartre's Sink, in which he presents recipes and DIY tips in the style of famous literary writers. Mark Crick is married to Fiona Simmons Crick....

    .
  • Kafka
    Kafka (film)
    Kafka is a 1991 mystery thriller film directed by Steven Soderbergh. Ostensibly a biopic, based on the life of Franz Kafka, the film blurs the lines between fact and Kafka's fiction , creating a Kafkaesque atmosphere...

    (1991) Jeremy Irons
    Jeremy Irons
    Jeremy John Irons is an English actor. After receiving classical training at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, Irons began his acting career on stage in 1969, and has since appeared in many London theatre productions including The Winter's Tale, Macbeth, Much Ado About Nothing, The Taming of the...

     stars as the eponym
    Eponym
    An eponym is the name of a person or thing, whether real or fictitious, after which a particular place, tribe, era, discovery, or other item is named or thought to be named...

    ous author. Written by Lem Dobbs
    Lem Dobbs
    Lem Dobbs is a British-American screenwriter, best known for the film The Limey. He is the son of the late painter, R.B. Kitaj...

     and directed by Steven Soderbergh
    Steven Soderbergh
    Steven Andrew Soderbergh is an American film producer, screenwriter, cinematographer, editor, and an Academy Award-winning film director. He is best known for directing commercial Hollywood films like Erin Brockovich, Traffic, and the remake of Ocean's Eleven, but he has also directed smaller less...

    , the movie mixes his life and fiction providing a semi-biographical presentation of Kafka's life and works. The story concerns Kafka investigating the disappearance of one of his work colleagues. The plot takes Kafka through many of the writer's own works, most notably The Castle and The Trial
    The Trial
    The Trial is a novel by Franz Kafka, first published in 1925. One of Kafka's best-known works, it tells the story of a man arrested and prosecuted by a remote, inaccessible authority, with the nature of his crime revealed neither to him nor the reader.Like Kafka's other novels, The Trial was never...

    .
  • Franz Kafka's It's a Wonderful Life
    Franz Kafka's It's a Wonderful Life
    Franz Kafka's It's a Wonderful Life is a short comic film for BBC Scotland. It was written and directed by Peter Capaldi, it stars Richard E. Grant as Franz Kafka, and co-stars Ken Stott....

    is an Oscar-winning short film written and directed by Peter Capaldi
    Peter Capaldi
    Peter Dougan Capaldi is an Academy Award and BAFTA award winning Scottish actor and film director. In 1995, his short film Franz Kafka's It's a Wonderful Life won the Academy Award for Live Action Short Film...

     and starring Richard E. Grant
    Richard E. Grant
    Richard E. Grant is a Swaziland-born British actor, screenwriter and director. His most notable role came in the film Withnail and I. He holds dual British and Swazi citizenship.-Early life:...

     as Kafka. : an animated film by Piotr Dumała
    Piotr Dumała
    Piotr Dumała is a Polish film director and animator. His animation technique is original and fascinating, among the most interesting of the last 30 years. While training to be a sculptor, he discovered that scratching images into painted plaster could be a beautiful way to create animations...

  • Alan Bennett
    Alan Bennett
    Alan Bennett is a British playwright, screenwriter, actor and author. Born in Leeds, he attended Oxford University where he studied history and performed with The Oxford Revue. He stayed to teach and research mediaeval history at the university for several years...

    , Kafka's Dick
    Kafka's Dick
    Kafka's Dick is a 1986 play by Alan Bennett. It is play about the nature of fame and how reputations are made.-Plot:Set in the present-day in a suburban Yorkshire dwelling, Kafka aficionado Sydney, and his wife Linda, are visited by Franz Kafka and his friend Max Brod who are both long dead...

    , 1986, a play in which the ghosts of Kafka, his father Hermann and Max Brod arrive at the home of an English insurance clerk (and Kafka aficionado) and his wife.
  • Milan Richter, Kafka's Hell-Paradise, 2006, a play with 5 characters, using Kafka's aphorisms, dreams and re-telling his relations to his father and to the women. Translated from the Slovak by Ewald Osers.
  • Milan Richter, Kafka's Second Life, 2007, a play with 17 characters, starting in Kierling where Kafka is dying and ending in Prague in 1961. Translated from the Slovak by Ewald Osers.
  • Danish composer Poul Ruders
    Poul Ruders
    Poul Ruders is a Danish composer.Ruders trained as an organist, and studied orchestration with Karl Aage Rasmussen. Ruders's first compositions date from the mid-1960s...

     wrote an opera Kafka's Trial based on the novel and parts of Kafka's life. It was first performed in 2005, and has been released on CD. Hungarian composer György Kurtág
    György Kurtág
    György Kurtág is a Hungarian composer of contemporary music.- Biography :György Kurtág was born in Lugoj in the Banat region, Romania.In 1946, he began his studies at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest, where he met his wife, Márta, and also György Ligeti, who became a close friend...

     wrote a piece for soprano and violin, using fragments of Kafka's diary and letters: Kafka-Fragmente, Op. 24, 1985.
  • In 2011, BBC Radio 3
    BBC Radio 3
    BBC Radio 3 is a national radio station operated by the BBC within the United Kingdom. Its output centres on classical music and opera, but jazz, world music, drama, culture and the arts also feature. The station is the world’s most significant commissioner of new music, and its New Generation...

     produced Kafka the Musical as part of their "Play of the Week" programme. Franz Kafka was played by David Tennant
    David Tennant
    David Tennant is a Scottish actor. In addition to his work in theatre, including a widely praised Hamlet, Tennant is best known for his role as the tenth incarnation of the Doctor in Doctor Who, along with the title role in the 2005 TV serial Casanova and as Barty Crouch, Jr...

    .

External links

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