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Franz Kafka

3 July 1883 – 3 June 1924

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Place of birth: Prague, Bohemia, Austria-Hungary
Most important work: The Metamorphosis, 1915
Interesting facts:

  •  His favourite writer was French novelist Gustave Flaubert.
  • According to biographers, Kafka’s relationship with his father was more than complex. The writer found his father to be domineering and unsupportive of his artistic endeavours.
  • Kafka never married, but was engaged on three different occasions to two different women. He was pre-occupied by sex and pornography and frequently visited brothels. His well-documented insecurities, neuroses and fear of intimacy, made it hard for him to commit to relationships.
  • As a tuberculosis-ridden Kafka neared death, he implored his friend Max Brod to burn all his unpublished literary work.
    “Dearest Max, My last request: Everything I leave behind me … to be burned unread,” he wrote in 1924. Max, of course, didn’t burn everything, and published several of Kafka’s books posthumously, including The Trial and The Castle.

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Illustration by Jiří Slíva

Our 16 favorite quotes:

1. “Life’s splendor forever lies in wait about each one of us in all its fullness, but veiled from view, deep down, invisible, far off. It is there, though, not hostile, not reluctant, not deaf. If you summon it by the right word, by its right name, it will come.”

2. “Association with human beings lures one into self-observation.”

3. “It is not necessary that you leave the house. Remain at your table and listen. Do not even listen, only wait. Do not even wait, be wholly still and alone. The world will present itself to you for its unmasking, it can do no other, in ecstasy it will writhe at your feet.”

4. “Anyone who cannot come to terms with his life while he is alive needs one hand to ward off a little his despair over his fate… but with his other hand he can note down what he sees among the ruins.”

5. “May I kiss you then? On this miserable paper? I might as well open the window and kiss the night air.”

6. “You can hold yourself back from the sufferings of the world, that is something you are free to do and it accords with your nature, but perhaps this very holding back is the one suffering you could avoid.”

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Young Kafka

7. “In argument similes are like songs in love; they describe much, but prove nothing.”

8. “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.”

9. “Don’t despair, not even over the fact that you don’t despair.”

10. “He who seeks does not find, but he who does not seek will be found.”

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Franz Kafka and Max Brod

 

11. “Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old.”

12. “By believing passionately in something that still does not exist, we create it. The nonexistent is whatever we have not sufficiently desired.”

13. “One of the first signs of the beginning of understanding is the wish to die.”

14. “God gives the nuts, but he does not crack them.”

15. “Productivity is being able to do things that you were never able to do before.”

16. “Start with what is right rather than what is acceptable.”

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