Kafka from the gen z lens


Kafka from the gen z lens

Franz Kafka, the child of Shakespeare, Goethe, and Cervantes, touched humanity more than any other author, was a short story writer and novelist, being one of the major figures of 20th century literature, his work fuses elements of realism, anxiety and alienation. He was born on the third of July, 1883 in Prague. A Bohemian, Jewish, insurance clerk by day and a frustrated, manic writer author by night, this makes him sound like an alt-superhero. Indeed, his alter ego “K” was always a heroic figure, struggling against injustice and obfuscation, floundering in relationships, searching for the truth, questioning the system. Kafka’s influence is so great that the term “Kafkaesque” exists in several languages. It refers to absurd, oppressive, and upsetting situations. He was one of those writers capable of creating a literary world with its own atmosphere and unique codes. In his world, the logic is both convincing and poetic. In a kind of premonition, many of Kafka’s principal characters fail to complete their goals and only find inglorious and premature death, in the loneliest and harshest of surroundings, as the way out of the maze that ensnares them. 

Kafka’s work tells you, life is never easy and dishonesty is an obstacle that many of his characters come up against, or, to the contrary, they often run into problems when the truths that they say are taken as lies. He was able to see details about the human character and all manner of interactions that the average observer would miss, but he was then able to seamlessly transfer it into his writing. Bureaucracy is a theme that often works its way into his books, for example, The Castle where the main character spends the whole novel trying to work his way through the roadblocks set up to get to the seemingly nearby castle that rules the area. His heroes often find themselves fighting against an unknown and far away malevolent factor that is creating serious difficulties in their lives. In The Trial, the characters always keep pushing back, though, in their own sort of rebellion. Abiding by unfair rules doesn’t make sense, so push back when the system makes you into a victim. 

He owns a part of the human emotional spectrum, because of which we are able to recognize and gain a measure of perspective over and relief from. Kafka’s world isn’t pleasant; it feels like a place of nightmare and yet it’s a place many of us will end up, maybe just for a while. When we feel our destiny is out of control, when bullied, humiliated and mocked by people around us, we’re in his orbit when we are ashamed of our bodies and sexual urges and feel that the best thing for us might be to be destroyed without mercy as if we were a sickening bed bug. Kafka was timid, bookish and full of self-hatred. The idea of horrific, arbitrary judgment was to be a constant in his fiction. Between the Judgment and The Trail, Kafka wrote The Metamorphosis, a short story in which a travelling salesman wakes up one morning transformed into an insect akin to a bed bug, the story is about self-disgust, treachery of family, like The Trail, about terrifying arbitrary power. When he was 41, he developed tuberculosis, which prevented him from eating anything. He wrote his last short story, The Hunger Artist, it talks about a public performer who makes money by fasting for the pleasure of the public but dies after people get bored of his work and he is left to starve.  Kafka’s terrible relationship with his father, his deformed childhood, self-hatred and in search of some kind of forgiveness, he left behind some beautiful yet haunting work that he had asked his friend, Brod to destroy.  Brod, recognizing his friend’s unparalleled talent, did not follow his friend’s request and instead published them.

“I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound or stab us. If the book we're reading doesn't wake us up with a blow to the head, what are we reading for? So that it will make us happy, as you write? Good Lord, we would be happy precisely if we had no books, and the kind of books that make us happy are the kind we could write ourselves if we had to. But we need books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us. That is my belief.”

― Franz Kafka

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