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  • Franz Kafka is regarded as one of the greatest literary figures in recent history.


  • He is known for his uniquely dark, disorienting, and surreal writing style


  • A style and quality still particular to him that anything that resembles


  • it has come to be known and referred to as Kafkaesque. To understand his writing in the qualities of Kafkaesque


  • it is helpful to understand his early life.


  • Kafka was born in Prague in 1883 to a man named Hermann and a woman named Julie. His father was a highly successful well-to-do

    卡夫卡出生於 1883 年的布拉格,由 Hermann 和 Julie 所生,父親 Hermann 是個極為成功且富有的

  • business man who, through sheer force of will and a brash aggressive personality, managed to rise from the working-class, build a successful business,


  • marry a well-educated woman and become a member of higher middle society. As parents tend to do,


  • Hermann hoped for a child that would measure up to his ideal stature of a person.

    Hermann 希望他的孩子可以成為有一定聲望的人。

  • Franz Kafka was not that. Franz was born a small,

    法蘭茲·卡夫卡 不是這樣的人,他一出生就很嬌小、

  • anxious, and sickly boy and he mostly remained that way. As a result through no fault of his own


  • Franz would become a great source of disappointment for his father and a sort of psychological


  • punching bag for him as he attempted to mold Franz into who he wished he was but could never be.


  • Throughout his adolescence Franz developed an urge to write as a means of dealing with his increasing sense of anxiety, guilt, and self-hatred.


  • Of course,


  • his father did not allow him to pursue writing and ultimately defined the borders around Kafka's life, forcing him to pursue law as a profession.


  • During his time studying law in college, Kafka continued writing and met one of his only real friends, Max Brod. Another writer who would eventually


  • convince Kafka to publish his first 3 collections of work. These pieces sold very poorly however and essentially went unnoticed.


  • After college Kafka would go on to work in a law office and then for an insurance company.


  • Here, Kafka would become subject to long hours, unpaid overtime,


  • massive amounts of paperwork, and absurd, complex bureaucratic systems.


  • Kafka was understandably miserable.


  • While working at the insurance company, Kafka continued writing on the side,


  • producing some of his most notable pieces including "The Trial, The Castle," and "America."


  • He did not attempt to publish any of these at the time, however,


  • and even left much of his work unfinished believing it to be unworthy.


  • Kafka continued working at the insurance company for the majority of his remaining short life while continuing to write around his work schedule.


  • In 1924, he died of tuberculosis at age 41.

    在 1924 年,他因為肺結核而病逝,年僅 41 歲。

  • Kafka never went on to publish any more of his writing, nor did he ever personally receive any success or


  • recognition for the small amount he did. He died believing that his work wasn't any good. On his deathbed,


  • he even instructed Max Brod to burn all of his unpublished manuscripts following his death.


  • Obviously, Brod did not follow Kafka's instructions, because here we are 100 years later talking about him.


  • After Kafka died, Brod spent the following year or so working to organize and publish his notes and manuscripts. Over the decade following,


  • Kafka would become one of the most prominent literary and philosophical figures of the 20th century.


  • In other words,


  • one of the greatest writers and thinkers of the century lived his life with his work buried in some drawer,


  • aware, unaware or indifferent to the fact that he was sitting on some of the most significant works in recent history.


  • He lived his life in the eyes of his father: an inadequate disappointment. And yet in the eyes of history,


  • he's an immensely important individual. One can only wonder how many individuals like Kafka have and continue to walk this earth,


  • completely disconnected or restricted from ever seeing who they really are or could be. How many Kafkas have lived and died without ever sharing their voice


  • with the world whose voice would have changed it forever? How many people never know who they'll be after they're gone?


  • Fortunately for everyone other than Kafka, his work was saved and an entirely new genre of thinking and writing developed in his name:


  • Kafkaesque.


  • Generally, the term Kafkaesque tends to refer to the bureaucratic nature of capitalistic, judiciary, and government systems. The sort of complex,


  • unclear processes in which no one individual ever really has a comprehensive grasp on what is going on,


  • and the system doesn't really care. But the quality of Kafkaesque also seems to extend much further than this.


  • It is not necessarily exemplified merely by what these systems are,


  • but rather the reaction of the individuals subjected to them and what it might represent.


  • And one of his most famous novels, "The Trial,"


  • the protagonist, Joseph K., is suddenly arrested at his home one morning. The officers do not inform K why is being arrested, though.

    主人公 Joseph K. 在某天早晨突然在他家被逮補,但警官並沒有告知 K 他為何被逮補。

  • And he's then forced through a long absurd trial in which nothing is ever really explained or makes much sense.


  • The trial is riddled with corruption and disorderliness, and by the end of the novel after having meandered the entire thing


  • K. is never told why he was arrested, and yet he remains guilty of his final conviction.

    K 從來沒被告知逮補的原因,但他最後的仍被判有罪。

  • In another one of his more popular stories, "Metamorphosis,"


  • the protagonist, Gregor Samsa, awakes into having suddenly been turned into an insect with no clear explanation.

    主角 Gregor Samsa 醒來後發現,被突然轉變成一隻昆蟲,但並沒有解釋原因。

  • The first and recurring issues Gregor faces throughout the novel, are the problems of getting to work, dealing with his boss and

    第一個,也是 Gregor 整篇小說一直面對的問題是,要怎麼去工作,面對他的老闆

  • providing financially for his inconsiderately needy family. Gregor, of course, cannot do this.

    並經濟上支持他那自私貪婪的家庭。Gregor 當然無法做到。

  • He is a bug, and so he experiences increased dread trying to deal with his situation while becoming a useless nuisance to his family.


  • In both stories, the protagonists are faced with sudden absurd circumstances.


  • There are no explanations and in the end there's no real chance of overcoming them. They're outmatched by the arbitrary senseless obstacles...


  • They face. In part, because they can't understand or control any of what is happening.


  • The crux of Kafka's style and work seems to be carried by this confrontation with the absurd.


  • A conflict in which a character's efforts, reasoning, and sense of the world are met with inescapable parameters of senselessness.


  • Wherein success is both impossible and in the end ultimately pointless.


  • And yet, they try anyway.


  • It's fair to argue that one interpretation is that these circumstances are emblematic of Kafka's take on the human condition.


  • Specifically, the unyielding desire for answers and conquest over the existential problems of anxiety, guilt...


  • Absurdity, and suffering. Paired with an inability to ever really understand or control the source of the problems and effectively overcome them.


  • But the kicker, and perhaps most important part is, even in the face of absurd despairing circumstances, Kafka's characters don't give up.


  • At least initially, they continue on and fight against their situations trying to reason...


  • Understand or work their way out of the senselessness. But in the end it is ultimately to no avail.


  • Perhaps in this, Kafka is suggesting that the struggle to find solace and understanding is both inescapable and impossible.


  • As conscious rational beings, we fight against the absurdity, trying to resolve the discrepancy between us and the universe.


  • But ironically we only serve to self perpetuate the very struggle...


  • We are trying to resolve by trying to resolve the unresolvable. And in this sense on some level we almost want the struggle.


  • Of course, this is just one interpretation.


  • Ultimately, because of its vague, surreal, and inexplicable quality, Kafka's work lends itself to nearly as many interpretations as readers.


  • Perhaps the idea is that we should accept our absurd condition.


  • And not take it so seriously.


  • Perhaps the ideas that we should and must struggle against it. Or perhaps the idea is that we can't know what the idea is.


  • In truth, only Kafka will ever have known exactly what his work meant, and it's fair to speculate that in some sense.


  • Perhaps not even him. What is undeniable though is that Kafka's work has left a lasting impact on literature, philosophy, and humanity at large.


  • It has helped readers around the world feel less alone in their own hunches of truth and moments of Kafkaesque experiences.


  • Kafka's own story is not necessarily unusual: his father, although cruel.


  • His life, although sad, neither were nor are all that uncommon.


  • To be born into a faulty family, bad place in the world or a weak body or brain.


  • To live and die having never recognized one's full potential; to have been stuck in a bureaucratic cog of a business organization or government system.


  • To have felt that guilt and anxiety of existence for no clear reason: we've all at least at times.


  • Experienced the Kafkaesque. Kafka's work is not considered great because it describes something profoundly unique.


  • But because it describes something mundanely common in a profound way.


  • An encapsulation of an often indescribable experience, a part of life that touches us all.


  • When referring to Kafka, writer Anne Rice once said that his work helped her realize the following approach in her own work.

    作家 Anne Rice 在提到卡夫卡時說過,卡夫卡的作品幫助她在自己的作品中實現了以下幾點。

  • "Don't bend; don't water it down; don't try to make it logical; don't edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly."


  • Kafka's works ought not to alleviate the soul through remedies of false hope or delusion but rather through the direct confrontation with the darker aspects of self.


  • By distorting reality to map more accurately onto his own sense of human experience.


  • He revealed a certain remedy of unhindered self-examination...


  • And carved out a place in the world for others to do the same.


  • "I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound or stab us. If the book we're reading doesn't wake us up with a blow to the head, what are we reading for? So that it will make us happy? Good Lord, we would be happy precisely if we had no books."


  • wrote Kafka in a letter to a friend.


  • Although you might not have shared this explicitly.


  • Kafka's work embodies and reminds us not that we wish to give up but that despite all the absurdities and problems...


  • We wish to continue. We wish to struggle against the universe and forge our own way.


  • We wish to find and connect over honesty, however hard it may be.


Franz Kafka is regarded as one of the greatest literary figures in recent history.



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什麼是卡夫卡式?- 弗朗茨-卡夫卡的 "哲學 (What Is Kafkaesque? - The 'Philosophy' of Franz Kafka)

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