To be “Kafkaesque” in Prague
In the struggle between yourself and the world, second the world.
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? …we need the books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us.
Franz Kafka (3 July 1883 – 3 June 1924) was a German-language writer of novels and short stories, regarded by critics as one of the most influential authors of the 20th century. Kafka strongly influenced genres such as existentialism. His works, such as “Die Verwandlung” (“The Metamorphosis”), Der Process (The Trial), and Das Schloss (The Castle), are filled with the themes and archetypes of alienation, physical and psychological brutality, parent–child conflict, characters on a terrifying quest, and mystical transformations.
The poet W. H. Auden called Kafka “the Dante of the twentieth century”
Many of these statements in Kafka’s notebooks were later published posthumously in Parables and Paradoxes (1946), and The Blue Octavo Notebooks (1954)
All human errors are impatience, the premature breaking off of what is methodical, an apparent fencing in of the apparent thing.
There are two main human sins from which all the others derive: impatience and indolence. It was because of impatience that they were expelled from Paradise; it is because of indolence that they do not return.
We too must suffer all the suffering around us. We all have not one body, but we have one way of growing, and this leads us through all anguish, whether in this or in that form. Just as the child develops through all the stages of life right into old age and to death (and fundamentally to the earlier stage the later one seems out of reach, in relation both to desire and to fear), so also do we develop (no less deeply bound up with mankind than with ourselves) through all the sufferings of this world. There is no room for justice in this context, but neither is there any room either for fear of suffering or for the interpretation of suffering as a merit.
Evil can seduce man, but cannot become man.
Religions get lost as people do.
Kafka’s writing has inspired the term “Kafkaesque”, used to describe concepts and situations reminiscent of his work, particularly Der Process and “Die Verwandlung”. Examples include instances in which people are overpowered by bureaucracies, often in a surreal, nightmarish milieu which evokes feelings of senselessness, disorientation, and helplessness. Characters in a Kafkaesque setting often lack a clear course of action to escape the situation. Kafkaesque elements often appear in existential works, but the term has transcended the literary realm to apply to real-life occurrences and situations that are incomprehensibly complex, bizarre, or illogical
Writer Milan Kundera suggests that Kafka’s surrealist humor may have been an inversion of Dostoyevsky who presented characters who were punished for a crime. In Kafka’s work a character will be punished although a crime has not been committed. Kundera believes that Kafka’s inspirations for his characteristic situations came both from growing up in a patriarchal family and living in a totalitarian state
According to Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, the themes of alienation and persecution, although present in Kafka’s work, have been over-emphasised by critics. They argue Kafka’s work is more deliberate and subversive—and more joyful—than may first appear.