Sunday, March 18, 2012

A Little About Kafka

I recently re-read Franz Kafka's "The Trial". I found it as depressing as I found it the first time, which was twenty years ago. I read it again because I feel any novel worth reading, like "The Trial", should be read more than once, and because someone whose blog I read regularly has been writing about "The Trial".

Surfing the internet, I see there's an awful lot that's been written about "The Trial", most of it too abstruse and intellectual for me to understand. This is the same for me with other Great Novels I've read. Most of what's written about them I can't understand. And the little I can understand (or think I can), speaks to me hardly at all. Is it just me?

Maybe it's for you too, but you won't admit it for fear of looking foolish in front of your little friends, who, too, won't admit that they can't understand most of what learned professors say about the Great Novels, and what little they can understand speaks to them hardly at all either?

I feel, though, that to understand a Great Novel, you should learn at least a little about its author, since novels tend to be autobiographical. What, then, about Franz Kafka?

I've learned via Google that Kafka was born in Prague in 1883, into a German-speaking Jewish family. Although good in school, he didn't like the traditional, hidebound and authoritarian way he was taught. On leaving school he studied the Law and got a degree in it. However, he didn't practice law, but worked for an insurance company, and then for an insurance institute.

Although he found insurance work tedious and boring, he stuck at it until 1923, when he would have been forty. Then he moved to Berlin to pursue writing. However, he was already suffering from tuberculosis, from which he died not too long after, in 1924.

It appears that Kafka wasn't close to his mother and father. His father, a successful merchant, was a tyrant who bullied his son psychologically. As for women, Kafka had relationships with several, and became engaged to one. But he never married.

At the end of his life, he was isolated from his family, and from a regular job and the companionship of colleagues that went with it. Being Jewish, he was surrounded by anti-Semitic Germans, whose language he wrote in. In his loneliness he tried to find God, but felt God was too distant.

Does this, however little, help in understanding "The Trial"? I'll speak of this another time.........

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