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What Kafkaesque times we live in




With Franz Kafka's birthday looming, never have his works been so relevant


What a week. Two shock exits from Europe, both unexpected and both leaving many of us wondering just what the plan is now - underpinned by the strong suspicion that, actually, there is no plan.

Don't worry, here at Wordsworth Editions we're not going to get political, and we're certainly not going to speculate on who might make something of England's hapless football team.

We will, however, in a statement of cultural inclusivity at the very least, this week focus on one of our favourite and most important European authors, Franz Kafka

It's also his birthday next week (July 3rd). And if you want another reason, much of his work is concerned with individuals feeling alienated and threatened by political and bureaucratic systems that they don't understand...

He was born in 1883 in Prague (then the capital of the kingdom of Bohemia). Very little of his work was published during his short life (he died aged 40 from TB) and he may well have remained almost entirely unacknowledged forever - indeed, he would have done if he had had his way.

He left all his manuscripts to his friend, Max Bron, with the explicit instructions that it should all be 'burned, unread'. Bron, thankfully, ignored those wishes and published pretty much all of it, including Kafka's two novels, The Trial and The Castle and a wealth of short stories between 1925 and 1935.

In that time, Kafka's reputation as a distinct voice and important writer grew and grew, to the extent that 'kafkaesque' is now in the dictionary. Anyone who has ever had a kafkaesque experience will have felt swamped and frightened by an obfuscating system controlling their lives without obvious goals or logic, but with implied menace.

Or they may simply have been watching the news for the last seven days.

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