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Franz Kafka  (July 3, 1883 – June 3, 1924) was one of the major German-language fiction writers of the 20th century. Born to a middle-class Jewish family based in Prague, his unique body of writing — many incomplete and most published posthumously — has become amongst the most influential in Western literature.[1] Kafka's works – including the stories Das Urteil (1913, "The Judgement"), In der Strafkolonie (1920, "In the Penal Colony"); the novella Die Verwandlung ("The Metamorphosis"); and unfinished novels Der Prozess ("The Trial") and Das Schloß ("The Castle") – have come to embody the blend of absurd, surreal and mundane which gave rise to the adjective "kafkaesque".

Kafka was born into a middle-class, German-speaking Jewish family in Prague, the capital of Bohemia. His father, Hermann Kafka (1852–1931), was described as a "huge, selfish, overbearing businessman" (Corngold 1973) and by Kafka himself as "a true Kafka in strength, health, appetite, loudness of voice, eloquence, self-satisfaction, worldly dominance, endurance, presence of mind, [and] knowledge of human nature ..."[2]. Kafka struggled to come to terms with his domineering father. Hermann was the fourth child of Jacob Kafka, a butcher, and came to Prague from Osek, a Czech-speaking Jewish village near Písek in southern Bohemia. After working as a traveling sales representative, he established himself as an independent retailer of men's and women's fancy goods and accessories, employing up to 15 people and using a jackdaw (kavka in Czech) as his business logo. Kafka's mother, Julie (1856—1934), was the daughter of Jakob Löwy, a prosperous brewer in Poděbrady, and was better educated than her husband.[3] Kafka was the eldest of six children.[4] He had two younger brothers, Georg and Heinrich, who died at the ages of fifteen months and six months, respectively, before Kafka was seven, and three younger sisters, Gabriele ("Elli") (1889–1941), Valerie ("Valli") (1890–1942), and Ottilie ("Ottla") (1891–1943). On business days, both parents were absent from the home. His mother helped to manage her husband's business and worked in it as much as 12 hours a day. The children were largely reared by a series of governesses and servants

Kafka learned German as his first language, but he was also fluent in Czech. Later, Kafka also acquired some knowledge of French language and culture; one of his favorite authors was Flaubert. From 1889 to 1893, he attended the Deutsche Knabenschule, the boys' elementary school at the Fleischmarkt (meat market), the street now known as Masná street. His Jewish education was limited to his Bar Mitzvah celebration at 13 and going to the synagogue four times a year with his father.[6] After elementary school, he was admitted to the rigorous classics-oriented state gymnasium, Altstädter Deutsches Gymnasium, an academic secondary school with eight grade levels, where German was also the language of instruction, at Staroměstské náměstí, within the Kinsky Palac in the Old Town. He completed his Maturita exams in 1901
Work On November 1, 1907, he was hired at the Assicurazioni Generali, a huge Italian insurance company, where he worked for nearly a year. His correspondence, during that period, witnesses that he was unhappy with his working time schedule - from 8 p.m (20:00) until 6 a.m (06:00) - as it made it extremely difficult for him to concentrate on his writing. On July 15, 1908, he resigned, and two weeks later found more congenial employment with the Worker's Accident Insurance Institute for the Kingdom of Bohemia. He often referred to his job as insurance officer as a "Brotberuf", literally "bread job", a job done only to pay the bills. However, he did not show any signs of indifference towards his job, as the several promotions that he received during his career prove that he was a hardworking employee. A little-known fact about this period, reported by Peter Drucker in Managing in the Next Society, is that Kafka invented the safety helmet. He received a medal for this invention in 1912 because it reduced Bohemian steel mill deaths to fewer than 25 per thousand employees. He was also given the task of compiling and composing the annual report and was reportedly quite proud of the results, sending copies to friends and family. In parallel, Kafka was also committed to his literary work. Together with his close friends Max Brod and Felix Weltsch these three were called "Der enge Prager Kreis", the close Prague circle.
Later years In 1912, at the home of his lifelong friend Max Brod, Kafka met Felice Bauer, who lived in Berlin and worked as a representative for a dictaphone company. Over the next five years they corresponded a great deal, met occasionally, and twice were engaged to be married. Their relationship finally ended in 1917. In 1917, Kafka began to suffer from tuberculosis, which would require frequent convalescence during which he was supported by his family, most notably his sister Ottla. Despite his fear of being perceived as both physically and mentally repulsive, he impressed others with his boyish, neat, and austere good looks, a quiet and cool demeanor, obvious intelligence and dry sense of humor.[7] In the early 1920s he developed an intense relationship with Czech journalist and writer Milena Jesenská. In 1923, he briefly moved to Berlin in the hope of distancing himself from his family's influence to concentrate on his writing. In Berlin, he lived with Dora Diamant, a 25-year-old kindergarten teacher from an orthodox Jewish family, who was independent enough to have escaped her past in the ghetto. Dora became his lover, and influenced Kafka's interest in the Talmud.[8
Kafka maintained his indifference to formal religion throughout most of his life. Yet, while never depicting the characters in his stories as Jewish, he never tried to obfuscate his Jewish roots. Intellectually, Hasidism held a strong appeal for him, especially because of the value it places in transcendent, mystical experience. During the last ten years of his life, Kafka even professed an interest in moving to Palestine. The ethical and procedural dilemmas presented in "The Judgment," "The Stoker," "A Hunger Artist," and "A Country Doctor" all bear distinct traces of Kafka's interest in rabbinical teachings as they pertain to law and justice. In addition, many of Kafka's short stories bear striking similarities to Jewish folk tales and parables (Before the Law, for example) The humorously meticulous style of the argumentative narrator in "Josephine the Singer," on the other hand, shadows the rhetorical conventions of rabbinical discourse.[9]
Kafka often made extensive use of a trait special to the German language allowing for long sentences that sometimes can span an entire page. Kafka's sentences then deliver an unexpected impact just before the period—that being the finalizing meaning and focus. This is achieved due to the construction of certain sentences in German which require that the verb be positioned at the end of the sentence.[10] Such constructions are not duplicable in English, so it is up to the translator to provide the reader with the same effect found in the original text.[11] One such instance of a Kafka translator's quandary is demonstrated in the first sentence of The Metamorphosis. Another virtually insurmountable problem facing the translator is how to deal with the author's intentional use of ambiguous terms or of words that have several meanings. An example is the Kafka's use of the German noun Verkehr in the final sentence of The Judgment. The sentence can be translated as: "At that moment an unending stream of traffic crossed over the bridge."[12] What gives added weight to the obvious double meaning of Verkehr is Kafka's confession to his friend and biographer Max Brod that when he wrote that final line, he was thinking of "a violent ejaculation." In the English translation, of course, what can Verkehr be but "traffic"?
Many critics have tried to make sense of Kafka's works by interpreting them through certain schools of literary criticism such as modernism, magical realism, and so on.[14] The apparent hopelessness and the absurdity that seem to permeate his works are considered emblematic of existentialism. Others have tried to locate a Marxist influence in his satirization of bureaucracy in pieces such as In the Penal Colony, The Trial, and The Castle,[14] whereas others point to anarchism as an inspiration for Kafka's anti-bureaucratic viewpoint. Still others have interpreted his works through the lens of Judaism (Borges made a few perceptive remarks in this regard), through Freudianism[14] (because of his familial struggles), or as allegories of a metaphysical quest for God (Thomas Mann was a proponent of this theory). Themes of alienation and persecution are repeatedly emphasized, and the emphasis on this quality, notably in the work of Marthe Robert, partly inspired the counter-criticism of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, who argued that there was much more to Kafka than the stereotype of a lonely figure writing out of anguish, and that his work was more deliberate, subversive, and more "joyful" than it appears to be. Furthermore, an isolated reading of Kafka's work — focusing on the futility of his characters' struggling without the influence of any studies on Kafka's life was worthless — reveals the humor of Kafka. Kafka's work, in this sense, is not a written reflection of any of his own struggles, but a reflection of how people invent struggles.
Biographers have said that it was common for Kafka to read chapters of the books he was working on to his closest friends, and that those readings usually concentrated on the humorous side of his prose. Milan Kundera refers to the essentially surrealist humour of Kafka as a main predecessor of later artists such as Federico Fellini, Gabriel García Márquez, Carlos Fuentes and Salman Rushdie. For Márquez it was as he said the reading of Kafka's The Metamorphosis that showed him "that it was possible to write in a different way".
Kafka died before preparing (in some cases even finishing) some of his writings for publication. Therefore, the novels The Castle (which stopped mid-sentence and had ambiguity on content), The Trial (chapters were unnumbered and some were incomplete) and Amerika (Kafka's original title was The Man who Disappeared) were all prepared for publishing by Max Brod. It appears Brod took a few liberties with the manuscript (moving chapters, changing the German and cleaning up the punctuation) and hence the original German text, that was not published, was altered. The editions by Brod are generally referred to as the Definitive Editions.
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