It is Franz Kafka’s birthday today. One of the major figures of 20th century literature, his works used elements of realism and fantasy to present individuals in surrealistic predicaments burdened with guilt, isolation and an existential dilemma that made a futile search for personal salvation.
Kafka was born into a middle-class, German speaking Jewish family in Prague, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire on 3 July 1883. Trained as a lawyer and employed full-time by an insurance company, he wrote mostly in his spare time. His unique body of writing, most of which is incomplete, is considered to be among the most influential in Western literature.
His best known works include Die Verwandlung (The Metamorphosis), Der Process (The Trial), and Das Schloss (The Castle). While most of his works were published posthumously, his work and legacy have entered the English language as Kafkaesque to describe anything similar to his writings or sharing affinities to the complexes and dichotomies he explored and placed his characters in.
As the world celebrates his 136th birthday, here are a few quotes by him that are equally thought provoking and fresh in perspective as is his work.
“I need solitude for my writing; not ‘like a hermit’ – that wouldn’t be enough – but like a dead man.”
“Youth is happy because it has the ability to see beauty. Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old.”
“One of the first signs of the beginning of understanding is the wish to die.”
“Every revolution evaporates and leaves behind only the slime of a new bureaucracy.”
“From a certain point onward there is no longer any turning back. That is the point that must be reached.”
“You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.”
“Association with human beings lures one into self-observation.’
“I am free and that is why I am lost.”
“The meaning of life is that it stops.”