LITERATURE: Franz Kafka


Franz Kafka was a great
chech writer who
has come to own a part of the human emotional spectrum, which we can now call
the Kafkaesque and which thanks to him we are able better to recognize and to
gain a measure of perspective over and relief from. Kafka’s world isn’t
pleasant. It feels in many ways like a nightmare and yet it’s a place where
many of us will, even if only for a time, in the dark periods of our lives, end up. We are in the world defined by
Kafka when we feel powerless in front of authority, judges, aristocrats,
industrialists, politicians and most of all: fathers. When we feel that our
destiny is out of our control, when we are bullied, humiliated and mocked by
society and especially by our own families. We are in Kafka’s orbit when
we’re ashamed of our bodies, of our sexual urges and feel that the best thing for
us might be to be killed or squashed
without mercy as if we were an inconvenient and rather disgusting
bed bug. Franz Kafka was born in Prague in 1883, the eldest child of a
terrifyingly, psychologically abusive father and a mother who was too weak and
in all of her husband to protect her boy as she should have done. Kafka grew up timid, bookish, meek and
full of self-hatred. He wanted to become a writer but it was out of the question
in his father’s eyes, so one of the greatest German literary geniuses since Goethe was forced to spend his brief life on Earth working in a series of
jobs utterly beneath him: in a lawyer office and then an insurance company. He had
a number of unsuccessful relationships with women, he couldn’t marry or raise a
family and was tormented by the strength of his sex drive, which made him
constantly turn to brothels and pornography. Kafka published very little
in his lifetime: just three collections of short stories including his
best-known work, The Metamorphosis, and he was entirely obscured and unnoticed. His gigantic posthumous reputation
is based on three novels: The Trial, The Castle and America, which were all
unfinished because Kafka was so dissatisfied with them. He gave orders
that they be destroyed after his death. Fortunately for Humanity, these were
disobeyed. It shouldn’t sound prurient or reductive to suggest that one of the
major keys to understanding Kafka is to fathom the nature of his relationship
with his father. Kafka never wrote directly about this man in any of his works but
the psychology of the novels is directly related to the dynamics he endured as
the very unfortunate son of Hermann Kafka Any boy who has ever felt
inadequate in front of, or unloved by a powerful father, will at
once relate to what Kafka went through in his childhood. In November
1919, at the age of 36, five years before his death, Kafka wrote a forty-seven page
letter to Hermann in which he tried to explain how his childhood had deformed
him. Like many victims of abuse, Kafka never stopped hoping for some kind of
forgiveness from the person who had so wronged him. “Dearest father”, went the letter. “You asked
me recently why I maintain that I’m so afraid of you. As usual I was unable to
think of any answer to your question partly for the very reason that I am
afraid of you and partly because an explanation of the grounds for this fear
would mean going into far more details than I could ever keep in mind while
talking”. The grown Kafka abased himself before this father. “What I would
have needed was a little encouragement, a little friendliness but I wasn’t fit for
that. 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”. Kafka complained
of one particularly traumatic incident when as a young boy he called out for a
glass of water and his irritable father pulled the boy out of his bed, carried
him out onto the balcony and left him there to freeze in nothing but his nightshirt. Kafka writes: “I was quite obedient after that period but it did me so
much incalculable inner harm. Even years afterwards
I suffered from the tormenting fancy that the huge man, my father, the ultimate
authority, would come almost for no reason at all and take me out of bed in
the night and carry me out onto the balcony and that meant I was a mere
nothing for him”. Boys need their father’s permission to
become men and Hermann Kafka didn’t give Franz a chance. “At a very early stage
you forbade me to speak. Your threat: “not a word of contradiction” and the raised
hand that accompanied it have been with me ever since”. Franz’s sense of inadequacy
was total. “I was weighed down by your mere physical presence, I remember for
instance how often we undressed in the same bathing hut. There was I: skinny,
weekly, slight. You: strong, tall, broad. I felt a miserable specimen. When we stepped
out, you holding me by my hand, a little skeleton, unsteady, frightened of the
water incapable of copying your swimming
strokes; I was frantic with desperation. It could hardly have been worse, except
it was. Kafka finished the letter, gave it to his mother Julie to pass to Hermann
but, typical of her weakness and cowardice, she didn’t. She held onto it for a few
days, then returned it to Franz and advised that it would be better if her busy,
hard working husband never had to read such a thing. The poor son lacked the courage ever to try
again. In The Judgment, Kafka’s great short story, written in 1912; a young
businessman, Georg, is engaged to be married and lives in a flat with his widowed
father. He’s about to get away from home, the father is old and frail. Georg tucks him up in
bed but then the father mysteriously regains his strength, springs upright,
towers over Georg and denounces him for betraying everyone. His friends, his
father and the memory of his mother. Georg can make only feeble protests.
Eventually the father condemns Georg to death by drowning and Georg obediently rushes out
and plunges into the nearby river. After passing sentence, the father cries
out: “You were an innocent child, really, but at heart you were a diabolical
human being”. The idea of horrific, arbitrary judgment
was to be a constant in Kafka’s fiction: it reappears in the unfinished novel The
Trial, written two years later. But now Kafka had developed it away from a
father to a vast legal apparatus with judges, lawyers, guards and extensive
bureaucratic procedures. When Joseph K is arrested on the morning of his 30th
birthday, he isn’t told what he is charged with. He barely makes any attempt
to find out. He feel so guilty inside, he just knows that he deserves punishment.
He does try to declare in court that he’s innocent, still without knowing what
the charge is and hires a lawyer but the court gradually grinds him down. He
becomes unable to think of anything. Words fail him, he can no longer do his
job properly and is defeated in the game of office politics. Finally, a year after
his arrest, two grotesque looking officials come to Joseph case flat, they
lead him to a quarry outside the city and execute him by plunging a knife into
his heart. Between The Judgment and The Trial, Kafka wrote The Metamorphosis, a
short story in which a traveling salesman, Gregor Samsa, wakes up one
morning transformed into an insect akin to a beetle or a bed bug. It’s a story of
self-disgust, about the treachery of family and, like The Trial, about
terrifying arbitrary power. When Gregor crawls across the floor, he is in danger of
being stamped on by his own father. Gregor’s family find they manage quite well
without him. They can fine him to his room and chuck rubbish at him. The
family hold a council and decide that the insect in the bedroom can’t really
be Gregor. They start to refer to the insect as “it” instead of “him”. They
decide that somehow the insect has to go. Gregor, listening, agrees and dies quietly.
After Gregor’s death, the family are slightly ashamed of their behavior, but
only slightly. Kafka suffered from ill health for a
lot of his life. In 1924 when he was forty-one, he developed laryngeal
tuberculosis, which prevented him from eating almost anything without huge pain. He wrote a short story, his last, called
The Hunger Artist. It tells the story of a public performer who makes his living
undertaking fasts for the pleasure of the public. One time he manages to fast for
forty days but gradually the hunger artist’s audience gets bored of his work.
However hard he fasts, they’re no longer impressed. He gets put in a dirty old
cage and weakens terribly. Before he dies he asks for forgiveness and confesses
that he should never have been admired since the reason he fasted was simply
that he couldn’t find any food he enjoyed. Shortly after he dies, he’s
replaced in his cage by a panther, an animal full of vigor whom the crowd love
and who has a voracious appetite. A few days after finishing The Hunger Artist,
Kafka died and was buried in the Jewish cemetery in Prague. Within a few
years of his death, his reputation began. By the Second World War, he was
recognized as one of the greatest writers of The Age. Notwithstanding, all
his close family were gassed by the Germans in the Holocaust. He is a monument
in German literary history and at the same time he is a sad, ashamed, terrified
part of us all. Kafka once wrote that the task of literature is to reconnect
us with feelings that might otherwise be unbearable to study but which
desperately need our attention. “A book must”, he wrote, “be the axe for the frozen
sea within us”. His books were among the most touching, frightening and accurate
axes ever written.

100 Replies to “LITERATURE: Franz Kafka

  1. Pain separates us from the dead, that was Kafka’s art. For without all the pain he went through, he probably would not have left us with numerous gems.

  2. Eu teria preferido um vídeo sem uma "chave de interpretação", mas talvez seja muito complicado fazer um vídeo pequeno sem uma ideia central para compactar o assunto. Ficou muito bonito e criativo. Parabéns!

  3. Sein Vater hätte ihn mal härter verschlagen sollen… Dann müssten wir die schieße heut nicht interpretieren 😂

  4. Here's post mortem justice: Find the grave of Hermann Kafka. Remove the headstone and anything else bearing his name. Replace it with one bearing the name GG Allin. Publish the location worldwide. Watch as thousands of people congregate to take a shit on the grave.
    Burial of Hermann Chaim Kafka
    Date: July 8, 1931
    Place: Strašnice
    Location: Prague 3, Prague, Prague, Czech Republic

  5. But they neglected to explain how his works became well known. Did Mom & Pop give readings at Barnes & Noble or what?

  6. I heard his old man was really a very loving father who showered young Franz with gifts and praise, but once as a boy when Franz demanded the services of a whore and his father refused, Franz because psychotic with revenge fantasies and promised to destroy the old man's reputation, which he certainly did.

  7. I once read metamorphosis and it still depresses me to this day. This makes me sad. I’m sorry, Franz.

  8. Hello from Georgia
    Our country was slave in ussr and now it's occupied by Russia and ruined by dumb politicals
    Our people knows what is totalitarism and imperialism
    What is destroy human human speech
    So Georgian people loves kafka and knows it well
    God bless kafka

  9. You should make these videos more often! They might be my favorite of what you guys do..,keep up the great work

  10. Because of Kafka's father, Franz Kafka will not be forgotten. Now, I would like to know more about his grandfather. Was he despised by Franz's father? Was his father compensating for something?

  11. perhaps he enjoyed his day job? Just because a person is gifted in a subject, doesn't mean they have passion for that subject.

  12. Have you actually read the books you talk about? In the metamorphosis, the main character becomes an insect indeed, but the size of a human, he's not afraid of being crushed or squashed. In the Trial, K. never actually meets the court, his trial is carried in his absence and until the last chapter the verdict still seems to be in the balance.

  13. I found him really really difficult to read. I didn't find it flowed But in terms of the construction, without being a scholar it was clearly the work of a genius. With myself having an obsessive paranoid mind that perpetually churns details over and over, it read a lot like paranoid assumption with very very granular detail about an abstract that isn't grounded in a fact.. My memory of it.. It was Like a legal document where it doesn't flow but you can see an exceptional intellect laid out.

    The trial and the castle, from my memory there was a lot about the unknown. The art was in the assumption constructed around very minimal tangible fact. Which is why it struck a chord with me about the correlation with paranoid assumption or delusion.

  14. You know that makes me want to buy him a cup of coffee and tell that "It's alright man. Your father was an asshole but you are a better man" and hug him.

    But I am too late.

  15. How have I developed so much self-hatred when i don't even have abusive parents? I mean my dad is a little insensitive but I can't blame him for the messed-up self that I am

  16. I've always loved to read, yet I could never grasp what exactly was so great about Franz Kafka's writing. I still find his writing incredibly dull, opaque, and unremarkable.

  17. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn Nobelprize winner who sat 8 years in Gulag:

    “You must understand, the leading Bolsheviks who took over Russia were not Russians. They hated Russians. They hated Christians. Driven by ethnic hatred, they tortured and slaughtered millions of Russians without a shred of human remorse. It cannot be overstated. Bolshevism committed the greatest human slaughter of all time. The fact that most of the world is ignorant and uncaring about this enormous crime is proof that the global media in the hands of the perpetrators.” – Alexander Solzhenitsyn

    “We cannot state that all Jews are Bolsheviks. But without Jews, there would never have been Bolshevism. For a Jew, nothing is more insulting than the truth. The blood maddened Jewish terrorists have murdered sixty-six million in Russia from 1918 to 1957.”

    Brutal! Drawings from Gulag: https://youtu.be/3gtIYa5ao2o

  18. I’ve heard of his name but now I found the understanding of his life and work. I cannot help but sympathise with him, the pain people go through and to express it with his art for generations to come, must take a lot for him to come to terms that the world would see his dark viewpoint but he himself will see the recognition he built up after his death

  19. Fathers of that era wanted to raise their sons as warriors. The world was a place where every young man was likely to be conscripted for military service. They trained their sons to be mentally tough, resilient and have true grit. Unfortunately little Franz was opposite. His father was probably disgusted. Unfortunately he didn't have Plan B it seems and somehow learned to accept his weakling son for his other great qualities which was writing.

  20. If Franz had wanted to, he could have feed his father something from his nether regions. Don't be a victim forever. Get revenge even if no one knows… but you. Yummy, yummy, bottoms up.

  21. He looks like a spitting image of my father – the irony is that my father is a cold, unloving, and abusive man who never really saw me worthy to be his son, like his own father. Lol, I guess.

  22. Im a German and Kafka and Metamorphosis are indeed the best topics we've ever had. I love German literature but yet I feel only Kafka has so much depth in his work. Personally i feel like only Schiller reached his level. Kafka is one of the few, I continued to read after my German (literature) class.

  23. Ahh spoilers!! I was excited to read “The Trial” after reading “Metamorphosis” and “The Hunger Artist” but now I know the ending. :/

  24. Suffering artists pay a hefty price for the art they give to the world. I don't think this price is worth it.

  25. Kafka's father exhibits classic traits of Borderline Personality Disorder. Better question, what are the ongoing effects of the unchecked mentally and psychologically ill on the rest of society? Better question still, what and when will the rest of us to do something meaningful about it?

  26. The School of Life, I really have to say that this Video disgusted and disappointed me in many ways. It was such a wrong and incorrect introduction/overview about the Life of Kafka, his genius/work and mostly his Family (especially his Father) and his relationship to them.
    Already in the beging of the Video you draw a misleading picture of his work. Of course the environment (society, authorities, friends, lovers, family, fathers) play a significant role in Kafkas genius. But you imply that every failure, despondency etc. as a result of the environment that forces and humiliate and degrade the Subject/Individual/Kafka and the latter is completely free from guilt AND (which is one of the parts that incases most) is simply pitiful . So you imply Kafkas work could be reed in this way: "I am suffering to issues (you called them in the Video) but it isn't my fault. Im nothing more than a victim of my environment/father. they are/he is to blame."; I assert this does not (no not even close) give an accurate introduction or lead-in about Kafka and so on. 

    before I continue I would like to point out that this comment is suppose to be a critique to this Video and the way you explain Kafka. I hope it is obvious when I say: my goal isn't to harass or insult you on a personal level. I claim that this Video is horrible in comparison to the Topic; and while I try to explain why I think so it will be in a reasonable way or to be fair I try to be reasonable.
    (and yeah… sorry for my bad english by the way. I try my best but as you can read my english is rudimentary. I still hope you get the massage).

    I begin with this provocative, banal and misleading picture of Kafkas father and as a result of that of Kafka himself. Yes Hermann Kafka wasn't perfect (to refer to the ruling Ideology in our western liberal: no one is perfect.) and of course he made mistakes. But describing him as a tyrant? Blaming him for all the bad things that happened to Kafka? Make him responsible for the suffering that Kafka had to endure? I beg you… not only is this completely wrong and extreme it totally misses the point of Kafka and his work! Sure as far as I know the picture of Hermann Kafka as some sort of a tyrant was (or maybe still is?) the dominant opinion in Kafka research. But as many experts pointed out this opinion about Hermann Kafka is outdated. I would like to refer to one person who breaks with the traditional opinion: Kafka himself! For example "die Pawlatschen Szene" (4:00). You describe it something like this:
    Kafka: S-So-Sorry father… b-but could I gate a glass of water pls? I-Im really thirsty…
    His Father: YOU LITTLE BRAT! YOU DARE TO ASK FOR SOMETHING? AAAAAAAAAAA I WILL THROW YOU OUT AND I DONT CARE IF YOU DIE YOU PIECE OF SHIT!
    I'm exaggerating a bit but understand. Kafka explains that this event traumatized him, this is right. He explain (like you quote in the Video) he felt like nothing to his father, absolutely correct. BUT and this is the hole key point of the topic, Kafka understand why his father reacted like this. He annoyed his father in this scene over and over again until Hermann Kafka lost his patience. 

    One might say that this isn't an excuse and doesn't solve the issue and I would totally agree! But hear me out: first of all I said Hermann Kafka wasn't perfect and had made many mistakes, secondly an inaccurate report falsify the research and outcome of science when you engage a Topic, and most importantly Kafka points one thing out: Guilt. In "Brief an den Vater" (letter to the father) he repeatedly explains how he NOR HIS FATHER is to blame for the situation, for the hole topic. Ok this is a little bit oversimplified but understand how difficult and complex this Topic is and how foolish and yes how Ignorant it is to reduce it in a comment like: "Poor Kafka… his father was such an asshole!".

    There are many more examples (in the letter to the father) how falsely and misleading your illustration is. I won't go in to all of them.
    His mother wasn't weak nor was she a coward. Is it so hard to understand if someone isn't interested to be stuck between the fronts? Again Kafka himself explains and understands and empathizes her role. Actually one could interpret her refusing of giving the letter to her Husband is the opposite of cowardice. She didn't wanted to be the punching bag in the conflict between her Son and her Husband. 

    I could go on even further but I think my massage is clear. You could expand my critique to the hole Video; how rudimentary, trivial, incorrect, misleading your explanation is about "der Prozess" (Trial), "Die Verwandlung" (Metamorphosis) and so on.

    I don't take side for anybody here. Not Hermann Kafka, society, not even Franz Kafka himself. And I can assure you this is really hard for me. Not because I have no sympathy for Kafka and his work. No the opposite is the case. Kafka is my favorite Author. He and his work had/still have an enormous influence in my character development. Brief an den Vater is probably the most important one for me. Not just his impressive and brilliant way to reflect on his Life and relationship stands out; no for me it is a well of inspiration. For example when I myself wrote a letter to my mother once and hoped I could learn from Kafka (apparently I was quite successful if there is any trust to my teachers when they told me they admire my work).

    Don't understand me in a wrong way when I say you should take this Video from youtube. It is miserable work which is unworthy to illustrate the complexity of Kafka.

    My recommendation for everyone who wants to engage in the Kafka topic is to buy his Novels form the publisher company "Suhrkamp basisbibliothek" (probably only available in Deutsch). They give different interpretation possibilities, background information, and a better understanding with the reading.
    I also recommend the biography (a trilogy) about Kafka from Reiner Stach. It is really well written and it gives you a really augmented view about Kafkas life. When you read it you will understand fast why you just can't reduce Kafka and his work to a sentence like: "he had a terrible father".

  27. One of the most astounding things about this dude: that HE actually SURVIVED the Spanish flu in 1918 ! !

    (And he already had the tuberculosis on top of that) The pandemic killed some 5% of the world population in just 2 years.

  28. Kafke sounds like a pathetic bitch who made a career complaining and explaining how much of a pathetic bitch he was. Sounds like a perfect author for the masses to adore. I can judge him because i led a similar even harsher life and isntead of being a bitch I decided to take responsibility for myself and instead use anger and hatred for those who had abused me as a driving force to become better stronger, healther, more capable and more intelligent. I call it a Spartan will to intelligence. Kafkes prose or analysis sounds like self pity for its own sake and seems like something leftests would love. Life is hard and people can be evil and malicious so be better dont be a whinging baby. He sounds like a half baked intelectual who is worshipped for making half baked analysis for the sake of making his own ego feel better. His character can be summed up feeling inadequate around his masculine father and feeling ashamed of his body. Instead of doing something about it ie excercsing to become stronger and more fit he decides to bitch life is unfair and my feelings are hurt. What a shameless wretch of a man.

  29. What an awful human being, and a terrible, bullying twat Kafka's father is? Also his Mother is equally pathetic, but for different reasons….

  30. It's such a huge miss for humanity that he died so young and was suffering for most of his life, which prevented him from writing more. #haventthejewishpeoplesufferedenough

  31. Philip Larkin — 'They fuck you up, your mum and dad. They may not mean to, but they do.They fill you with the faults they had And add some extra, just for you…..

  32. I've watched/listened to this video more than 10 times now, every time it sounds totally new and saddens me just the same.

  33. I disagree with all this bullshit that he was the way he was because of his father, there is a ton of evidence that had Franz had a DNA identical twin that had been raised in a loving supportive family, that the two men would have written the exact same types of books and had the same outlook and disposition on life!!

  34. Kafka depresses like no other art. Beyond overt sadness, the stories he writes all feel inches from death and harrowing disgrace.

  35. He suffered for his legancy. He wouldn't be that important if he hadn't go through all this. He couldn't write all this without pain. I wish every reader of Kafkas work could read it in german. His style is so pure, clean and polished, yet so mysterious.

  36. While we naturally take pity on Franz Kafka for his misery, the poor relations with his father, his all-around dissatisfaction with life …a metaphor forms in my mind of a tree which stands for all the negative obstacles for Kafka…The Authority figure, The Cruel Father who was never satisfied, all Kafka's failed attempts to court women and the branches of the tree that represent the bullies of society and the Psychopathic boss/job with no remorse or compassion for the working stiff…the one strange inevitable truth is this tree sucks but in the end it produced a delicious and rare fruit which is the writings of Franz Kafka

  37. That guy was a genius and had such an accurate honesty in his books which help to express the most complicated feelings in words!
    God bless him!🙏

  38. love the use of egon schiele's artwork to illustrate this video. Schiele is my favorite painter, and Kafka is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors, but until this video I had not drawn the comparison in their artistic expression. nice touch.

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