Franz Kafka was born in Prague in
He was a good student and excelled in the German and Czech languages.
He received his doctorate in law, and worked in an insurance
This position allowed him the time to dedicate to his true talent - writing.
As a result, Kafka become a renowned author.
He met many women, and fell in love several times. He was engaged five times but never married.
He corresponded extensively with two of them:
---When he was 30 years old, he began a relationship with Felice Bauer.
After being engaged to her twice, he finally ended their relationship
when he was 34.
--- When he was 39, he had a brief romance with Milena Jesenska,
journalist and writer who was 25 years old.
He did not serve in the World War (1914-1918).
He died of tuberculosis at age 41.
Below are some translations from the original Kafka
Sometimes I would like to pile all Jews, including me, in the laundry bin to see if they would suffocate ... (Letters to Milena)
You always want to know, Milena, if I love you, but it is a difficult question. (Letters to Milena)
For me ,the office, the university, the family, and everything else
is a living individual that watches me, an individual to whom
I am bound for some unknown reason, although for me it is totally foreign.
It is so foreign to me as to be absurd. (Letters to Milena)
Of my family home, I can tell you this.
I live in the midst of my family, among people who are good and loving, but more strange to me than strangers.
I have not spoken to my mother in recent years and, at home, I seldom spoke more than 20 words per day to her;
I seldom exchanged more than a ‘good morning’ with my father.
I do not speak to my married sisters and my brothers-in-law, even though we are not angry. (Letter to Felice's father)
"I fear you” ... "In Franzenbad I never went to visit you" ... "For you I do not move a finger" (Letter to Father)
"I, who does not have the will to live ..." (Letter to Father)
"When you reproach me for my lack of filial love and gratitude ..."
OF PLEASURE (ANHEDONIA)
"Do not expect for yourself a life similar to that happy woman you see walking before you,
do not expect any happy talk, or walking arm in arm,
but rather a monastic
life next to an afflicted, sad, silent, discontent,
and unhealthy man ... "(Letters to Felice)
"I made her unhappy just because I could not reach ... a state of permanent joy and serenity,
I could not be considered suitable for marriage "(Letters to Milena)
"I cannot say I feel serene and happy. Happiness only in a sense, and never serenity,
because I will always scare; and more than anyone else - myself. "(Letters to Milena)
"Would you endure not knowing anything about your husband except that he is in his room writing?" (Letters to Felice)
4- FANTASY DREAMS
In this quotation we see Kafka passing his nocturnal hours writing an alleged, fantastic
and interminable letter, enjoying the activity
and emotionally motivated.
"Last night I devoted my nighttime hours repeating again and again, in an imaginary letter,
issues that seemed very important to me at that time ... "(Letters to Milena)
"I can remember my records, but I cannot think anything while there is a visit." (Letters to Milena)
"Alone I continue living ,yet when a visitor arrives it kills me" (Letters to Milena)
"For years I have not written to anyone. In that aspect I was as dead: I had no need for any communication,
was as if I did not belong to this world or to any other. "(Letters to Milena)
"What am I? A man child, weak, unhealthy, taciturn, unsociable, sad, rigid, and without hope" (Letters to Milena)
"I am a retiring, silent, unsociable, and discontent person" (Letter to Felice's father)
6-SEPARATED FROM THE FAMILY
Kafka did not enjoy his family and, although he felt linked to it by social imperatives, he truly
felt like an outsider. In his autobiographical book, "The Metamorphosis", Kafka’s relationship
with his family is bad. There is no communication from him with his family, they
do not offer him help, they treat him as disgusting, unclean, confine him to his room where he is alone,
they do not care about Kafka’s poor health, there is no emotion from either side …..
He does not have the confidence to ask for help ...
until the family decides to end his life ...
Kafka is overwhelmed that the story has such a negative outcome: his own end.
The work expresses the profound pessimism of the author regarding his family and his own existence ...
"I have never known the feeling of being part of a family" (Letter to Father)
7-THE OTHER MASK
Outside social contact, in the solitude of his room, or with good friends, Kafka showed his other mask -
the more personal one which allowed him to express his feelings.
Thus he was able to find himself,
and he indulged himself in literature,
for which he had a remarkable talent.
"He felt true happiness with his beautiful, finished books” (Max Brod)
"As I am only literature and I cannot nor do I want to be any other thing, my job will never excite me
but it will and can destroy me completely "(Letter to Felice's father)
"I want to point out what it is easily forgotten when Kafka’s work is contemplated: his joy of the world
and of life. In intimate conversation he spoke surprisingly freely, was even enthusiastic and charming.
He joked and laughed freely, and knew how to make his friends laugh.
This sense of humour was especially prevalent when Kafka read his own works.
For example we, his friends, burst into laughter when he read us the first chapter of "The Process".
And Kafka laughed so much that, at times, he could not continue reading. "(Max Brod)
Kafka was not sociable, and limited social interaction to his personal contacts.
Having to be social stressed him severely and he suffered from chronic insomnia and headaches.
"The seriousness kills me. The head embedded in the collar of the shirt, hair arranged around the skull
with absolute immobility, the muscles of the cheeks tense in their place ... "(Diary I)
"For 15 days I have suffered from chronic insomnia" (Letters to Milena)
"I have turned grey as a result of bad nights and headaches" (Letters to Milena)
"If I could surrender to sleep as I surrender to fear ..." (Letters to Milena)
Kafka had an important avoidant component that was obvious from these two traits:
----Fear of man
------ Strong feelings of his own inadequacy
"I, who in any real issue - marriage, work, courage, sacrifice, purity, freedom, independence,
truth – am so inferior to you two ... "(Letters to Milena)
"Do you know Milena? When you became involved with your husband
you stepped down a level or two, but if you become involved with me,
you will be throwing yourself into the abyss "(Letters to Milena)
"It is very likely I have not been disobedient but stubborn, worthless, sad, grumpy ..." (Letters to Milena)
"I'm just the mouse of a great house, who is allowed to run across the carpet once a year." (Letters to Milena)
"What thing worthy of love can be found in me? (Letters to Milena)
"I was afraid of everyone, so also feared that man" (Letters to Milena)
" I saw clearly I was a dirty plague" (Letters to Milena)
"How is it possible, Milena, that you still do not feel fear or disgust, or something similar, for me?" (Letters to Milena)
"My letters produce so much shame in me, that I barely dare to open your replies" (Letters to Milena)
"... I, who in the great game of chess am not even the pawn of a pawn, far from it,
but now, against all the rules and to disrupt the game,
I am going to take the Queen's chair; I, the
pawn of pawns
a piece that does not exist, therefore does not play with others ... "(Letters to Milena)
10 – WHAT HAPPENED?
Despite his great capacity for introspection, Kafka was never able to explain what happened to him.
He knew that he was maladjusted and that he could not change things; he was totally pessimistic about
himself and his destiny.
"I cannot make you understand, I cannot make anyone understand what is happening inside me.
I cannot even explain it to myself "(Letters to Milena)
"I lack nothing. I only needed myself "(Diary of Kafka)
"His failure to adapt to society made his life a struggle which he had no intention of winning" (Max Brod)
"I am mentally ill; the lung disease is only an overflow of mental illness" (Letters to Milena)
"I tell the truth - full, pure, accurate - and frankly too" (Letters to Milena)
"Franz is as incapable of lying as he is of getting drunk ...,he has a terrible clairvoyance and he rejects
any imposture" (Letter to Milena)
"Understand, Milena, my age, my experience, and especially my fear. And my fear is growing because
that means a setback before the world "(Letters to Milena)
"... always that fear, that fear ... I’m looking for furniture under which to hide myself
trembling and almost
unconscious ... "(Letters to Milena)
"I do not sleep some nights. It is simply the result of my famous fear. "(Letters to Milena)
"Now I have nobody, nobody but fear. Clinging to one another, we shoot through the nights "(Letters to Milena)
"Except for the fear that imprisoned me a few days ago... I would be almost healthy" (Letters to Milena)
"The fear is really unique: I do not know its rules. I only know its hand on my throat and that it is the most terrible
I have ever experienced "(Letters to Milena)
"We have in common, Milena, the desire for a comfortable death; but in fact this is already a desire that
is experienced in early
childhood. I felt it ... (Letters to Milena)
"Your best letters are those in which you justify my fear." (Letters to Milena)
"It is terrible that with you I am far more aware of my failings ….
salvation is impossible for me ..., it makes
me sweat with fear "(Letters to Milena)
"I always try to communicate something incommunicable.
Maybe in the background is the fear which we have discussed
so often – the fear for everything - the greatest and the smallest "(Letters to Milena)
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