Monday, 6 March 2017

The Essential Kafka by Franz Kafka - Review

Slowly but surely I am getting back into the routine of blogging and I am making a dent on the reviews that I need to catch up on. Another buddy read that we finished all the way back in October 2016 was The Essential Kafka by Franz Kafka. 

The Essential Kafka

A collection of Franz Kafka's classic works. Includes: The Castle; The Trial; Metamorphosis and Other Stories

My Review

I'll start by saying the particular cover we got on this books (The Wordsworth Classics version) was absolutely terrifying and as I had no idea what any of Kafka's stories were about, I didn't know what it was in reference to and I had all sorts of horrendous thoughts about what it could be. 

I'm going to be honest and say I was particularly disappointed in this book overall as I'd heard such wonderful things about Kafka's work but I really didn't think most of the stories were very good at all. The two that stood out to me were Metamorphosis and In The Penal Colony. 

I found both The Trial and The Castle felt unbearably long and rambling. I understood the concept but I thought it was poorly executed. Josef K from The Trial bumbles around trying to figure things out but to me gets tied up and obsessing over the most random things that should have no bearing on what is happening, but turn out to be pivotal in the story. The same happens in The Castle in which K bumbles around trying to figure out how to get to the castle and for some reason marries a bar wench whom he falls in and out of love with at the drop of a hat. What makes The Castle worse than The Trial though is that is is unfinished, it literally stops mid sentence. There is no conclusion so everything you had slogged through reading to that point was, well pointless. 

Metamorphosis was enjoyable though it had it's own problems. The main problem being that if I woke up one morning as a giant cockroach, then I think I would have more of a reaction that wondering how I'm going to get myself out of bed! Also I hope if I ever did wake up as a cockroach one day, that my family would treat me much better than Gregor's did. 

In The Penal Colony was definitely my favourite out of all the short stories in this book. The detail that is gone into by the officer and the passion that he describes the execution device is incredible and the thought that has gone into it is kind of terrifying. 

Overall sadly very disappointed with Kafka, but I can now at least say I've read him.

About The Author

Franz Kafka was one of the major fiction writers of the 20th century. He was born to a middle-class German-speaking Jewish family in Prague, Bohemia (presently the Czech Republic), Austria–Hungary. His unique body of writing—much of which is incomplete and which was mainly published posthumously—is considered to be among the most influential in Western literature.

His stories include The Metamorphosis (1912) and In the Penal Colony (1914), while his novels are The Trial (1925), The Castle (1926) and Amerika (1927).

Kafka's first language was German, but he was also fluent in Czech. Later, Kafka acquired some knowledge of French language and culture; one of his favorite authors was Flaubert.

Kafka first studied chemistry at the Charles-Ferdinand University of Prague, but switched after two weeks to law. This offered a range of career possibilities, which pleased his father, and required a longer course of study that gave Kafka time to take classes in German studies and art history. At the university, he joined a student club, named Lese- und Redehalle der Deutschen Studenten, which organized literary events, readings and other activities. In the end of his first year of studies, he met Max Brod, who would become a close friend of his throughout his life, together with the journalist Felix Weltsch, who also studied law. Kafka obtained the degree of Doctor of Law on 18 June 1906 and performed an obligatory year of unpaid service as law clerk for the civil and criminal courts.

Kafka's writing attracted little attention until after his death. During his lifetime, he published only a few short stories and never finished any of his novels, unless "The Metamorphosis" is considered a (short) novel. Prior to his death, Kafka wrote to his friend and literary executor Max Brod: "Dearest Max, my last request: Everything I leave behind me ... in the way of diaries, manuscripts, letters (my own and others'), sketches, and so on, [is] to be burned unread." Brod overrode Kafka's wishes, believing that Kafka had given these directions to him specifically because Kafka knew he would not honor them—Brod had told him as much. Brod, in fact, would oversee the publication of most of Kafka's work in his possession, which soon began to attract attention and high critical regard.

Max Brod encountered significant difficulty in compiling Kafka's notebooks into any chronological order as Kafka was known to start writing in the middle of notebooks, from the last towards the first, etc.

All of Kafka's published works, except several letters he wrote in Czech to Milena Jesensk√°, were written in German.

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