Austrian writer Franz Kafka (1883-1924) was born on this day into a Jewish middle-class family in Prague, Bohemia. Inspired by the writings of Benedict De Spinoza, Charles Darwin, and Friedrich Nietzsche, young Kafka wrote, then destroyed his early writings.
"From a certain point onward there is no longer any turning back," said Kafka who wrote with clarity, shifting between colors of tragedy and romance. His symbolism was astonishing.
"The meaning of life is that it stops," he believed.
Compared to Søren Kierkegaard and other 20th-century existentialists, Kafka told innovative stories and created memorable characters. He blended reality with fantasy.
The main character of his most famous work, The Metamorphosis (1915) awakes one morning and discovers that he has been transformed into an enormous insect. The adjective "Kafkaesque" has come to celebrate this dreamlike surrealism of foreboding danger.
"My 'fear' ... is my substance, and probably the best part of me," he said.
Few of Kafka's works were published before his death of tuberculosis. Thankfully for the literary world, his friend and executor, Max Brod ignored Kafka's request to destroy his manuscripts. Instead, Brod edited, then published the works posthumously.
"Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty is never old," said Kafka who along with novelist George Orwell captured the alienation of mankind in the 20th century.
Poet W. H. Auden praised Kafka as "the author who comes nearest to bearing the same kind of relation to our age as Dante, Shakespeare, and Goethe bore to theirs."
More KAFKA Quotations
Change your perspective, change your life.