At the end of the 20th century, a survey was conducted among publishers and writers from around the world. They were asked who the most important writer of the millennium was. The winner, with an overwhelming majority, was Franz Kafka, heir to Shakespeare, Goethe and Cervantes, who left humanity an incredible work.
The influence of Franz Kafka is so great that in several languages there is the term Kafkaesque, used to describe absurd, oppressive and distressing situations. He was one of the writers able to create a literary world with a particular atmosphere, unique codes and an incisive and poetic logic at the same time.
One of the most important aspects of his works is the intellectual honesty they convey. Franz Kafka was not a rhetorical or pretentious writer. In fact, he himself asked his friend Max Brod to burn all his works. Fortunately, Brod did not and it is thanks to that friendship that we know Kafka’s writings today. He became famous over time, not for the help of a patron or for careful marketing work, but for the unique quality of each line he wrote.
Franz Kafka was born on July 3, 1883 in Prague, in the current Czech Republic then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. His father, Hermann, came from a family of butchers. He was the architect of his own fortune and enjoyed an excellent position when Franz was born. His mother, Julie, was from a wealthy family. She had also received an education higher than that of her husband. However, it had little influence on the upbringing of the children.
Kafka was the eldest of six children, two of whom, both boys, died in the first year of life. Frank survived along with the three sisters. Perhaps this is why his father was so authoritarian and bossy with him. It is no coincidence that he is a recurring figure in his literary works.
He studied in two important schools characterized by rigor and Jewish lineage. Franz Kafka began writing when he was just a teenager, although he destroyed most of the works of those years. He became a member of an anticlerical group called the “Free School” . There he began to approach philosophy, socialism and atheism.
A gray life
At first, Franz Kafka began studying chemistry at the university. However, he soon abandoned this path. His father, therefore, forced him to study law even if Franz did not want to. At university he met Max Brod, who was close to him until his death and even after. Thanks to this friendship, Kafka’s writings did not remain anonymous.
After finishing university, Kafka worked in the offices of several lawyers. Later, he found a part-time job in an insurance company. He could barely earn the minimum to survive, but at least this job allowed him to devote himself to what he loved most: writing. For this he worked until 1917, the year in which he contracted tuberculosis. It is said that he liked unpasteurized milk and that perhaps this was the cause of the disease.
An eternal work
During those years, Franz Kafka had troubled relationships with several women. They were always loves that began, often through letters, and then suddenly ended for no reason. Franz was a tormented spirit who never accepted that one of his great loves, Felice Bauer, was indifferent to La metamorphosis , an eternal work.
From 1917 until his death, Franz Kafka went in and out of various nursing homes. He lived for a period in Germany, between 1920 and 1923, trying to get away from the family life that tormented him so much. However, in 1924 he had to go home due to severe pneumonia.
Once he returned, the disease got worse. He was hospitalized again, but was struck by tuberculosis of the larynx. He suffered a lot during his last week of life. He died in June 1924, aged only 41.
Kafka left numerous short stories, as well as various novels. Among his works we find The Process, The Metamorphosis, The Castle and many others. He also left beautiful testimonies of the correspondence he maintained with his sister Ottla, with Max Brod and with Felice. His works are authentically immortal.