Franz Kafka: 8 interesting facts

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When your last name is combined with the suffix "esque," you've know you've left a lasting legacy. And few literary talents can claim the kind of influence that the inspiration behind the adjective "Kafkaesque" has had. Franz Kafka is remembered for being one of the most innovative writers ever, a wordsmith who imbued his sentences with imagery, symbolism and often presented intensely grim narratives about alienation, isolation and authoritarian oppression.  

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Kafka was born on July 3, 1883. To mark what would have been his 131st birthday, we've highlighted eight interesting facts about this literary legend.

  • Kafka was born into a German-speaking Jewish family in Prague, the eldest of six children. His two younger brothers died in infancy. The author died several years before the Second World War, but his three younger sisters would go on to perish in the concentration camps.

  • Kafka showed an interest in storytelling from a young age. For his parents' birthdays, he would write plays for them, with his sisters as performers.

  • His favourite writer was French novelist Gustave Flaubert. 

  • Kafka's relationship with his father was notoriously difficult and complex. According to biographers, he found his father to be domineering and unsupportive of his artistic endeavours. 

  • Their fractured relationship would inspire much of his writing. Despite his unhappy home life, Kafka continued to live with his parents until the age of 31.

  • At the age of 36, Kafka wrote a 100+-page letter to his father attempting clarify his feelings about their relationship and assert his individuality. "Dearest Father," it began, "you once asked me why I maintain that I am afraid of you. As usual, I did not know how to answer you, partly because of this very fear I have of you, and partly because the explanation of this fear involves so many details that, when I am talking, I can't keep half of them together."

  • The writer never married, but was engaged on three different occasions to two different women. Kafka's romantic life was famous for being turbulent, as he was pre-occupied by sex and pornography and frequently visited brothels. His well-documented insecurities, neuroses and fear of intimacy, made it hard for him to commit to relationships.

  • As a tuberculosis-ridden Kafka neared death, he implored his friend Max Brod to burn all his unpublished literary work.

"Dearest Max, My last request: Everything I leave behind me ... to be burned unread," he wrote in 1924.

Max, of course, didn't burn everything, and published several of Kafka's books posthumously, including The Trial and The Castle.