The Czech Republic takes pride in many famous names, but one certainly stands out. In Prague, there is an entire museum dedicated to him. The enormous modern statue of his head is situated in the city center. It’s Franz Kafka, an influential writer of the 20th century.
Kafka was born into the family of Jews in Prague, which, at the time, was a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Franz’s family was big – he had two brothers and two sisters. His family paid a great deal of attention to his education, so soon he was fluent in standard German. Usually, his parents were not home and he had to spend the free time by himself. That was when he read such authors as J. W. von Goethe, Blaise Pascal, Gustave Flaubert, and Soren Kierkegaard. The relationship with his father was also not easy – they have had tensions, which he described in the writing of Brief an den Vater.
The academic career of Franz Kafka was both prosperous and successful: he learnt to speak German and Czech languages at a native level. Firstly, he went to the German boys’ elementary school (Deutsche Knaubenschule) where he spent four years. Later, he was at the Altstädter Deutsches Gymnasium, an academic secondary school at Old Town Square. In 1901, Franz started studying in the Deutsche Karl-Ferdinands-Universität of Prague with the major of chemistry, which he changed later to law.
A university degree opened plenty of doors for Kafka. His first trainee ship was being a law clerk for the civil and criminal courts for one year. Kafka was extremely lucky to find a new job quickly; however, he did not like it that much – he couldn’t concentrate on the writing while working at Assicurazione Generali. The third job he got fit his personality the most: he was investigating and assessing compensation to industrial workers. Later, he was promoted to a higher position where he wrote various reports and articles. In 1911, he established his own company with Karl Hermann, the husband of his sister. Nevertheless, Kafka soon stepped down as he decided to concentrate on the writing.
Kafka’s interests and hobbies were extremely diverse. For instance, from October 1911, Kafka was interested in Yiddish language and literature. This was a starting point of his growing interest in Judaism, and later, he became a vegetarian – and an outspoken atheist. Among other interests, he enjoyed alternative medicine, Montessori, and technological novelties – airplanes and film. As you may guess, he enjoyed writing the most and needed absolute silence to get fully immersed in the process.
Kafka started living alone at the age of 31. Interestingly, the apartment of Kafka’s most famous fictional character, Gregor Samsa in The Metamorphosis, had the same layout as the author’s real flat in Prague.
His real life encounters and places influenced Kafka’s writing quite often. Perhaps, that was most evident with the effect his relationships had on the writing. After meeting Felice Bauer, he wrote a story ‘Das Urteil‘ and worked on other scripts, such as ‘Der Verschollene’ and ‘Die Verwandlung.’ The communication between Franz and Felice was mostly done via letters; they met occasionally and were engaged two times. Later, his letters were published as Briefe an Felice. In 1920, Kafka began an intense relationship with Milena Jesenská. His letters were published as Briefe an Milena afterward. During his vacation in July 1923, he met Dora Diamant. Trying to escape from his family, Kafka moved to Berlin and lived with Diamant. At the time, Kafka was working on four stories, including Ein Hungerkünstler.
In August 1917, Franz was diagnosed with tuberculosis and moved for a few months to Zürau, where one of his sisters worked on the farm. He described this period as the best time of his life because he did not have any responsibilities. From the journals, he extracted about 109 pieces of text on Zettel; they were published as Die Zürauer Aphorismen oder Betrachtungen über Sünde, Hoffnung, Leid und den wahren Weg.
In 1924, tuberculosis started to interfere with Kafka’s daily life. He returned from Berlin to Prague, where his sister and Dora Diamant took care of him. In April, he underwent a treatment in Vienna and died there on the 3rd of June 1924. The leading cause of death was starvation: it was hard to eat with this disorder. He was buried in the New Jewish Cemetery in Prague-Žižkov. As many geniuses, he got famous after his death – specifically, after WWII. This was when the men who was underrated during his life-time, finally got to shine.