Last month, the world remembered Franz Kafka on his 100th death anniversary with almost every author and publication across the globe paying their tribute. Indian publications haven’t been behind either with several tributes showing how far and wide the man’s impact has been a century after his death.

“Born in 1883 in Prague, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Kafka started out working in an insurance company, but spent his nights and weekends writing — his stories reflected what he saw glimpsed in the offices and overheard in the corridors.

The outcome was ‘Kafkaesque’, a nightmarish world of labyrinthine bureaucracy, full of forms, permits, signatures, and contracts, that existed only to protect the procedure, not to serve the people.”

His work has inspired several legendary writers such as “…Paul Auster, Ismael Kadare, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Salman Rushdie, Zadie Smith, Margaret Atwood.”

The world may not have known about Kafka had his friend Max Brod not published his works after his death much against his wishes. Indeed, Kafka is known to have destroyed a lot of his work during his lifetime.

But what inspired Kafka’s own writings:

“Kafka’s great contemporaries, Virginia Woolf and T S Eliot, described the misery of post World War I Europe — of a continent ravaged and a generation destroyed, of a world in which science had failed in its promise of a better life for mankind. The pervasive distrust of authority placed at its centre the intellectual elite of Europe, the erstwhile champions of its post-Enlightenment rationality.

Kafka’s work was shot through with this despondency, and added to the critique of the modernist project. His Trial (published posthumously in 1925), was about a man who’s accused of a crime but is never told what it was, and The Metamorphosis (1915) was the story of a man who wakes up on a Monday morning to discover he has turned into a giant insect, but continues to worry about being late for work.

…A century after Kafka’s death, the world that he was tormented by continues to survive in many respects. In today’s historic socio-economic inequality, continuing injustices, and even the looming climate catastrophe, Kafka’s tragicomic criticism of modernism remains relevant.

…As the critic George Steiner wrote in his introduction to a translation of The Trial by Willa Muir and Edwin Muir, Kafka’s works have diffused into “so many recesses of our private and public existence” that they have illuminated the absurd nature of living in the modern age — with all the knowledge of history and science but without any of the wisdom it should have entailed.”

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