Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Kafka was born a Jew and remained a Jew all his life, although he frequently tried to play down Judaism's influence on him. "What do I have in common with the Jews?" he asked in his diary. "I don't have anything in common with myself, and would be content to stand quietly alone in a corner, satisfied that I can breathe."

Visit the Kafka Project:



"Today, as the malaise of the modern world deepens, the Judaism reflected in Kafka's works seems to be more universal than ever.

The uncertainty, alienation, and sense of being an outsider in the world are felt, however vaguely, by almost everyone, and the reflection of these feelings in Kafka make him not just a Jewish writer, although he most definitely is that, but also a universal one, able to transmute the feelings of all mankind into an impressive work of art.

The tradition of Talmudic discussion and debate has been for centuries an integral part of Jewish intellectual life, and this had some influence as well on Franz. Although there is much of a Jewish sensibility in Kafka's works, there is also a sense of universalism as well. When religion is directly mentioned it's almost never Judaism being discussed but Christianity.

For instance, the Samsa family from The Metamorphosis is quite definitely Christian, praying to the saints,
and crossing themselves, and the maid at the end of "The Judgment" buries her face in her apron and cries out, "Jesus!"

Also, the tradition of the "wandering Jew" is utilized in the wanderings of K. in The Castle, although in a secularized, more universal way. It could be that Kafka simply wished that his work be more inclusive as opposed to being exclusively Jewish in nature. "

And this powerful and revealing insight:

"The feelings of alienation, being an outsider, and knowing that your life is subject to forces beyond your control, as well as a sense of dogged survival"

, frequently associated with the Jewish sensibility and which all frequently crop up in Kafka's work would prove to be among the most widespread and common feelings among people of all religions and races in the uncertain 20th century. "


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