“I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound and stab us. If the book we are reading doesn't wake us up with a blow on the head, what are we reading it for?"...Franz Kafka
Born on this date, July 3rd 1883,into a German-speaking Jewish family in Prague, Franz Kafka is arguably one of the greatest German writers of the modern era. The hero of his most famous short story "The Metamorphosis"— Gregor Samsa— wakes up and is a bug, a dung beetle, trapped in his shell and in his bedroom by circumstances beyond him.
If a situation is “Kafkaesque“—— it’s nightmarish—— there is a pervasive menace——sinister, impersonal forces at work, the feeling of loss of identity, the evocation of guilt and fear, and the sense of evil that permeates the twisted and often absurd logic of ruling power. In short, a sense of being trapped by unknown, irrational powers...that’s Kafkaesque. Sound familiar?
Kafka wrote to Max Brod, his friend and editor, in an undated letter:"I usually solve problems by letting them devour me."
I often feel that his writing devours its readers, drawing us into the mind of the grotesque, the twisted, and at the same time, offering us up the humanity of the characters.
Overall, Kafka had a dark view of the world. Acclaimed writer and literary critic Vladimir Nabokov, wrote and lectured extensively about Kafka. He notes on THE METAMORPHOSIS: "Its clarity, its precise and formal intonation in such striking contrast to the nightmare matter of his tale. No poetical metaphors ornament his stark black-and-white story. The limpidity of his style stresses the dark richness of his fantasy. Contrast and unity, style and matter, manner and plot are most perfectly integrated." There's an amazing youtube video of Nabokov lecturing on Kafka: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l9nRNnTQhFA
Until his death in 1924 at age 40 of TB, Kafka wrote largely in obscurity, and left behind instructions to Brod to destroy his works. Thankfully, Brod didn't follow directions.
I have been obsessed for a while about Kafka and his stories. If you read BEFORE MY EYES you will find a key scene in which I pay trip to THE METAMORPHOSIS. If you are a writer or an artist, you must read A HUNGER ARTIST. If you believe in justice, or lack of it, read, THE TRIAL (links here to free copies in English).
So what are you reading for?