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July 3: Franz Kafka

Lawrence Bush
July 3, 2010

Cities-Prague-Attractions-Franz Kafka-1Franz Kafka was born on this date in 1883 in Prague. He was barely published in his own lifetime and instructed his literary executor, Max Brod, to burn his works upon his death (which was brought on by tuberculosis in 1924). Brod ignored these instructions, which resulted in publication of The Trial (1925), The Castle (1926), Amerika (1927) and short stories and novellas that included “The Metamorphosis” (1916) and “In the Penal Colony” (1919) — all published in German and all deeply reflecting the alienating and bizarre qualities of modern society. Kafka was a socialist anarchist, well acquainted with Yiddish literature and theater. His three sisters and their families were killed by the Nazis.
“A book should serve as the ax for the frozen sea within us.” —Franz Kafka
“I have one peculiarity which distinguishes me from all the people I know, not in essence, but very much in degree. After all, we both know numerous typical examples of the Western Jew; as far as I know I’m the most Western-Jewish of them all. In other words, to exaggerate, not one second of calm has been granted me; nothing has been granted me, everything must be earned, not only the present and future, but the past as well—something which is, perhaps, given every human being—this too must be earned, and this probably entails the hardest work of all. “—[Prague, November, 1920] Letters to Milena

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.