Franz Kafka (July 3, 1883 – June 3, 1924) was a Bohemian author (writing in German) and attorney who wrote short stories and novels illustrating how humans are alienated from a hostile, unintelligible and indifferent modern world. Most of his fiction involves protagonists caught in a nightmarish, often-bureaucratic situation that they cannot hope to resolve or escape from.
An admirer described Kafka as one of the finest German authors of the 20th century, and compared his influence to that of Dante and Shakespeare in prior centuries. In Kafka's landmark writings The Trial and The Castle, Kafka faces an unending stream of difficulties and claims oppressing him.
His friend Max Brod ignored Kafka's request to burn his writings at his death and instead had them published, and Kafka became a celebrity only after his death. Several of his works became classics after Kafka died, including The Trial (1925) and The Castle (1926). In The Trial, an innocent man finds himself a defendant in a trial that he cannot understand, and he is sentenced to death for a crime he did not commit. Kafka’s most famous short story was The Metamorphosis (1915), in which the narrator Gregor Samsa awakens to find that he has been transformed into a monstrous vermin (often interpreted to be an insect). Through the course of the story, Gregor suffers an injury that ultimately becomes fatal.
Throughout Kafka’s works he expressed and sympathized with the feeling of being an outsider. Kafka didn't place much emphasis on formal religion, though never rebuked entirely his Jewish heritage. Indeed, many of the ethical dilemmas found in his works reflect his intellectual fondness for rabbinical rhetoric. Franz Kafka passed away at age 40 due to complications surrounding the onset of tuberculosis. His body lies in the New Jewish Cemetery in Prague-Žižkov.
"Kafkaesque", a term coined based on Kafka's works means surreal in a horrifying sense, like a nightmare. Kafka's novels are difficult at first even to understand.
- The New American Desk Encyclopedia, Penguin Group, 1989