Along with Joyce, Kafka is perhaps the most influential of 20th-cent. writers. From a middle-class Jewish family from Bohemia, he spent most his life in Prague. He studied law and then obtained a position in the workmen's compensation division of Austro-Hungarian government. Most of his works were published posthumously. His major novels include Der Prozess (1925, tr. The Trial, 1937), Das Schloss (1926, tr. The Castle, 1930), and Amerika (1927, tr. 1938). In prose that is remarkable for its clarity and precision, Kafka presents a world that is at once real and dreamlike and in which individuals burdened with guilt, isolation, and anxiety, make a futile search for personal salvation. Important stories appearing during his lifetime were “Das Urteil” (1913, tr. “The Judgement,” 1945), Die Verwandlung (1915, tr. The Metamorphosis, 1937), “Ein Landarzt” (1919, tr. “A Country Doctor,” 1945), In der Strafkolonie (1920, tr. “In the Penal Colony,” 1941), and “Ein Hungerkünstler” (1922, tr. “A Hunger Artist,” 1938).
See his diaries ed. by M. Brod (tr. 1948–49); his letters to Felice Bauer, ed. by Erich Heller and Jürgen Born (tr. 1973); biographies by Max Brod (new ed. 1964) and Ernst Pawel (1984); studies by W. H. Sokel (1966), Erich Heller (1974), and Stanley Corngold (1988).
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