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Franz Kafka

(1883 - 1924)

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       Although Franz Kafka has made an enormous impact on the literature of today, he was a relatively unknown author during his lifetime.  Few of Kafkas works were published while still living.

    Kafka was the oldest of four children and was born in Prague, Bohemia (then part of Austria) on July 3, 1883.  His father was a middle-class merchant, who hoped Kafka would follow him in his career.  After attending German grammar school and the German gymnasium (like a high school), Kafka finished his Doctorate of Law in Prague.  He then worked at a private insurance firm, which provided him with a steady income.  Kafka, however, was more interested in literature and devoted his evenings, and often entire nights, to writing.  Although he spoke Czech, all of his works are written in German.

    Much of Kafka's writing deals with the theme of alienation, a feeling Kafka knew well himself.  He was a Czech in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, a German-speaker among Czechs, and a disbeliever among Jews.  He felt alienated from his father, from the opposite sex, and from society in general.

    Kafka died in 1924 of tuberculosis.  He was 41 years old.  Most of Kafka's works were published after his death by his friend Max Brod despite Kafka's request that they be burned.  Some, such as Amerika, The Trial, and The Castle were left unfinished.  Today, Kafka is known throughout the world for his writings and he even became an adjective- Kafkaeque- a term which captures the absurdity and depth of his work.

 

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Kafka's Grave at the Straschnitz cemetary, Prague