Essay, Research Paper: Franz Kafka

Famous People

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Kafka was born in Prague, Bohemia, July 3, 1883 and died June 3, 1924 of
tuberculosis at the age of 40. He came from a middle-class Jewish family. His
father was a shopkeeper and tried to climb up the social ladder by working hard
at his shop and sending Franz to a prestigious German high school. He went on to
get a law degree and worked for two insurance companies (not at the same time)
When his .tuberculosis got bad in 1917 he was put on temporary retirement with a
pension. German was the language the upper class spoke and by sending Franz to
German schools his father tried to disassociate from the lower class Jewish who
lived in the ghetto. They were always moving from apartment to apartment
advancing as the business grew. Franz had a very strained relationship with his
father that traumatically affected his whole life. This is apparent in a letter
to his father he wrote, “What was always incomprehensible to me was your total
lack of feeling for the suffering and shame you could inflict on me with your
words and judgments. It was as though you had no notion of your power”
(Letter) . Max Brod and Franz met in college and became life long friends. It
was Max who persuaded Franz to publish some of his work and it was Max who was
responsible for most of the Kafka writings that are available today. Franz had
entrusted his manuscripts to Max and in his last will and testament specified
that all his work was to be destroyed. Instead Max had them published after
Franz’ death. Although he never married, he was engaged several times but
always broke the engagement as the wedding day would approach. Most of the
biographies about him tell of his problem with women and repulsion from sex and
say that it was evident in his writings. In an entry in his diary he wrote
“Coitus as the punishment for the happiness of being together”
(Constructing). His romances and engagements are well documented and it is
interesting to note his selection of books that he gave to Felice Bauer:
“Tolstoy’s diaries, the New and Old Testament, and Gerhart Hauptmann’s
‘Fool in Christ Emanuel Quint'" (Times ). Franz met Felice Bauer at
Max’ house and they had a five year courtship mainly through letters. He wrote
to her daily when at the sanatorium in Italy even while he was carrying on with
an 18 year old Swiss girl who was there also. Felice inspired him and he wrote
several pieces during this time; “The Judgment,” which he dedicated to her,
then “The Metamorphosis” and he started Amerika (Kafka.) According to Daniel
Hornek “None of Kafka’s novels was printed during his lifetime, and it was
only with reluctance that he published a fraction of his shorter fiction. This
fiction included Meditation (1913), a collection of short prose pieces; The
Judgment (1913), a long short story, written in 1912, which Kafka himself
considered his decisive breakthrough (it tells of a rebellious son condemned to
suicide by his father); and The Metamorphosis (1915), dealing again with the
outsider, a son who suffers the literal and symbolic transformation into a huge,
repulsive, fatally wounded insect. In the Penal Colony (1919) is a parable of a
torture machine and its operators and victims---equally applicable to a
person’s inner sense of law, guilt, and retribution and to the age of World
War I. The Country Doctor (1919) was another collection of short prose. At the
time of his death Kafka was also preparing A Hunger Artist (1924), four stories
centering on the artist’s inability either to negate or come to terms with
life in the human community.” Franz Kafka’s writings can be best described
as nightmarish or dreamlike. He has impacted twentieth century literature
greatly as evidenced by a word in the dictionary coined after him: “Kafkaesque
(adj): Characteristic of the novels of Franz Kafka; especially, bizarre or
absurd, and often marked by the ineffectuality of the individual” (Funk ).

Bibliography 2 Mar. 2000. Constructing Franz
Kafka. Hp. 1996 [last update]. Online. Available:
1 Mar. 2000. Contemporary Authors. Vol. 26. Detroit: Gale Research, 1989. Funk
& Wagnalls New and Comprehensive International Dictionary of the English
Language. NY:Publishers Guild Press, 1978. Hornek, Daniel. Xoom. Hp. 1999 [last
update]. Online. Available: 1 Mar. 2000.
Kafka, Leni. Biography. Hp. 2000 [last update]. Online. Available:
2 Mar. 2000. Letter to His Father. Hp. 2000 [last update]. Online. Available: Magil,
Frank N. ed. Franz Kafka. Vol. 4 of Critical Survey of Short Fiction . Pasadena:
Salem Press, 1993. Novels for Students Vol. 7 Farmington, MI: Gale Research,
1999. p281-297. Pawel, Ernst. The Nightmare of Reason: A Life of Franz Kafka.
NY:Noonday Press, 1992. Spann, Meno. Franz Kafka. George Prior Publishers, 1976.
Times Literary Supplement, Aug. 22, 1997 n4925 p15(2). World Literature
Criticism 1500 to Present. Vol. 3. Detroit: Gale Research, 1992.

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