Tuesday, September 7, 2010


Selected Short Stories of Franz Kafka (1936), translated from the German by Willa and Edwin Muir, collects fifteen of Kafka’s stories, including his most famous, “The Metamorphosis.”

Kafka is, for the most part, doing his own thing with his writing. In other words, he wrote for himself rather than for any particular reader or audience; this is why he’s often considered one of the more influential writers of the twentieth century, but it may also be why many of his stories weren’t published during his lifetime.

Kafka’s absurdist, existentialist style demands analysis and begs interpretation. Kafka’s work offers an astounding depth of opportunity for critical interpretation, but if you can’t be bothered to put in the effort, you aren’t going to get much of anything out of his stories (a highlight here for the read-for-enjoyment crowd is “The Hunger Artist,” one of Kafka’s more coherent tales).  

Many of Kafka’s tales are little more than  philosophical essays dressed up as stories, and the reader who is not of an academically literary mindset should be readily forgiven for finding many of these stories horribly boring and.

If you’re looking for unique, groundbreaking writing full of potential for academic analysis and literary interpretation, Kafka is exactly what you want. If you’re reading for enjoyment, you could scarcely do worse. In short, Kafka’s not for everybody, and he’s not for me.