Updated: Jul 28
Birth: July 3, 1883, Prague, Czechia
Death: June 3, 1924, Kierling, Klosterneuburg, Austria
Franz Kafka was born on July 3, 1883 in Prague as the first child of a middle-class Jewish family. He lived in the Kingdom of Bohemia under the Austrian Empire, the mosaic of nations at that time.
The Kafka family was speaking both German and Czech as their mother tongue. Kafka's two older brothers (Georg and Heinrich), the eldest child in the family, died at a young age. His sisters Elli, Valli and Ottla lost their lives in the Jewish genocide of Nazi Germany.
Kafka went to Deutsche Knabenschule in Fleischmark in 1889. The main people who played a role in his childhood were the French governess Bailly, the housekeeper Marie Werner.
The language spoken at the time in Prague was Czech. He met Bauer at a young age. Milena Jesenska, whom she met in the early 1920s, would die at the German concentration camp in 1944, 20 years later, having a strong influence on him. In 1923 he moved to Berlin to escape his family's dominance and concentrate on writing, where he also had a lover named Dora Dymant.
In 1917, Kafka learned that he had tuberculosis. He was hospitalized because of his severe flu in 1919. He retired in 1922, but his financial situation was poor and his health deteriorated steadily. He spent the last 6 weeks of his life in the sanatorium. Franz Kafka died on June 3, 1924, at the age of 41, but left behind dozens of world classics such as "The Trial", "The Metamorphosis", "The Castle" and "America".
A man wakes up one day to find he has been changed into a large insect (probably cockroach). The story follows his efforts to deal with this, and his family's reaction to the change. But it's not just a story about a man turning into a beetle, it's a clever way of writing about the way modern slaves look completely dysfunctional when they stop working. And the insect analogy of Kafka in this story represents the modern slaves.
It could also be an analogy for how a family treats a member of the family who is now old and needs to be cared for. The man who is now a beetle, is forced to live in his room, shut away from the world, for fear that he will frighten anyone who enters the house. The man who once provided for the family, and thought of them above himself, has now become a burden on them, as they are now short of money, and have to find employment. The once able and hard-working man, transformed into a beetle, is now rejected, and his family blame him for their financial situation and the fact that they cannot move to a smaller house, because they need to have a room to keep him in. The descriptive quality of the writing is excellent, and it is a sad and gruesome tale. But the main thing that struck me, was that even though this story is nearly 100 years old, it is still totally relevant to today's world (and I'm not sure that's something we should be proud of).
“How about if I sleep a little bit longer and forget all this nonsense...” /Franz Kafka
“But perhaps the enthusiastic sensibility of young women of her age also played a role. This feeling sought release at every opportunity, and with it Grete now felt tempted to want to make Gregor's situation even more terrifying, so that then she would be able to do even more for him than now.” /Franz Kafka
“I cannot make you understand. I cannot make anyone understand what is happening inside me. I cannot even explain it to myself.” /Franz Kafka
“The door could not be heard slamming; they had probably left it open, as is the custom in homes where a great misfortune has occurred.” /Franz Kafka
“What a fate: to be condemned to work for a firm where the slightest negligence at once gave rise to the gravest suspicion! Were all the employees nothing but a bunch of scoundrels, was there not among them one single loyal devoted man who, had he wasted only an hour or so of the firm's time in the morning, was so tormented by conscience as to be driven out of his mind and actually incapable of leaving his bed?” /Franz Kafka
“If I didn't have my parents to think about I'd have given in my notice a long time ago, I'd have gone up to the boss and told him just what I think, tell him everything I would, let him know just what I feel. He'd fall right off his desk! And it's a funny sort of business to be sitting up there at your desk, talking down at your subordinates from up there, especially when you have to go right up close because the boss is hard of hearing.” /Franz Kafka
“His biggest misgiving came from his concern about the loud crash that was bound to occur and would probably create, if not terror, at least anxiety behind all the doors. But that would have to be risked.” /Franz Kafka
“As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.” /Franz Kafka
“Was he an animal, that music could move him so? He felt as if the way to the unknown nourishment he longed for were coming to light.” /Franz Kafka
“If they were shocked, then Gregor had no further responsibility and could be calm. But if they took everything calmly, he he, too, had no reason to get excited and could, if he hurried, actually be at the station by eight o'clock.” /Franz Kafka
“He thought back on his family with deep emotion and love. His conviction that he would have to disappear was, if possible, even firmer than his sister's. He remained in this state of empty and peaceful reflection until the tower clock struck three in the morning. He still saw that outside the window everything was beginning to grow light. Then, without his consent, his head sank down to the floor, and from his nostrils streamed his last weak breath.” /Franz Kafka
“What's happened to me,' he thought. It was no dream.” /Franz Kafka
“The sister played so beautifully. Her face was tilted to one side and she followed the notes with soulful and probing eyes. Gregor advanced a little, keeping his eyes low so that they might possibly meet hers. Was he a beast if music could move him so?” /Franz Kafka
“Calm —indeed the calmest— reflection might be better than the most confused decisions” /Franz Kafka
“One morning, as Gregor Samsa was waking up from anxious dreams, he discovered that in his bed he had been changed into a monstrous bug…” /Franz Kafka