Monument to Franz Kafka by the sculptor Jaroslav Rona, 2003, Prague
When a writer perfectly captures a human situation, we forever use their name to describe that circumstance. Franz Kafka so precisely conveyed the experience of being trapped in something bizarre, illogical, and complex that we need only say “Kafkaesque” to communicate that nightmare. But how much do we know about that man behind the word?
Despite his short life (he died at 40), Kafka wrote three novels, several tales, and dozens of marginal short stories. He also kept a diary and produced extensive correspondence, most of it published only after his death. Considered one of the most influential writers in world literature of the last century, Kafka's work expresses like no other the anxiety and alienations of his time—and often, our own.
Kafka scholar Elizabeth Rajec, president of the Kafka Society of America, analyzes the life and literary context of the author of The Metamorphosis, covering the main characteristics of his style, the influence of his work on contemporary literature, and what exactly makes something “Kafkaesque.”