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Franz Kafka was a novelist and short story writer, widely regarded as one of the major literary figures of the 20th century because of his visionary and profoundly enigmatic stories that often presented a grotesque vision of the world in which individuals burdened with guilt, isolation, and anxiety make a futile search for personal salvation.
See the fact file below for more information on the Franz Kafka or alternatively, you can download our 25-page Franz Kafka worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
- Franz Kafka was the eldest son of an upper middle-class, German-speaking Jewish family. He was born on July 3, 1883 in Prague, Bohemia, presently Czech Republic.
- Tragedy generally shaped the Kafka home as Franz’s two younger brothers died in infancy by the time he was 6, leaving Franz as the only son with three sisters, all of whom later died in Nazi death camps and Polish ghettos.
- His father, Hermann, was an established independent retailer of fancy goods, while his mother, Julie, was a daughter of a wealthy brewer and a devoted homemaker who managed to help in her husband’s business.
The family was well-off and the Kafka children were mainly raised by their house helpers and servants.
- As a result, Kafka struggled to come to terms with both of his parents: his mother lacked the intellectual depth to understand her son’s dreams to become a writer, while his father was always ill-tempered and directed his anger towards Kafka and his literature.
- Kafka’s relationship with his parents, particularly with his father, had a profound impact on both his life and his writing. Most of his personal struggles, in romance and other relationships, came in part from his complicated relationship with his father.
- It manifested in Kafka’s characters, who were often coming up against an overbearing power of some kind, one that could easily break the will of men and destroy their sense of self-worth.
Education and Career
- Kafka received his early education from the Deutsche Knabenschule, a primary school for boys in Prague. The decision was prompted by the idea that German was considered to be a language of the elite and his father’s desire for social advancement.
- The early exposure to German schooling helped Kafka in mastering the language; however, his Jewish upbringing was limited mostly to his bar mitzvah and going to the synagogue four times a year with his father.
- Kafka continued to excel academically in the Altstädter Staatsgymnasium, an exacting high school for the intellectual elites, graduating with eight grade levels in 1901.
- After secondary school, Kafka attended the Charles Ferdinand University of Prague, where he planned to major in Chemistry, but soon shifted to Law after two weeks.
- On June 18, 1906, he obtained his Doctor of Law degree and worked an obligatory year of volunteer service as a law clerk for civil and criminal courts.
- Kafka never got comfortable with this employment and left within a year. He later mentioned not being content with the work schedule as he had to work for 10 hours a day which gave him no time to concentrate on his writing.
- Just two weeks after his resignation, Kafka joined Workers’ Accident Insurance Institute (Assicurazioni Generali) where he was required to work only for six hours a day and gave him ample time to focus on his writing.
- Kafka remained with the company until 1917, when tuberculosis forced him to take a sick leave and to eventually retire in 1922.
- Kafka was a sociable individual and was seen as somebody with a good sense of humor. But his personal life was filled with complications.
- In 1912, he met Felice Bauer through Max Brod, a lifelong friend from the university. Kafka and Bauer had a good start – they communicated a great deal and met occasionally over the next five years – and were even engaged to be married twice. However, his insecurities tormented their relationship they decided to part ways in 1917.
- Kafka briefly moved to Berlin in 1923 in the hope of distancing himself from his family to focus on his writing. There, he fell in love with Dora Diamant, a kindergarten teacher who shared his Jewish roots and interest in socialism.
Later Years and Death
- The couple’s relationship was largely centered on Kafka’s sickness. For many years, even before he was afflicted by tuberculosis, Kafka had not been well and suffered from migraines, insomnia, boils, depression, and anxiety, all usually brought on by unceasing stress and strain.
- Kafka and Diamant eventually returned to Prague, as his tuberculosis worsened. He then travelled to Vienna to get treatment at a sanatorium, but unfortunately, it was too late.
- Kafka died on June 3, 1924 in Kierling, Austria and his remains were buried beside his parents’ in Prague’s New Jewish Cemetery.
Body of Work
- Kafka made efforts to work on and improve his literature despite having to earn a living. Max Brod was crucial in supporting his literary work, both during his life and long after it.
- The Metamorphosis, his most admired and best-selling short story, was completed in 1912 and published in 1915. Kafka’s diary records that the story was written from his room on the third floor with a direct view of the Vltava River, where he “would stand at the window for long periods, and was frequently tempted to amaze the toll collector on the bridge below my plunge”.
- Kafka followed up with a collection of short stories in 1913 entitled Mediation, and Before the Law, an apologue inside his novel The Trial, written between 1914 and 1915.
- Even with his ailing condition, Kafka continued to write and in 1916, he completed The Judgment, which centers directly on the relationship he had with his father.
- From 1919 to 1924, a languishing Kafka was still able to finish writing more novels such as In the Penal Colony, A Country Doctor, and A Hunger Artist, which includes four stories that exhibit the concise and lucid style that marked his writing.
- Still, Kafka’s demons took over and tormented him with self-doubt. He was reluctant to release his work and share it with the world, requesting Brod to destroy any unpublished manuscripts.
- However, Brod ignored Kafka’s request and went on to publish his friend’s collections. Dora Diamant also secretly kept up to 20 of Kafka’s journals and 30 letters which were later confiscated by Gestapo or the Secret Police of Nazi Germany.
- In 1925, Brod published The Trial, a dark tale that proved to be Kafka’s most successful novel. It tells about the life of Joseph K., who is forced to defend himself in a hopeless justice system against a crime that is never revealed to him or to the reader.
- The Castle, a novel which again condemns a faceless and oppressive bureaucracy, was released a year later. Afterwhich Brod made public Kafka’s Amerika in 1927, which struck the same father issues that were apparent in most of the author’s other writings.
- In 1931, Brod published one of Kafka’s short stories entitled The Great Wall of China which he had originally written 14 years before.
A Kafkaesque Legacy
- Kafka, and his literary genius, was celebrated only after he died, when Max Brod went against his requests. Kafka’s work was highly commended during World War II especially, and greatly influenced German literature.
- As the 1960s took shape and Eastern Europe was under the rule of bureaucratic Communist governments, Kafka’s writing resonated particularly strongly with readers.
- So alive and vibrant were the stories that Kafka crafted about man and faceless organizations that a new term was introduced into the English lexicon: “Kafkaesque”.
- The intensity of Kafka’s value as a litterateur was quantified in 1988, when his handwritten manuscript of The Trial was sold at an auction for $1.98 million, which, at that time, was the highest price ever paid for a modern manuscript.
- The buyer, a West German book dealer, gushed after his purchase was finalized: “This is perhaps the most important work in 20th century German literature,” he said, “and Germany had to have it”.
Franz Kafka Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about Franz Kafka across 25 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Franz Kafka worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about Franz Kafka who was a novelist and short story writer, widely regarded as one of the major literary figures of the 20th century because of his visionary and profoundly enigmatic stories that often presented a grotesque vision of the world in which individuals burdened with guilt, isolation, and anxiety make a futile search for personal salvation.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Authors Online
- Pop Quiz
- Judge by the Cover
- Kafka Speaks
- What’s In A Name
- My Metamorphosis
- Letter to Father
- Beautiful Prague
- Keep Your Head Up!
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Use With Any Curriculum
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