Definitions

Kafka

Kafka

[kahf-kah, -kuh]
Kafka, Franz, 1883-1924, German-language novelist, b. Prague. Along with Joyce, Kafka is perhaps the most influential of 20th-century writers. From a middle-class Jewish family from Bohemia, he spent most of his life in Prague. He studied law and then obtained a position in the workmen's compensation division of Austro-Hungarian government. Most of his works were published posthumously. His major novels include Der Prozess (1925, tr. The Trial, 1937, 1998), Das Schloss (1926, tr. The Castle, 1930, 1998), and Amerika (1927, tr. 1938), the latter the first novel he wrote (1913) and the last to be published. In prose that is remarkable for its clarity and precision, 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. Important stories appearing during his lifetime were "Das Urteil" (1913, tr. "The Judgement," 1945), Die Verwandlung (1915, tr. The Metamorphosis, 1937), "Ein Landarzt" (1919, tr. "A Country Doctor," 1945), In der Strafkolonie (1920, tr. In the Penal Colony, 1941), and "Ein Hungerkünstler" (1922, tr. "A Hunger Artist," 1938).

See his diaries, ed. by M. Brod (tr. 1948-49); his letters to Felice Bauer, ed. by E. Heller and J. Born (tr. 1973); biographies by M. Brod (1937, new ed. 1995), R. Hayman (1981, repr. 2001), E. Pawel (1984), N. Murray (2004), and R. Stach (2005); studies by W. H. Sokel (1966), E. Heller (1974), and S. Corngold (1988).

Kafka

(born July 3, 1883, Prague, Bohemia, Austria-Hungary—died June 3, 1924, Kierling, near Vienna, Austria) Czech writer who wrote in German. Born into a middle-class Jewish family, he earned a doctorate and then worked successfully but unhappily at a government insurance office from 1907 until he was forced by a case of tuberculosis to retire in 1922. The disease caused his death two years later. Hypersensitive and neurotic, he reluctantly published only a few works in his lifetime, including the symbolic story The Metamorphosis (1915), the allegorical fantasy In the Penal Colony (1919), and the story collection A Country Doctor (1919). His unfinished novels The Trial (1925), The Castle (1926), and Amerika (1927), published posthumously against Kafka's wishes, express the anxieties and alienation of 20th-century humanity. His visionary tales, with their inscrutable mixture of the normal and the fantastic, have provoked a wealth of interpretations. Kafka's posthumous reputation and influence have been enormous, and he is regarded as one of the great European writers of the 20th century.

Learn more about Kafka, Franz with a free trial on Britannica.com.

Kafka

(born July 3, 1883, Prague, Bohemia, Austria-Hungary—died June 3, 1924, Kierling, near Vienna, Austria) Czech writer who wrote in German. Born into a middle-class Jewish family, he earned a doctorate and then worked successfully but unhappily at a government insurance office from 1907 until he was forced by a case of tuberculosis to retire in 1922. The disease caused his death two years later. Hypersensitive and neurotic, he reluctantly published only a few works in his lifetime, including the symbolic story The Metamorphosis (1915), the allegorical fantasy In the Penal Colony (1919), and the story collection A Country Doctor (1919). His unfinished novels The Trial (1925), The Castle (1926), and Amerika (1927), published posthumously against Kafka's wishes, express the anxieties and alienation of 20th-century humanity. His visionary tales, with their inscrutable mixture of the normal and the fantastic, have provoked a wealth of interpretations. Kafka's posthumous reputation and influence have been enormous, and he is regarded as one of the great European writers of the 20th century.

Learn more about Kafka, Franz with a free trial on Britannica.com.

Contemplation, or Meditation (Betrachtung in German) is a sequence of eighteen short stories by Franz Kafka written between 1904 and 1912. Eight of these stories were published under the same title in the bimonthly Hyperion and were Kafka's first publication. Some of the stories are also included, in whole or in part, in "Description of a Struggle". All the stories appear in The Complete Stories of Franz Kafka and were published in a single volume edition by Twisted Spoon Press.

The Stories

  • Children on a Country Road
  • Unmasking a Confidence Trickster
  • The Sudden Walk
  • Resolutions
  • Excursion into the Mountains
  • Bachelor's Ill Luck
  • The Tradesman

Description of the sysiphean life of a tradesman.

  • Absent-minded Window-gazing
  • The Way Home
  • Passers-by

The narrator meditates on the vision of a man running down the street in the night. He imagines several scenarios involving the man and another man chasing him, raising issues of the narrator's responsibility for the possible actions of the two men.

  • On the Tram

The narrator stands on a platform waiting for a tram and is impressed by a girl he sees there.

  • Clothes

A contemplation on how fancy and expensive clothes will someday turn old and creased and how the girls wearing these clothes might also feel worn out and dusty when they return home from a party.

  • Rejection
  • Reflections for Gentlemen-Jockeys

The idea of winning a horse race is revealed to be an insignificant victory.

  • The Street Window

A window overlooking a street is all that's required to draw a man from his solitude.

  • The Wish to Be An Indian

This story focuses primarily on the subject of social repression in English gentry society. The work is notable for early use of experimental writing techniques, though often considered incomprehensible by literary scholars.

  • The Trees

Humanity is compared to tree trunks in the snow. Seemingly, a single push could move them, but in reality they are firmly rooted to the ground. This too, however, is only seemingly.
A comics adaptation of the story, illustrated by Peter Kuper, is included in Give It Up!.

  • Unhappiness

Footnotes

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