Franz Kafka Writing

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Franz Kafka Writing style

Kafka often made extensive use of a trait special 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 cannot be duplicated in English, so it is up to the translator to provide the reader with the same effect found in the original text.

Another virtually insurmountable problem facing the translator is how to deal with the author's intentional use of ambiguous terms or of words that have several meanings. One such instance is found in the first sentence of The Metamorphosis. Another example is Kafka's use of the German noun Verkehr in the final sentence of The Judgment. 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".In the English translation, of course, what can 'Verkehr' be but "traffic?"
 Franz Kafka Diaries
Franz Kafka WritingFranz 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. Kafka’s diaries offer a detailed view of the writer's thoughts and feelings, as well as some of his most famous and quotable statements.

Kafka began keeping the diaries at the age of 27, as an attempt to provoke his stalled creativity, and kept writing in them until 1923, a year before his death. These diaries were in the background all through the composition of Kafka's major works and many of them are discussed and analyzed in detail.

The diaries offer an image of a profoundly depressed man, isolated from friends and family, involved in a series of failed relationships, and constantly sick. While this is certainly part of Kafka's character it is typical for a private journal, not meant for publication, to express more of the writer's anxieties and worries. The humor and light-heartedness sometimes expressed in Kafka's fiction, as well as the generally positive image arising from recollections by friends and acquaintances, are missing from the diaries.

Franz Kafka Diaries 1910-1923

By now we are almost accustomed in Western European stories, as soon as they try to encompass any groups of Jews, to seek out and find beneath or above the portrayal the solution to the Jewish question as well. But in Jüdinnen such a solution is not shown and not even attempted, since the very characters who are occupied with such questions stand farthest from the center of the story, where events turn more quickly, so that we can still observe them but no longer have a chance to get from them a calm report of their efforts. Suddenly we perceive this as a flaw in the story, and feel ourselves all the more justified in this dismissal since today, with the coming of Zionism, the possible solutions to the Jewish problem are so clearly laid out that the writer would, after all, only have needed a few steps to find the particular possible solution appropriate to his story.

This flaw arises from yet another. Jüdinnen lacks the non-Jewish onlookers, those respectable opponents who in other stories draw forth the Jewishness so that it pushes out against them, shifts into astonishment, doubt, envy, terror, and finally, finally into self-confidence, but in any case can straighten itself to its full length only against them. Just that is what we demand, we don’t recognize any another resolution of the Jewish material. And we don’t rely on such a feeling in this case alone, at least in one direction it is general. On a footpath in Italy, for instance, we are delighted when a lizard darts off exquisitely from our footsteps, we keep wanting to bend down, but if we see them at a shop by the hundreds, crawling over one another in the large glasses where pickles are usually kept, then we don’t know how to handle it

Both flaws combine into a third. Jüdinnen can do without that foremost youth who in such a story usually pulls the best things to himself and leads them outward, in a beautiful radial direction, to the borders of the Jewish circle. That is precisely what we won’t accept, that the story can do without this youth, here we sense a fault more than we see it.
Readers have become accustomed, in contemporary Western European Jewish stories, to seek out and find just above or beneath the story the solution to the Jewish question as well; but in Jüdinnen such a solution is not portrayed and not even attempted, so that the reader might well suddenly perceive this as a flaw in Jüdinnen, and will look on only reluctantly if Jews should come into the daylight without political encourangement from the past or the future. Here he must say to himself that, particularly since the advent of Zionism, the possible solutions to the Jewish problem are so clearly laid out that the author need only turn his body, after all, to find a particular solution appropriate to that part of the problem lying before him.
My visit to Dr. Steiner.

A woman is already waiting (up on the third floor of the Victoria Hotel at Jungmannsstrasse) but insists that I go in before her. We wait. The secretary comes with promises. Down the corridor I catch a glimpse of him. Immediately afterward he comes up to us with half-extended arms. The woman explains that I was the first to come. I walk behind him now, as he directs me into his room. His Kaiser gown, which on lecture evenings seems mopped black (not mopped, but rather radiant in its own blackness) is now by daylight (at 3 in the afternoon) dusty and even spotted, especially on the back and shoulders. In his room I try to show my humility, which I can’t feel, by looking for a ridiculous place for my hat; I put it on a small wooden rack for lacing boots. In the center a table, I sit with a view of the window, he on the left side of the table. Some papers on the table, with a few drawings recalling one of the lectures on occult physiology. A small volume of annals in natural philosophy tops a short pile of books, other books lie around elsewhere. You can’t look around now, for he keeps seeking to hold you with his gaze, and if he fails at it once, you must look out for the gaze’s return. He begins with a few loose sentences: So you are Dr. Kafka? Have you been interested long in Theosophy? But I press forward with my prepared speech: I feel as if a large part of my being is drawn to Theosophy, but at the same time I have the greatest fear of it. I’m afraid of it bringing a new confusion, which would be terrible for me, seeing as my present unhappiness consists of nothing but confusion. The nature of the confusion is this: my happiness, my abilities and any possibility of using them have always lain in literature. And here I have even experienced states (not many) which in my opinion lie very close to the clairvoyant states that you describe, Herr Doctor, in which I lived entirely within each idea, but also fulfilled each idea, and in which I felt myself not only at my own bounds but at the bounds of all humanity. Only the ecstatic peace which may be unique to the clairvoyant was missing from these states, though not quite entirely. I leave out of this that I have not written my best work in these states. — Currently I can’t devote myself entirely to these literary pursuits, as I should, and for various reasons. Apart from my family situation, I couldn’t live from literature alone because of the slow development of my work and its particular character; in addition, my health and my character prevent me from devoting myself to a life that is uncertain at best. So I have become an office worker at a social insurance institute. Now these two professions could never tolerate one another and accept a shared fortune. The least good fortune in one is a great misfortune in the other. If I have written something good one evening, the next day in the office I am on fire and can’t get anything finished. This back-and-forth is getting steadily worse.

In the office I fulfill my duties outwardly, but not my inner duties, and each unsatisfied inner duty turns into an unhappiness which never stirs out of me. And to these two endeavors, never to be balanced, shall I now add Theosophy as a third? Will it not disturb them on both sides and itself be interrupted from both? Will I, presently such an unhappy person, be able to carry these three to a conclusion? I have come, Herr Doctor, to ask you this, for I feel that if you consider me capable of it, I too can really take it upon myself.

He listened very attentively, without seeming to attend to me in the least, entirely devoted to my words. He nodded from time to time, which for him seemed to be an aid to strict concentration. At the beginning a silent cold disturbed him, it ran out of his nose, he kept working at it with his handkerchief deep in his nose, a finger on either nostril.
28 March 1911. The painter Pollak-Karlin, his wife with two large wide front teeth tapering her large, rather flat face, Frau Hofrath Bittner, the composer’s mother, whose age so brings out her strong skeleton that at least while sitting she looks like a man: - Dr. Steiner is so very occupied with his absent students - At the lecture the dead crowd around him so. Intellectual curiosity? But do they actually need it. Apparently so. - Sleeps 2 hours. Ever since his electric lights were once cut off, he always has a candle by him. - He stood very near Christ. - He staged his theater piece in Munich. (”You can study it a whole year and still not understand it.”) He designed the costumes, wrote the music. - He gave instruction to a chemist. Simon Löwy, silk merchant in Paris, Quai Moncey, got the best business advice from him. He translated his work into French. Thus the Hofrat’s wife has written in her notebook, “How does one achieve the knowledge of higher worlds? At S. Löwy’s in Paris.” - In the Vienna lodge is a 65-year-old Theosophist, strong as a giant, formerly a great drunkard with a thick head, who continually believes and continually has doubts. Supposedly it was very funny when, once at a congress in Budapest, at a dinner on Blocksberg one moonlit night, Dr. Steiner came unexpectedly into the gathering and he hid in fear behind a beer barrel with a mug (though Dr. Steiner would not have been angry at this) - Perhaps he is not the greatest living psychic researcher, but he alone has received the task of uniting Theosophy with science. That’s also why he knows everything.

Once a botanist, a great master of the occult, came to his native village. He enlightened him. - That I would look up Dr. Steiner was interpreted by the lady for me as the beginning of recollection. - The lady’s doctor had, when she showed the first signs of influenza, asked Dr. Steiner about a remedy, prescribed it to the woman so that she got better immediately. - A Frenchwoman took leave of him with “Au revoir.” He shook his hand behind her. Two months later she died. Yet another similar case in Munich. - A Munich doctor heals using colors picked out by Dr. Steiner. Also he sends patients into the Pinakotheque with instructions to concentrate on a particular picture for a half hour or longer. - Destruction of Atlantis, fall of Lemuria, and now through egoism. - We live in a decisive time. Dr. Steiner’s efforts will be successful if only the powers of Ahriman do not gain the upper hand. - He eats two liters of almond milk and fruits that grow in the air. - He keeps company with his absent students by means of thought forms, which he sends out to them without bothering about them after they have produced. But soon they wear off and he must generate more - Mrs. Fanta: I have a bad memory. Dr St. Don’t eat any eggs.
26 March 1911

Theosophical lectures by Dr. Rudolf Steiner, Berlin. Rhetorical effect: relaxed discussion of the objections of opponents, the listener is amazed by this strong opposition, further development and enlivening of these objections, the listener falls into worry, sinks entirely into these objections as if there were nothing else, now the listener takes a response to be impossible and is more than satisfied with a fleeting description of the possibility of defense.

This rhetorical effect corresponds, incidentally, to the commandment of the devotional spirit. - Continual gazing on the surface of one’s extended hand. - Leaving out the final point. In general the spoken sentence begins at the speaker with its great capital letter, in its course bends as far as it can out to the listeners, and turns back to the speaker with the final point. But if the final point is left out, then the sentence, no longer held, blows directly onto the listener with the entire breath.

Earlier a lecture by Loos and Kraus.
The urban world.

Oskar M., an older student—if one looked at him closely, one was frightened by his eyes—stood one winter afternoon in the midst of the falling snow on an empty stretch, in his winter clothes with a winter coat on top, a shawl around his neck, and a fur cap on his head. He squinted his eyes in deliberation. He had lost himself so deeply in thought that at one point he took off his cap and brushed the fuzzed fur over his face. At last he seemed to reach some conclusion and turned with a dance step toward the road home. As he opened the door of his parents’ living room he saw his father, a clean—shaven man with a fleshy face, facing the door from his seat at an empty table. “Finally,” he said, Oskar having scarcely set foot in the room, I’m waiting here for you at the door, I’m so furious with you that I can hardly handle myself. But father, said Oskar, and only on speaking noticed how he had been running. Quiet, his father shouted and stood up, blocking a window. Quiet, I order you. And no arguments from you, you understand. Meanwhile he took the table with both hands and dragged it a step closer to Oskar. I won’t put up with your idle life any more. I’m an old man. I thought that in you I’d have a consolation for my old age, that’s what makes you a torment worse than all my illnesses. Blast such a son—through laziness, wastefulness, spite, and stupidity, he’s pushing his old father into the grave. Here Oskar’s father fell silent, but moved his face as if he were still speaking. Dear father, said Oskar, and moved cautiously toward the table, calm down, everything will be fine. I’ve had an idea today that will make a hardwoking man of me, as you could only hope for. What’s that? asked his father and looked into a corner. Just trust me, I’ll explain everything to you over dinner. Deep down I’ve always been a good son, it’s just that I couldn’t show it on the outside, I was so bitter that I would rather torment you, if there was no way I could make you happy. But just let me go for a short walk now, so that I can get my thoughts clearer. Oskar’s father, at first paying close attention, had sat down on the table’s edge, now he stood: I don’t believe there’s much sense in what you just said, I’d sooner take it for blather. But in the end you’re my son — come back on time, we’ll have dinner at home, and you can tell me the matter then. That little trust is all I need, I’m thankful to you from the bottom of my heart. But isn’t it plain to see in my eyes that I’m entirely occupied with a serious matter? At the moment I don’t see anything, said Oskar’s father. But that could also be my fault, after all I’ve gotten used to looking right past you. Meanwhile, as was his habit, he struck regular blows against the tabletop as a reminder of passing time. But what matters is that I don’t trust you at all any more, Oskar. If I shout at you — when you arrived I shouted at you, didn’t I? — I do it only in the hope that it might improve you, I do it only for the thought of your poor good mother, who perhaps now feels no immediate sorrow over you, but is slowly going to ruin from the effort of fending off that sorrow, since she imagines that this will help you somehow. But in the end this is something you already know quite well, and for my sake alone I wouldn’t have reminded you of it if you hadn’t provoked me with your promises. During these last words, the servant girl stepped in to check on the fire in the oven. Scarcely had she left the room when Oskar called out: But father! I wouldn’t have expected that. If I’d had only a small idea, let’s say an idea about my dissertation, that’s been sitting a good ten years in my chest and needs ideas like salt, so it’s possible, if not even highly probable, that just as happened today I would have come running home from my walk and said: Father, happily I’ve had this and this idea. And if then, with your venerable voice, you had spoken those accusations from a little while ago into my face, then my idea would have been simply blown away and I would have had to march off with some excuse, or without one. But now! Everything you say against me helps my ideas, they don’t cease, they get stronger and fill up my head. I’ll go, because only in privacy can I set them in order. He gulped at his breath in the warm room. And it could also be a dirty trick that you have in your head, said his father with wide eyes, now I believe it has got hold of you. But if something capable gets into you by mistake, then it runs out of you overnight. I know you. Oskar shook his head as if he were being held by the neck. Let me alone. It’s most unnecessary how you’re drilling into me. The mere possibility that you might be able to predict my future really shouldn’t tempt you to disturb my careful deliberations. Perhaps my past gives you that right, but you shouldn’t make use of it. There you see best how great your insecurity must be, if it forces you to speak against me like this. Nothing forces me, said Oskar, and jerked his neck. He even stepped much closer to the table, so that one could no longer tell to whom it belonged. What I said, I said in awe, and even from love for you, as you’ll see later, for the greatest part of my decisions comes out of consideration for you and Mama. Then I shall have to thank you, said his father, since it’s highly unlikely that your mother and I will still be able to do so at the appropriate moment. Please father, let the future sleep for now, as it deserves. If you wake it too early, you get a groggy present. But that your son should have to tell you this! It’s not even that I wanted to convince you, but only to announce the news. And that at least, as you have to admit, I’ve accomplished. Now Oskar only one thing still amazes me: why you haven’t often before come to me with a thing like today’s. It fits your previous nature so well. No, in fact I’m serious.

Yes, and you would have struck me instead of listening to me. I ran here so quickly, God knows, to give you some joy. But I can’t give away anything to you until my plan is completely finished. So why do you berate me for my good intentions, and demand explanations from me that might hinder the accomplishment of my plan.

Quiet I don’t want to know a thing. But I must answer you very quickly, since you’re drawing back to the door and obviously have something very urgent in mind: you calmed my original anger with your piece of artistry, — only now it’s all the sadder for me than before and so I beg you — if you stay longer I can even fold my hands — at least say nothing of your ideas to your mother. Let it be enough with me.

That certainly isn’t my father who’s speaking this way, cried Oskar, who had already laid his arm on the doorknob. Something has come over you since noon, or you’re a stranger I’m now meeting for the first time in my father’s room. My real father — Oskar was silent a moment, his mouth open — he would surely have embraced me, he would have called for my mother. What has happened to you, father?

You’d better eat dinner with your real father, I think. It would be more pleasant.

He’ll come soon. He can’t stay away much longer. And my mother must be with him. And Franz, whom I’m calling now. All of them. And Oskar pushed his shoulder against the easily moved door, as if he had meant to break it down.

Having arrived at Franz’s apartment, he bowed to the small landlady with the words: I know the Herr Engineer is sleeping, that means nothing, and with no further regard for the woman, who was moving uselessly back and forth in the hallway from displeasure at the visit, he opened the glass door, which trembled in his hand as if touched in a delicate position, and called carelessly into the room, which he still scarcely saw: Franz, get up. I need your professional advice. But I can’t stand it here in the room, we’ll have to go for a little walk, you’ll have to eat dinner with us too. So quickly now. With pleasure, said the engineer from his leather sofa, but which first, getting up, going for a walk, eating dinner, giving advice, and I probably missed some of it. And above all, no little jokes, Franz. That’s the most important, I forgot that. I’ll do you the favor immediately. But getting up — I’d rather eat dinner for you twice than get up for you once. Up now! No arguments. Oskar grabbed the weak man by the front of his clothes and sat him up. But you’re raving, you know. With all respect. He rubbed at his closed eyes with both little fingers. Say. Have I ever torn you like this from the sofa. But Franz, said Oskar with a twisted face, get dressed now. I’m not some idiot who’s woken you for no reason. — Just as I don’t sleep for no reason. I had the night shift last night, so I’ve just now gotten to my midday sleep, on your account too — How so? Oh, how it irritates me, how little consideration you take for me. It isn’t the first time. Naturally you’re a free student and can do whatever you like. Not everyone is so lucky. So you really have to be considerate, for God’s sake. Of course I’m your friend, but they haven’t lessened my work because of that. He illustrated this by shaking his open hands back and forth. But mustn’t I believe, from how you’re talking now, that you’ve slept more than enough, said Oskar, who had drawn himself up on a bedpost and from it looked at the engineer as if he had somewhat more time than earlier. So what do you actually want from me? or better said, why did you wake me? asked the engineer, and heavily rubbed his neck beneath his goatee, in the close connection with one’s body that one has after sleeping. What I want from you, said Oskar gently, and gave the bed a small push with his heel. Very little. I already told to you from the hall: for you to get dressed. If you want to suggest by this, Oskar, that your news interests me very little, then you’re completely right. That’s just fine, then it will set you on fire on your own account, even without our friendship getting involved. The information too will become clearer, I need clear information, keep that thought foremost. If you’re perhaps looking for your collar and necktie, they’re lying there on the armchair. Thanks, said the engineer and began to fasten his collar and tie, one really can depend on you.

The Franz Kafka Biography website

Marc Henry—Delvard. The tragic feeling created in the audience by the empty hall heightens the effect of serious songs, harms the lively ones.—Henry gives a prologue while Delvard, behind a curtain that she doesn’t realize is transparent, arranges her hair.—At badly attended performances, Wetzler the presenter seems to wear his Assyrian beard, which is otherwise deep black, with tinges of gray.—Good to let such a temperament blow over you, it lasts for 24 hours, no not so long.—A lot of clothing on display, Breton costumes, the inner underskirt is the longest so that one can count up the richness from a distance.—At first Delvard accompanies, since they wanted to save an accompanist, in a broad low-cut green dress, and freezes.—Parisian street calls. Newsboys are left out.—Someone speaks to me, before I can breathe out I am bid farewell.—Delvard is ridiculous, she has an old maid’s smile, an old maid from the German cabaret, she gets a red shawl from behind the curtain and plays revolution, poems by Dauthendey in the same tough, indestructible voice. Only when she first sat like a woman at the piano was she endearing.—At the song “a Batignolles” I felt Paris in my throat. Batignolles is supposed to be living on pension, even its Apaches. Bruant wrote a song for each of its quarters.
21 February 1911

I live my life here as if I were entirely certain of a second life, as if for example I had entirely gotten over the failed time spent in Paris, since I will strive to return soon. Connected to this, the sight of the sharply divided light and shadow on the street paving.

For a moment I felt myself covered in armor.

How distant, for example, are the muscles of my arms.
Kleist’s youthful letters, age 22. Quits his military position. At home they ask him: So which practical studies for you, since they considered that self-evident. You have a choice between jurisprudence & political science. But do you have any connections at court? “I answered no, somewhat embarrassed at first, but went on to explain much more proudly that if I did have any connections, with my current ideas I would be ashamed to count on them. They smiled, I felt I had been too hasty. One must take care not to voice such truths”
The young pure well-dressed youths beside me in the gallery remind me of my own youth, and so make an unappetizing impression on me.
Small cities also have small surroundings for those taking walks.
20 February 1911

Mella Mars in the “Lucerna.” A witty tragedienne, who as it were entered onto an inside-out stage, as tragediennes sometimes show themselves behind the scenery. On her entrance she had a tired, in fact even a flat, empty, old face, the sort that is a natural start for all famous actors. She speaks very sharply, her movements too are sharp, beginning from her bent-back thumbs which seem to have hard sinews in place of bones. Particular changeability of her nose through the shifting highlights and depths of the muscles playing around it. In spite of the unending flashes of her movements and words, she makes her points delicately.

“Are you going to stay here much longer?” I asked. At the sudden speech a bit of spittle flew out of my mouth as a bad omen.

Is it bothering you? If it’s bothering you or perhaps keeping you from going up, I’ll go right away, but otherwise I’d rather stay here, for I’m tired.

19 February 1911

The particular nature of my inspiration, in which I, the happiest and unhappiest of men, now go to sleep at two in the morning [perhaps it will remain, if I can only bear the thought of it, for it exceeds all that came before] is such that I can do anything, and not only for one particular work. If I write down a sentence at random, such as He looked out the window, it is already perfected.

19 February 1911

When I tried to get out of bed today, I simply folded up. There’s a very simple reason for this, I am completely overworked. Not by the office but by my other work. The office has an innocent share in it only in that if I did not have to go there, I could live calmly for my work and would not have to spend six hours there daily, which especially on Friday and Saturday afflicted me to a degree you can’t imagine, since I was full of my own affairs. In the end I know perfectly well that these are empty words, that I am guilty and that the office has the clearest and most justified claims against me. But for me in particular it is a terrible double life, from which there is no way out but madness. I write this in good morning light and surely would not write it if it were not so true, and if I did not love you like a son.

For the rest, tomorrow I will surely be together again and will go to the office, where the first thing I hear will be that you want me out of your division.

Three times in the theater, always sold out: Des Meeres und der Liebe Wellen: I sat in the balcony, too good an actor made too much noise as Naukleros, several times I had tears in my eyes, such as the end of the first act when Hero’s and Leander’s eyes cannot leave each other. Hero steps out the temple door, through which something is visible that can be nothing else but an icebox. In the second act a forest, as in early deluxe editions, it goes to the heart, lianas loop themselves from tree to tree. Everything mossy and dark green. The back wall of the tower turns next evening back into Miss Dudelsack. From the third act on the anticlimax of the piece, as if there were an enemy behind it
One policeman doesn’t know the address of the Workers’ Insurance Company, another doesn’t know that of the institute branch office, a third doesn’t even know where Johannes Street is. They explain that they have only been in the service a short time. For an address I have to go to the guardroom, where there are plenty of policemen resting in various ways, all in uniforms of surprising beauty, newness and color, since otherwise only dark winter coats are to be seen on the street.

The actual intentions of people who rush into a small town in the afternoon are completely unclear to me. If they live outside it, then surely they have to use the trams, since the distances are too great. But if they live in the town itself, then of course there is no distance and no reason to hurry. And yet people stretch their legs in crossing this central square which is no larger than that of a village and whose city hall makes it still smaller by its immediate size (it can amply cover the square with its shadow), so long as, looking from the small square, one doesn’t quite want to believe in the size of the hall and tries to explain the first impression of its size by the square’s smallness.

I had noticed the Dürerbund “literary advisor” in the window display of the bookshop. Decided to buy it, then changed my mind, returned once more to the decision, during which I often remained standing before the display at all times of day. The bookshop seemed so forsaken to me, the books so forsaken. Only here and there did I feel the connection between the world and Friedland, it was so slight. But since any forsakenness induces a warmth in me, soon I felt the happiness of this bookshop as well, and once stepped inside just to see the interior. Since scientific works aren’t needed there, its shelves seemed almost more literary than in city bookshops. An old lady sat under a green-shaded light bulb. Four, five evenly unpacked volumes of Kunstwart reminded me that it was the beginning of the month. The woman, refusing my help, pulled the book out from the display (she was scarcely conscious of its existence), handed it to me, was surprised that I had noticed it behind the icy pane (of course I had seen it earlier), and began to look up the price in the account books, since she didn’t know it and her husband was away. I’ll come back later in the evening, I said (it was five in the afternoon), but didn’t keep my word.

Kafka was born into a middle-class Jewish family in Prague, the capital of Bohemia. 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 ritual slaughterer, and came to Prague from Osek, a Czech-speaking Jewish village near 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 (kavka in Czech) as his business logo. Kafka's mother, Julie (1856—1934), was the daughter of Jakob Löwy, a prosperous brewer in Poděbrady, and was better educated than her husband.

Franz was the eldest of six children.[4] He had two younger brothers, Georg and Heinrich, who died at the ages of fifteen months and six months, respectively, before Franz was seven, and three younger sisters, Gabriele ("Elli") (1889–1941), Valerie ("Valli") (1890–1942), and Ottilie ("Ottla") (1891–1943). On business days, both parents were absent from the home. His mother helped to manage her husband's business and worked in it as much as 12 hours a day. The children were largely reared by a series of governesses and servants. Franz's relationship with his father was severely troubled as explained in the Letter to His Father in which he complained of being profoundly emotionally abused since childhood.

Franz's sisters were sent with their families to the Łódź Ghetto and died there or in concentration camps. Ottla was sent to the concentration camp at Theresienstadt and then on 7 October 1943 to the death camp at Auschwitz, where 1267 children and 51 guardians, including Ottla, were gassed to death on their arrival.

Kafka learned German as his first language, but he was also fluent in Czech. Later, Kafka acquired some knowledge of French language and culture; one of his favorite authors was Flaubert. 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, within the Kinsky Palace. He completed his Maturita exams in 1901.

Admitted to the Charles-Ferdinand 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, who would become a close friend of his throughout his life, together with the journalist Felix Weltsch, 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.

Franz Kafka Employment

On 1 November 1907, he was hired at the Assicurazioni Generali, a large 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 p.m. (20:00) until 6 a.m. (06:00)—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 Institute for the Kingdom of Bohemia. 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 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, these three were called "Der enge Prager Kreis", the close 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, proposed Kafka collaborate in the operation of an asbestos 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, 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.[8]

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

In 1917, Kafka began to suffer from tuberculosis, which would require 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.

In 1921 he developed an intense relationship with Czech journalist and writer Milena Jesenská. In July 1923, throughout a vacation to Graal-Müritz on the Baltic Sea, he met Dora Diamant 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.

It is generally agreed that Kafka suffered from clinical depression and social anxiety throughout his entire life.[citation needed] He also suffered from migraines, insomnia, constipation, boils, and other ailments, all usually brought on by excessive stresses and strains. He attempted to counteract all of this by a regimen of naturopathic treatments. However, Kafka's tuberculosis worsened; he returned to Prague, then went to Dr. Hoffmann's sanatorium in Kierling near Vienna 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. 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.

Franz Kafka Judaism and Zionism

Kafka was not formally involved in Jewish religious life, but he showed a great interest in Jewish culture and spirituality. He was well-versed in Yiddish literature, and loved the Yiddish theater. He was deeply fascinated by the Jews of Eastern Europe whom he regarded as having an intensity of spiritual life Western Jews did not have. His diary is full of references to Yiddish writers, known and unknown. Yet he was at times alienated from Judaism and Jewish life: "What have I in common with Jews? I have hardly anything in common with myself and should stand very quietly in a corner, content that I can breathe."

On the other hand, Kafka dreamed of moving to Palestine with Felice Bauer, and later Dora Diamant, to live in the Land of Israel. He studied Hebrew in Berlin, and hired Pua Bat-Tovim, a university student from Palestine, to teach him, although he never became proficient in the language. Kafka attended Rabbi Julius Grünthal’s class in the Berlin Hochschule für die Wissenschaft des Judentums. The critic Hans Keller interviewed Grünthal’s son, the Israeli composer Josef Tal:

"A little story [Josef] Tal told me which contained some new, first-hand information about Franz Kafka, which throws old light on the genius – shows how utterly incapable he was of behaving uncharacteristically: he put the whole of Kafka into a few understanding words – the kind of understatement, downright daring in its humour, which Kafka alone was able to invent. Tal's father, [Julius] Grünthal by name, was a rabbi and an international authority on Semitic languages, in which capacity he taught at the Berlin Hochschule für die Wissenschaft des Judentums (College for Judaic Science), as institute of world-wide reputation. The grown-up, indeed mature Kafka sat in one of his classes, but Grünthal's knowledge of contemporary literature had its gaps, and he didn't know of Kafka's existence. What he did notice was this pale, thin man in the last row, quiet with burning eyes, who came out with piercing, pertinent questions, invariably of original interest. The day came when the professor could no longer contain his curiosity: "Excuse me, sir, who are you? What do you do in life?" "I am a journalist." In private conversation, the essence of Kafka's style (by no means always apparent in the inadequate English translations) was compressed into these four words: the smiling paradox used towards extreme understatement, the Freudian 'representation through the opposite' transferred from the unconscious's primary process to conscious conscientiousness – for the absurdity of describing himself as a journalist, with all the implications of superficiality, ephemerality, the sheer bad writing which the concept inevitably carries, was well-balanced, amusingly outbalanced by the firm fact that all his greatest stories had appeared in journals – stories which indeed 'reported' on the deepest and darkest events in the human mind as if they were everyday occurrences in so-miscalled real life. I would calmly describe this answer as a masterpiece, and I am therefore happy that one has been able to recover it. Tal himself was a child at the time and is therefore unable to recount, in any detail, Kafka's subsequent visit to his father's house. All he remembers in his turn is the slim, exceedingly pale ("white") man with those piercing eyes – who, however, was obtrusively quiet, while his striking girl friend, whom he had brought along, was all vivacity."

He also spent a week attending the Eleventh Zionist Congress, and read the reports of the Jewish agricultural colonies in Palestine with great interest.

In the opinion of literary critic Harold Bloom, author of The Western Canon, "Despite all his denials and beautiful evasions, [Kafka's writing] quite simply is Jewish writing."

Franz kafka 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 (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 was able to get most of Kafka's original handwritten work into the Oxford Bodleian Library in 1961. The text for The Trial was later acquired through auction and is stored at the German literary archives at Marbach, Germany.

Subsequently, Pasley headed a team (including Gerhard Neumann, Jost Schillemeit, and Jürgen Born) in reconstructing the German novels and S. Fischer Verlag republished them.[23] Pasley was the editor for Das Schloß (The Castle), published in 1982, and Der Proceß (The Trial), 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.

There is another Kafka Project based at San Diego State University, 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".

Franz Kafka Literary career

Kafka's writing attracted little attention until after his death. During his lifetime, he published only a few short stories and never finished any of his novels (with the possible exception of The Metamorphosis, which some consider to be a short novel). Prior to his death, Kafka wrote to his friend and literary executor Max Brod: "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 overrode Kafka's wishes, believing that Kafka had given these directions to him specifically because Kafka knew he would not honor them—Brod had told him as much. (His lover, Dora Diamant, also ignored his wishes, secretly keeping up to 20 notebooks and 35 letters until they were confiscated by the Gestapo 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.

All of Kafka's published works, except several letters he wrote in Czech to Milena Jesenská, were written in German.

Franz Kafka Critical interpretations

Critics have interpreted Kafka's works in the context of a variety of literary schools, such as modernism, magical realism, and so on. The apparent hopelessness and absurdity that seem to permeate his works are considered emblematic of existentialism. Others have tried to locate a Marxist influence in his satirization of bureaucracy in pieces such as In the Penal Colony, The Trial, and The Castle, whereas others point to anarchism as an inspiration for Kafka's anti-bureaucratic viewpoint. Still others have interpreted his works through the lens of Judaism (Borges made a few perceptive remarks in this regard), through Freudianism (because of his familial struggles), or as allegories of a metaphysical quest for God (Thomas Mann was a proponent of this theory[citation needed]).

Themes of alienation and persecution are repeatedly emphasized, and the emphasis on this quality, notably in the work of Marthe Robert, partly inspired the counter-criticism of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, 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.[citation needed]

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 refers to the essentially surrealist humour of Kafka as a main predecessor of later artists such as Federico Fellini, Gabriel García Márquez, Carlos Fuentes and Salman Rushdie. For García Márquez, it was as he said the reading of Kafka's The Metamorphosis that showed him "that it was possible to write in a different way."

Franz kafka Translations

There are two primary sources for the translations based on the two German editions. The earliest English translations were by Edwin and Willa Muir and published by Alfred A. Knopf. 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.

The Franz Kafka Biography website