Quotes by Franz Kafka
Welcome to our collection of quotes (with shareable picture quotes) by Franz Kafka. We hope you enjoy pondering them and that you will share them widely.
Wikipedia Summary for Franz Kafka
Franz Kafka (3 July 1883 – 3 June 1924) was a German-speaking Bohemian novelist and short-story writer, widely regarded as one of the major figures of 20th-century literature. His work fuses elements of realism and the fantastic. It typically features isolated protagonists facing bizarre or surrealistic predicaments and incomprehensible socio-bureaucratic powers. It has been interpreted as exploring themes of alienation, existential anxiety, guilt, and absurdity.
His best known works include "Die Verwandlung" ("The Metamorphosis"), Der Process (The Trial), and Das Schloss (The Castle). The term Kafkaesque has entered the English language to describe situations like those found in his writing.
Kafka was born into a middle-class German-Jewish family in Prague, the capital of the Kingdom of Bohemia, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, today the capital of the Czech Republic. He trained as a lawyer and after completing his legal education was employed full-time by an insurance company, forcing him to relegate writing to his spare time.
Over the course of his life, Kafka wrote hundreds of letters to family and close friends, including his father, with whom he had a strained and formal relationship. He became engaged to several women but never married. He died in 1924 at the age of 40 from tuberculosis.
Few of Kafka's works were published during his lifetime: the story collections Betrachtung (Contemplation) and Ein Landarzt (A Country Doctor), and individual stories (such as "Die Verwandlung") were published in literary magazines but received little public attention. In his will, Kafka instructed his executor and friend Max Brod to destroy his unfinished works, including his novels Der Process, Das Schloss and Der Verschollene (translated as both Amerika and The Man Who Disappeared), but Brod ignored these instructions. His work has influenced a vast range of writers, critics, artists, and philosophers during the 20th and 21st centuries.
Even the merest gesture is holy if it is filled with faith.
Better to have, and not need, than to need, and not have.
Paths are made by walking.
You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.
You are at once both the quiet and the confusion of my heart.
You are at once both the quiet and the confusion of my heart; imagine my heartbeat when you are in this state.
Because of impatience we were driven out; because of impatience we cannot return.
I have the true feeling of myself only when I am unbearably unhappy.
No matter how much you keep encouraging someone who is blindfolded to stare through the cloth, he still won't see a thing.
If it had been possible to build the Tower of Babel without ascending it, the work would have been permitted.
Take my warning to heart instead, and don't be so unyielding in future, you can't fight against this court, you must confess to guilt. Make your confession at the first chance you get. Until you do that, there is no possibility of getting out of their clutches, none at all.
Towards the avoidance of a piece of verbal confusion: What is intended to be actively destroyed must first of all have been firmly grasped; what crumbles away crumbles away, but cannot be destroyed.
Someone must have slandered Josef K., for one morning, without having done anything truly wrong, he was arrested.
So perhaps the best resource is to meet everything passively, to make yourself an inert mass, to stare at others with the eyes of an animal, to feel no compunction, with your own hand to throttle down whatever ghostly life remains in you.
This noble body, equipped with everything necessary, almost to the point of bursting, also appeared to carry freedom around with it.
If you were to articulate it, who would be able to resist you? The great chorus of caninity would chime in with you, as if it had just been waiting for this moment.
Amalia smiled, and that smile, although a sad one, lit up her sombre face, made her silence eloquent and her strangeness familiar. It was like the telling of a secret, a hitherto closely guarded possession that could be taken back, but never taken back entirely.
I asked myself at the time: how is it that she is not astonished at herself, that she keeps her mouth closed, and expresses nothing of any wonderment?
It would be very unjust to say that you deserted me, but that I was deserted, and sometimes terribly so, is true.
Picasso only registers the deformities which have not yet penetrated our consciousness. Art is a mirror which goes 'fast' like a watch -- sometimes.
One has just been sent out as a biblical dove, has found nothing green, and slips back into the darkness of the Ark.
The true way goes over a line that, rather than spanning heights, is hardly above the ground. It appears more decidedly to make one trip than to be walked along.
This morning, for the first time in a long time, the joy again of imagining a knife twisted in my heart.
I always succeed in not being jealous but only sometimes in comprehending the pointlessness of jealousy.
All right then, I'll be mad at you on this score, which incidentally is no great misfortune, as things balance out quite well if there's a little anger for you lurking in one corner of my heart.
I dream of a grave, deep and narrow, where we could clasp each other in our arms as with clamps, and I would hide my face in you and you would hide your face in me, and nobody would ever see us any more.
I am a typical example of Western Jew. This means I don't have a moment of peace, that nothing has come easily to me, not just the present and the future, but even the past, that thing that each man receives as his birth-right: even that I have to conquer, and perhaps that is the hardest task.
People label themselves with all sorts of adjectives. I can only pronounce myself as 'nauseatingly miserable beyond repair'.
Other opportunities arise from time to time that almost don't accord with the overall situation, opportunities whereby a word, a glance, a sigh of trust may achieve more than a lifetime of exhausting endeavour.
Two tasks at the beginning of your life: to narrow your orbit more and more, and ever and again to check whether you are not in hiding somewhere outside your orbit.
Time is short, my strength is limited, the office is a horror, the apartment is noisy, and if a pleasant, straightforward life is not possible, then one must try to wriggle through by subtle manoeuvres.
It is strange how little sharpsightedness women possess; they only notice whether they please, then whether they arouse pity, and finally, whether you look for compassion from them. That is all; come to think of it, it may even be enough, generally speaking.
And so gentlemen, I learned. Oh, if you have to learn, you learn; if you're desperate for a way out, you learn; you learn pitilessly. You stand over yourself with a whip in your hand; if there's the least resistance, you lash yourself.
It occurs to me that I really can't remember your face in any precise detail. Only the way you walked away through the tables in the café, your figure, your dress, that I still see.
He is a land surveyor, well, perhaps that is something, he has trained at something, but if there's nothing you can do with that training then it means nothing.
The tremendous world I have inside my head. But how free myself and free it without being torn to pieces. And a thousand times rather be torn to pieces than retain it in me or bury it. That, indeed, is why I am here, that is quite clear to me.
The existence of the writer is an argument against the existence of the soul, for the soul has obviously taken flight from the real ego, but not improved itself, only become a writer.
But what if all the tranquility, all the comfort, all the contentment were now to come to a horrifying end?
From the true antagonist illimitable courage is transmitted to you.
To what indifference people may come, to what profound conviction of having lost the right track forever.
In Paradise, as always: that which causes the sin and that which recognizes it for what it is are one. The clear conscience is Evil, which is so entirely victorious that it does not any longer consider the leap from left to right necessary.
For everything outside the phenomenal world, language can only be used allusively, but never even approximately in a comparative way, since, corresponding as it does to the phenomenal world, it is concerned only with property and its relations.
The crows maintain that a single crow could destroy the heavens. There is no doubt of that, but it proves nothing against the heavens, for heaven simply means: the impossibility of crows.
Nervous states of the worst sort control me without pause. Everything that is not literature bores me and I hate it. I lack all aptitude for family life except, at best, as an observer. I have no family feeling and visitors make me almost feel as though I were maliciously being attacked.
It's sometimes quite astonishing that a single, average life is enough to encompass so much that it's at all possible ever to have any success in one's work here.
I am away from home and must always write home, even if any home of mine has long since floated away into eternity.
There is nothing bad to fear; once you have crossed that threshold, all is well. Another world, and you do not have to speak.
People who walk across dark bridges, past saints, with dim, small lights. Clouds which move across gray skies past churches with towers darkened in the dusk. One who leans against granite railing gazing into the evening waters, His hands resting on old stones.
To every instant there is a correspondence in something outside time. This world here and now cannot be followed by a Beyond, for the Beyond is eternal, hence it cannot be in temporal contact with this world here and now.
Only our concept of time makes it possible for us to speak of the Day of Judgement by that name; in reality it is a constant court in perpetual session.
If you find someone who makes you smile, who checks up on you often to see if you're okay. Who watches out or you and wants the best for you. Who loves and respects you. Don't let them go. People like that are hard to find.
The books we need are of the kind that act upon us like a misfortune, that makes us suffer like the death of someone we love more than ourselves, that make us feel as though we were on the verge of suicide, lost in a forest remote from all human habitation.
His biggest misgiving came from his concern about the loud crash that was bound to occur and would probably create, if not terror, at least anxiety behind all the doors. But that would have to be risked.
The door could not be heard slamming; they had probably left it open, as is the custom in homes where a great misfortune has occurred.
There's no quiet place here on earth for our love, not in the village and not anywhere else, so I picture a grave, deep and narrow, in which we embrace as if clamped together, I bury my face against you, you yours against me, and no one will ever see us.
For we are like tree trunks in the snow. In appearance they lie smoothly and a little push should be enough to set them rolling. No, it can't be done, for they are firmly wedded to the ground. But see, even that is only appearance.
'It is not necessary to accept everything as true, one must only accept it as necessary.' 'A melancholy conclusion,' said K. 'It turns lying into a universal principle.'
No, said the priest, you don't need to accept everything as true, you only have to accept it as necessary. Depressing view, said K. The lie made into the rule of the world.
It isn't necessary that you leave home. Sit at your desk and listen. Don't even listen, just wait. Don't wait, be still and alone. The whole world will offer itself to you.
He has the feeling that merely by being alive he is blocking his own way. From this sense of hindrance, in turn, he deduces the proof that he is alive.
In me, by myself, without human relationship, there are no visible lies. The limited circle is pure.
Being alone has a power over me that never fails. My interior dissolves (for the time being only superficially) and is ready to release what lies deeper. When I am willfully alone, a slight ordering of my interior begins to take place and I need nothing more.
Was he an animal, that music could move him so? He felt as if the way to the unknown nourishment he longed for were coming to light.
Last night I dreamed about you. What happened in detail I can hardly remember, all I know is that we kept merging into one another. I was you, you were me. Finally you somehow caught fire.
Some deny the existence of misery by pointing to the sun; he denies the existence of the sun by pointing to misery.
I made the remark that I don't avoid people in order to live quietly, but rather in order to be able to die quietly.
German is my mother tongue and as such more natural to me, but I consider Czech much more affectionate, which is why your letter removes several uncertainties; I see you more clearly, the movements of your body, your hands, so quick, so resolute, it's almost like a meeting.
The notion of the infinite expanse and copiousness of the cosmos is the result of the mixture, carried to the extreme limit, of laborious creation and free self-determination.
However, Gregor had become much calmer. All right, people did not understand his words any more, although they seemed clear enough to him, clearer than previously, perhaps because had gotten used to them.
But eternity is not temporality at a standstill. What is oppressive about the concept of the eternal is the justification, incomprehensible to us, that time must undergo in eternity and the logical conclusion of that, the justification of ourselves as we are.
Life's splendor forever lies in wait about each one of us in all its fullness, but veiled from view, deep down, invisible, far off. It is there, though, not hostile, not reluctant, not deaf. If you summon it by the right word, by its right name, it will come.
One day, a leopard stalked into the synagogue, roaring and lashing its tail. Three weeks later, it had become part of the liturgy.
Knowledge we have. Anyone who strives for it with particular intensity is suspect of striving against it.
Utterance does not in principle mean a weakening of conviction -- that would not be anything to be deplored -- but a weakness of conviction.
As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.
The history of the world, as it is written and handed down by word of mouth, often fails us completely; but man's intuitive capacity, though it often misleads, does lead, does not ever abandon one.
The more horses you yoke the quicker everything will go -- not the rending of the block from its foundation, which is impossible, but the snapping of the traces and with that the gay and empty journey.
But perhaps the enthusiastic sensibility of young women of her age also played a role. This feeling sought release at every opportunity, and with it Grete now felt tempted to want to make Gregor's situation even more terrifying, so that then she would be able to do even more for him than now.
I am too tired, I must try to rest and sleep, otherwise I am lost in every respect. What an effort to keep alive! Erecting a monument does not require an expenditure of so much strength.
It would have been so pointless to kill himself that, even if he had wanted to, the pointlessness would have made him unable.
The Fathers of the Church were not afraid to go out into the desert because they had a richness in their hearts. But we, with richness all around us, are afraid, because the desert is in our hearts.
'I see,' said Karl, staring at the quickly emptying basket and listening to the curious noise which Robinson made in drinking, for the beer seemed first to plunge right down into his throat and gurgle up again with a sort of whistle before finally pouring its flood into the deep.
One must not prostrate oneself before the minor impossibilities, otherwise the major impossibilities would never come into view.
We were expelled from Paradise, but it was not destroyed. The expulsion from Paradise was in one sense a piece of good fortune, for if we had not been expelled, Paradise would have had to be destroyed.
Anyone who believes cannot experience miracles. By day one does not see any stars. Anyone who does miracles says: I cannot let goof the earth.
I cannot make you understand. I cannot make anyone understand what is happening inside me. I cannot even explain it to myself.
Yet even if I manage that, one single slip, and a slip cannot be avoided, will stop the whole process, easy and painful alike, and I will have to shrink back into my own circle again.
I look a girl in the eye and it was a very long love story with thunder and kisses and lightning. I live fast.
I have no literary interests; I am made of literature. I am nothing else and cannot be anything else.
Self-control is something for which I do not strive. Self-control means wanting to be effective at some random point in the infinite radiations of my spiritual existence.
But sleep? On a night like this? What an idea! Just think of how many thoughts a blanket smothers while one lies alone in bed, and how many unhappy dreams it keeps warm.
The dream reveals the reality which conception lags behind. That is the horror of life -- the terror of art.
We need the books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us.
I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound and stab us.
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, as you write? Good Lord, we would be happy precisely if we had no books, and the kind of books that make us happy are the kind we could write ourselves if we had to. But we need books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us. That is my belief.
I have hardly anything in common with myself and should stand very quietly in a corner, content that I can breathe.
I need solitude for my writing; not 'like a hermit' -- that wouldn't be enough -- but like a dead man.
Every thing that you love, you will eventually lose, but in the end, love will return in a different form.
There is nothing besides a spiritual world; what we call the world of the senses is the Evil in the spiritual world, and what we call Evil is only the necessity of a moment in our eternal evolution.
Hiding places there are innumerable, escape is only one, but possibilities of escape, again, are as many as hiding places.
There are only two things. Truth and lies. Truth is indivisible, hence it cannot recognize itself; anyone who wants to recognize it has to be a lie.
It is only our conception of time that makes us call the Last Judgement by this name. It is, in fact, a kind of martial law.
Hesitation before birth. If there is a transmigration of souls then I am not yet on the bottom rung. My life is a hesitation before birth.
If there is a transmigration of souls then I am not yet on the bottom rung. My life is a hesitation before birth.
A stair not worn hollow by footsteps is, regarded from its own point of view, only a boring something made of wood.
Tyranny or slavery, born of selfishness, are the two educational methods of parents; all gradations of tyranny or slavery.
Let me remind you of the old maxim: people under suspicion are better moving than at rest, since at rest they may be sitting in the balance without knowing it, being weighed together with their sins.
How pathetically scanty my self-knowledge is compared with, say, my knowledge of my room. There is no such thing as observation of the inner world, as there is of the outer world.
Atlas was permitted the opinion that he was at liberty, if he wished, to drop the Earth and creep away; but this opinion was all that he was permitted.
We are separated from God on two sides; the Fall separates us from Him, the Tree of Life separates Him from us.
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