Considered to be one of the most important and influential writers in Western literature, Franz Kafka was born to a middle-class Jewish family in Prague, which at that time was a part of Austria-Hungary. The absurdity and hopelessness that permeate his work are considered emblematic of existentialism. The term “Kafkaesque” is widely used to describe situations, ideas and themes which are reminiscent of Kafka’s works, as particularly found in the novel, The Trial, and the novella, The Metamorphosis.
The unforgettable first sentence of The Metamorphosis begins, “As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect…” This fantastic story of a troubled individual in a nightmarish world paves the way for artists such as the film director Federico Fellini, and the novelists Gabriel García Márquez, Carlos Fuentes and Salman Rushdie whose works also employ magical and fantastic compositional elements.
While he is remembered primarily as a fiction writer, it notable that he had a successful career as an employee of ‘The Worker’s Accident Insurance Institute’ for the Kingdom of Bohemia. Kafka was apparently a good employee as evidenced by the promotions he received. He also seemed to be proud of his commercial writing as the compiler of information and author of his company’s annual report, as he frequently sent copies of the reports to his friends and family.
As told by Peter Drucker, in Managing in the Next Society, it is arguable that his greatest contribution to humanity was not made through his fiction writing, but rather through his invention of the first ‘Hard Hat’ to curb injuries and deaths in the steel industry, the use of which spread to many industrial and construction workplaces, thereby significantly reducing deaths and traumatic brain injuries from the time of its introduction at the beginning of the 20th century to its global use in workplaces throughout the world today.
“A book must be an ice-axe to break the seas frozen inside our soul.”
“Don’t despair, not even over the fact that you don’t despair.”
“Every revolution evaporates and leaves behind only the slime of a new bureaucracy.”
“A man of action forced into a state of thought is unhappy until he can get out of it.”
“Always first draw fresh breath after outbursts of vanity and complacency.”
“Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old.”
“Association with human beings lures one into self-observation.”
“By imposing too great a responsibility, or rather, all responsibility, on yourself, you crush yourself.”
“From a certain point onward there is no longer any turning back. That is the point that must be reached.”
“How pathetically scanty my self-knowledge is compared with, say, my knowledge of my room. There is no such thing as observation of the inner world, as there is of the outer world.”
“I do not read advertisements. I would spend all of my time wanting things.”
“By believing passionately in something that still does not exist, we create it. The nonexistent is whatever we have not sufficiently desired.”
– Franz Kafka (1883-1924)
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