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Franz Kafka
German-language writerof novels and short stories
(1883-1924)



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Jemand mußte Josef K. verleumdet haben, denn ohne daß er etwas Böses getan hätte, wurde er eines Morgens verhaftet. Die Köchin der Frau Grubach, seiner Zimmervermieterin, die ihm jeden Tag gegen acht Uhr früh das Frühstück brachte, kam diesmal nicht. Das war noch niemals geschehen.
Someone must have been telling lies about Joseph K., for without having done anything wrong he was arrested one fine morning. His landlady's cook, who always brought him his breakfast at eight o'clock, failed to appear on this occasion. That had never happened before.
-- Opening lines from the novel, Der Prozess (The Trial) (1925) by Franz Kafka

Es war spät abends, als K. ankam. Das Dorf lag in tiefem Schnee. Vom Schloßberg war nichts zu sehen, Nebel und Finsternis umgaben ihn, auch nicht der schwächste Lichtschein deutete das große Schloß an. Lange stand K. auf der Holzbrücke, die von der Landstraße zum Dorf führte, und blickte in die scheinbare Leere empor.
It was late in the evening when K. arrived. The village lay deep in snow. Nothing could be seen of the Castle Hill, it was hidden in mist and darkness, and not even the faintest gleam of light indicated the great castle there. For a long time K. stood on the wooden bridge leading from the bridge to the village, looking up into apparent emptiness.
-- Opening lines from the novel, Das Schloß (The Castle) (1926) by Franz Kafka (English translation by John Williams)

"Es ist ein eigentümlicher Apparat,“ sagte der Offizier zu dem Forschungsreisenden und überblickte mit einem gewissermassen bewundernden Blick den ihm doch wohlbekannten Apparat. Der Reisende schien nur aus Höflichkeit der Einladung des Kommandanten gefolgt zu sein, der ihn aufgefordert hatte, der Exekution eines Soldaten beizuwohnen, der wegen Ungehorsam und Beleidigung des Vorgesetzten verurteilt worden war.
“It’s a remarkable apparatus,” said the Officer to the Explorer and gazed with a certain look of admiration at the device, with which he was, of course, thoroughly familiar. It appeared that the Traveller had responded to the invitation of the Commandant only out of politeness, when he had been asked to attend the execution of a soldier condemned for disobeying and insulting his superior.
-- Opening lines from the short story In der Strafkolonie (In the Penal Colony) (1914)

Als Gregor Samsa eines Morgens aus unruhigen Träumen erwachte, fand er sich in seinem Bett zu einem ungeheuren Ungeziefer verwandelt.
As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into an enormous insect.
-- Opening lines from the short story Die Verwandlung (The Metamorphosis) (1915) by Franz Kafka





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.
-- Letter to Oskar Pollak (27 January 1904)

What have I common with Jews? I have hardly anything in common with myself . . . .”
-- Franz Kafka, diary entry, 8 January 1914, in: Diaries 1914-1923

"Are you as lonely as that?” I asked. . . .
". . . .I'm as lonely as . . . as Franz Kafka.”
-- Quoted in: Marthe Robert, Franz Kafka's Loneliness, translated by Ralph Manheim (London, Faber & Faber, 1982), pp. v, 81. That book in turn drew the quote from: Gustav Janouch, Conversations with Kafka, translated by Goronwy Rees (London, Andre Deutsch, 1971), p. 70.

What people say about Kafka

Kafka described with wonderful imaginative power the future concentration camps, the future instability of the law, the future absolutism of the state Apparat [apparatus]
-- Bertolt Brecht, as quoted in TIME magazine (18 July 1983)


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The selection of the above quotes and the writing of the accompanying notes was performed by the author David Paul Wagner.

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