Franz Kafka

Franz Kafka (fränts käf´kä), 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 an executive position in the workmen's compensation division of the 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), R. Stach (2 vol., 2002–8, tr. 2005–13), and S. Friedländer (2013); biography of his youthful years by E. Kendall (2013); studies by W. H. Sokel (1966), E. Heller (1974), S. Corngold (1988), and M. Anderson (1990).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis
Harold Bloom.
Chelsea House, 1988
Librarian’s tip: This is a book of literary criticism
Kafka's Castle
Ronald Gray.
Cambridge University Press, 1956
Librarian’s tip: This is a book of literary criticism
Kafka: Gender, Class, and Race in the Letters and Fictions
Elizabeth Boa.
Clarendon Press, 1996
The Mystical Life of Franz Kafka: Theosophy, Cabala, and the Modern Spiritual Revival
June O. Leavitt.
Oxford University Press, 2012
Literature and Psychoanalysis
Edith Kurzweil; William Phillips.
Columbia University Press, 1983
Librarian’s tip: Part IV "Three Views of Kafka"
Why Karl Calls Himself "Negro": The Representation of Waiting and the Waited-On in Franz Kafka's der Verschollene
William, Jennifer Marston.
West Virginia University Philological Papers, Vol. 49, Fall 2003
Literature & Religion: Pascal, Gryphius, Lessing, Holderlin, Novalis, Kierkegaard, Dostoyevsky, Kafka
Walter Jens; Hans Küng; Peter Heinegg.
Paragon House, 1991
The German Novel: Studies
Roy Pascal.
Manchester University Press, 1956
Librarian’s tip: Chap. VIII "Franz Kafka, 1883-1924: The Problem of Interpretation"
Evolving Jewish Identities in German Culture: Borders and Crossings
Linda E. Feldman; Diana Orendi.
Praeger Publishers, 2000
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 4 "Binding Together by Cutting Apart: Circumcision, Kafka, and Minority Discourse," Chap. 5 "From Big Daddy to Small Literature: On Taking Kafka at His Word," and Chap. 6 "'A Frosty Hall of Mirrors': Father Knows Best in Franz Kafka and Nadine Gordi
Changing Minds, Saving Lives: Franz Kafka as a Key Industrial Reformer
Wasserman, Martin.
East European Quarterly, Vol. 35, No. 4, Winter 2001
Conversations with Kafka: Notes and Reminiscences
Gustav Janouch; Goronwy Rees.
Frederick A. Praeger, 1953
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