Posthumous Fame Austrian Author Franz Kafka

About the famous Austrian author Franz Kafka, biography and history of the man who achieved fame after only death.


FRANZ KAFKA (1883-1924), Austrian author

Kafka, said poet W. H. Auden, bears the same relation to our age that Dante, Shakespeare, and Goethe bore to theirs. His novels Amerika, The Trial, and The Castle pose the spiritual and artistic problems that have occupied most serious 20th-century writers and thinkers. The author was a typical victim of the urban rat race. As a harassed functionary of the Workers' Accident Insurance Institute in Prague, he struggled for free time from his job and domineering family to write. He was the most sedentary of men, lonely, untraveled, and inexperienced except in business. Five slim volumes appeared and sank out of sight during his lifetime, and only a few friends knew that he was writing the novels that would help form the core of 20th-century literature. These works remained incomplete and unpublished when tuberculosis killed him at age 40. After years of tortuous efforts to "begin my real life" and to describe a precise statement of his soul, Kafka considered his efforts a failure. In a last request, he asked his friend Max Brod to burn all of his papers and manuscripts. Brod indignantly refused, saying that if Kafka had really wanted them destroyed, he would not have given the task to the one person he knew would never consent to it. Thus Kafka's best-known novels, prophetic of the nightmare state of fascism, were first published in Germany in 1925 through 1927. Although the Nazis soon banned the books, translated editions surfaced in other countries. Kafka's reputation has steadily increased since the 1940s, and today the works of his critics and interpreters far outnumber his own.

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