Franz Kafka

The Early Life and Family of Kafka
• Birth Date: 3 July 1883
• Birthplace: Prague, Austria-Hungary
• Parents: Hermann Kafka and Julie Kafka
• Nationality: Bohemian (Austria-Hungary)
• Religion: Jewish
• Franz Kafka was the eldest of six children
• Two brothers: Georg and Hienrich
• Three sisters: Gabriele, Valerie and, Ottilie
• Franz was born to a family of the middle to uppermiddle class.
• Franz’s brothers died at an early age, at less than
a year a piece.
• Franz and his sisters were mostly raised by
governesses, as was the common practice.
• The family moved a lot as their financial status
• Franz, though withdrawn and quiet, was on good
terms with his sisters and often wrote them plays
in his spare time.
• He learned Czech from one of his governesses, he
attended a German school, and did quite well.
Franz Kafka
Fluent in German and Czech
Deutsche Knabenschule school
Jewish education was the Bar Mitzvah
Charles- Ferdinand University
Didn’t like going to a synagogue
Took law and became a lawyer in 1906
Met Max Brod at school
The Metamorphosis
Jackals and Arabs
Franz Kafka: The
Diaries 1910-1923
The Refusal
A Hunger Artist
The Trial
The Castle
In the Penal Colony
Investigations of a Dog
The Blue Octavo Notebooks
The Letters
Franz Kafka
1 November 1907, he was hired at
Assicurazioni Generali.
15 July 1908, he resigned and was hired by the
Workers Accident Insurance Institute of the
kingdom of Bohemia
Kafka and his friends worked on literary works
during the 1880’s-end of WWI
In 1911 he joined with Karl Hermann to
establish the factory Prager Asbestwerke
Herman and Co.
Franz Kafka
Kafka was a Vegetarian
 Became friends with Max Brod in 1901
 Studied law at University of Prague. He
received his doctorate in 1906
 His first job was at the Assicurizioni
Generali Insurance Company in 1907
 1908, he began working at the Workers'
Accident Insurance Institute.
Started a notebook in 1910, but had to
stop writing because of the war (he was
a short story writer/novelist at the time)
 He was engaged to Felice Bauer who
lived in Berlin. They met in Max Brod's
home on August 13, 1912. They were
engaged twice and called it quits in
 He Dedicated “Metamorphosis” and
“The Judgement” to Felice
Only a few of his stories were written in
his life time.
 In 1914 he started “The Trial” (his second
 In August of 1917 he began to suffer from
tuberculosis. He had a dry sense of
humor that was supported greatly by his
sister, Ottla.
In 1920 he began an intense relation ship
with a Czech journalist and writer- Milena
 In July 1923 met Dora Diamant, a 25 year
old kindergarten teacher
 Little women, the burrow, and josphen the
singer were written for Dora
 Later that year he returned to Prague then
went to Dr. Hoffmann's in hierling for
He died June 3, 1924 (same year as Lenin)
from starvation because of his throat so he
couldn’t swallow and eating was painful
 Dora was with him when he died
 He was brought back to Prague and was
buried June 11 1924 in the New Jewish
 Dora changed her name to Kafka even
though they didn’t marry (just like in the
as tragic as the death of Kafka may
have been, he died before he witnessed
the suffering of most of his female friends
and family. All of his sisters perished in the
Nazi death camps after the breakout of
world war two.
July 3, 1883-June 3, 1924
 Born
to Jewish parents in Prague, Kafka grew
up experiencing the old Anti-Semitism that
had pervaded Europe for centuries.
 As a populist, he was regarded with
suspicion by the authorities in the
monarchical and conservative political
system of Austria-Hungary.
 As
a citizen of a Central Power in WW1,
Kafka’s feelings of isolation would only
increase when Austria-Hungary was
defeated by the Entente, and was then
broken into pieces. The ensuing anger
towards Jews would only increase after the
war, a further blow to Kafka’s mentality.
 http://www.bookedandloaded.blogspot.
• absurdity, alienation, anxiety, cruelty, dark
humour, doubt, fasting/starvation, formality,
futility, guilt, insignificance, labyrinths,
dominance vs. submission, meaninglessness,
nature vs. technology, inability to meet goals
or destinations, escaping or attempting to
escape societal and mental limitations,
Expansion on some of those themes:
• Alienation: often from man, in the
Metamorphosis it is expanded into dehumanizing
Formality: in style of writing and in the behaviour
of characters
Guilt: often without a specific or logical source
Labyrinths: creates a sense of disorientation and
Transformation: can be in a physical or mental
• Long sentence structure (sometimes a whole page)
• Ambiguous terms, used on purpose
• Kafkaesque: narrative made combining a realistic style
with the distortions and absurdities of nightmare
• Some consider him existentialist, some modernist
• A mix of realistic and detailed description with bizarre
surreal events
• More concise and lucid in his later years
• Many believe that you need to look at him as an
autobiographical artist because many of his short stories
were never supposed to be viewed by the public
• Kafka wrote in German so much of his long
sentence structure and ambiguous terms are
missed in English
• It is up to the translator to keep the style of
Kafka alive even in translation
• Franz Kafka - Richard H. Lawsom
The Term Kafkaesque can is sometimes defined as:
-marked by a senseless, disorienting, often menacing complexity
-marked by surreal distortion and often a sense of impending danger
-an existentialist state of ever-elusive freedom while existing under
immitigable control
-an intentional distortion of reality by powerful but anonymous bureaucrats
-reminiscent of the nightmarish dehumanized world portrayed in the novels
of Franz Kafka, the Czech
• Works that are thought of as “Kafkaesque” usually contain themes of
alienation from and persecution by an incomprehensibly complex, bizarre,
and illogical and invincible world or system.
• Works by Franz Kafka and those similar are described as having a:
“..nightmarish style of narration, in which characters lack a clear course of
action, the ability to see beyond immediate events, and the possibility of
• The lives and worlds of Kafka’s characters are dismal, yet because of their
inherent absurdity and futility they appear almost comical
• “Kafka presents a world that is at once real and dreamlike and in which
individuals burdened with guilt, isolation, and anxiety, make a futile search
for personal salvation."
Other Characteristics of Kafkaesque Writings
• Morbid, subtle and contradictory humor
• Isolation, solitude, insensitivity and cruelty
Exaggerated the bleakness
• Satirical wit
Examples of “Kafkaesque”
• FEMA arbitrarily denied thousands of vulnerable displaced families access
to housing aid until a federal judge ruled against the agency last week,
describing FEMA's system for delivering aid as "Kafkaesque", likening it
to the writer's disturbing tales of horror.
Jeffrey Buchanan: Where is US Leadership in New Orleans on Human Rights Day?
• You know, it has a kind of Kafkaesque or absurdist quality to it.
July 3rd, 1883:
◦ Meets Max Brod, fellow
writer, critic, and
lifelong friend of
◦ Franz Kafka is born to
Hermann, a successful
merchant, and Julie Kafka
1889, 1890, 1892:
◦ Kafka’s sisters Elli, Valli,
Ottla respectively born
◦ Writes Description of a
◦ Kafka begins university at
the German University in
Prague, where he
switches from studying
German literature to law
after a matter of days.
◦ Obtains law degree of
doctor juris
◦ Begins a yearlong law
◦ 8 prose works are
published in Hyperion, a
literary journal based out
of Munich
◦ Writes “The aeroplanes at
◦ Meets Felice Bauer, a
secretarial assistant with
whom he falls in love
◦ Studies Judaism
◦ Writes “the Metamorphosis”
and “The Judgment”
◦ Meditation and “The
Judgment” published
◦ Gets engaged to Felice
Bauer onApril 12th, and
breaks the engagement
only three months later
◦ Becomes interested in
Yiddish theatre, meets Isak
◦ Begins writing Amerika
◦ Learns Hebrew
◦ July: Second engagement
to Felice Bauer
◦ September 4th: Diagnosed
with Tuberculosis
◦ Breaks off second
◦ Writes “ Josephine the
singer, or the mouse
◦ Dies in Kierling, near
Vienna on June 3rd
◦ Felice Bauer married
◦ Becomes engaged with
Julie Wohryzek, daughter
of a synagogue custodian
◦ Publishes In the Penal
Colony and A Country
◦ Writes stories later
included in A Hunger Artist
◦ Meets and moves in with
Dora Diamant, an orthodox
◦ Death of Kafka’s sisters
in Auschwitz
◦ Death of Dora Diamant
in London
◦ Writes The Castle
◦ Death of Felice Bauer

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