[jahsonic.com] - [Next >>]

Franz Kafka (1883 - 1924)

Lifespan: 1883 - 1924

Titles: The Metamorphosis (1915)

Related: Vienna - High Modernism - alienation - existentalism - 20th century literature - metamorphoses - fantastic literature - absurd - surreal

Critical interpretation: There have been many critics who have tried to make sense of Kafka's works by interpreting them through certain schools of literary criticism such as modernism, magical realism, and so on. The apparent hopelessness and the absurdity that seem to permeate his works are considered emblematic of existentialism. Others have tried to locate a Marxist influence in his satirization of bureaucracy in pieces such as In the Penal Colony, The Trial, and The Castle, whereas others point to anarchism as an inspiration for Kafka's anti-bureaucratic viewpoint. Still others have interpreted his works through the lens of Judaism (Borges made a few perceptive remarks in this regard), through Freudianism (because of his familial struggles), or as allegories of a metaphysical quest for God (Thomas Mann was a proponent of this theory).

Themes of alienation and persecution are repeatedly emphasized, and the emphasis on this quality, notably in the work of Marthe Robert, partly inspired the counter-criticism of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, who argued that there was much more to Kafka than the stereotype of a lonely figure writing out of anguish, and that his work was more deliberate, subversive, and more "joyful" than it appears to be.

Biographers have said that it was common for Kafka to read chapters of the books he was working on to his closest friends, and that those readings usually concentrated on the humorous side of his prose. Milan Kundera refers to the essentially surrealist humour of Kafka as a main predecessor of later artists such as Federico Fellini, Gabriel García Márquez, Carlos Fuentes and Salman Rushdie. For Márquez it was as he said the reading of Kafka's The Metamorphosis that showed him "that it was possible to write in a different way". --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franz_Kafka#Critical_interpretation

Kaka and Poe: Poe made a deep impression on Czech author Franz Kafka, and the influence of Poe's works on his are undeniable. Both authors focus on disturbed states of mind and the crimes or horrors that arrive from them, using closed-off, isolated settings to explore their characters. Kafka once said of Poe, "He wrote tales of mystery to make himself at home in the world. That's perfectly natural. Imagination has fewer pitfalls than reality.... I know his way of escape and his dreamer's face." [May 2006]


Franz Kafka (July 3, 1883 in Prague - June 3, 1924 in Vienna) was one of the major German language writers of the 20th century most of whose work was published posthumously. His unique body of writing continues to challenge critics, and attempts to classify his work are generally inadequate. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franz_Kafka [Dec 2004]


Marked by surreal distortion and often a sense of impending danger: “Kafkaesque fantasies of the impassive interrogation, the false trial, the confiscated passport . . . haunt his innocence” (New Yorker). --American Heritage Dictionary

Highbrow "literary" fiction as horror fiction

Some stories in highbrow "literary" fiction could arguably be regarded as horror narratives: examples include Franz Kafka's "The Metamorphosis" (Die Verwandlung) and "In the Penal Colony" (In der Strafkolonie). [May 2006]

Kafkaesque films

Films: After Hours (1985)


I just joined this group and would like to share my favourite kafkaesque movies with you:

"The Trial", a B&W wonder from the fifties or so, directed by Mr Orson Wells, and starred by Anthony Perkins.

"The Audience", a funny Italian movie from the sixties/seventies about an Italian country side man who goes to the Vatican with the only purpose of having a meeting with the Pope to discuss an important matter. He waits for days at the door of the Pope´s office, days that become weeks, and weeks that become years. During this patience exercise he will meet a wonderful woman, will have children but will continue dedicated to pursue his vital goal. Probably Italy´s top actor, Vittorio Gassman is the protagonist, his partner is nice and friendly Monica Vitti.

"Brazil", just the most Kafkaesque of all movies that I have ever seen. Set in a nightmirish future, Jonathan Price tries to make his dreams become true in bureaucratic existence. This movie was directed by Terry Gilliam (Monty Python) in 1982 and has an excellent soundtrack.

"I hired a contract killer", set in London in the 1990´s and directed by Finnish Aki Kaurismaki, this movie is the funniest of the Kafkaesque commedies about one of those moments that we all fear because after them Death can come some other day: Being asked by your manager to accept early retirement. The movie was shot in Black and White annd it inspired Cohen Brother´s "The Man Who Wasn´t There".

"Kafka" is an interesting movie. Jeremy Irons plays Kafka both as Kafka himself and as the actor of Kafka´s works. The result is just awesome, in which Kafka´s life is interwoven with bureacracy, fears, threats and anxiety.

Those above are my favourite movies inspired by our favourite author. I am sure that the other members of this group will help me enrich it.

Best regards!

Books on Kafka

  1. Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature (Theory and History of Literature, Vol 30) by Gilles Deleuze, Felix Guattari, Reda Bensmaia, Dana Polan (Translator) [Amazon US]

    Kafka and Deleuze hand-in-hand
    The detailed concepts on how Gilles Deleuze read Kafka still amazed me. To understand Deleuze, one must read Deleuze in relation to Kafka. --chiang fame from NYC, amazon.com

    your Amazon recommendations - Jahsonic - early adopter products

    Managed Hosting by NG Communications