Ghostboard pixel
2 min read

'A Kafka for Our Times' Analysis

On Marco Roth's Tablet Post about Kafka's diary
'A Kafka for Our Times' Analysis
Kafka – Andy Warhol

I would highly suggest people read Marco Roth's post on Tablet about Kafka's diaries.

My thoughts follow:

  • Roth mentions Kafka's escapism '[a]way from here, that’s my goal', how his texts allow him to enter new homes. This is a central motif in much of Kafka's writing, the longing to leave and his struggle between home and abroad. Nicole Krauss describes Kafka's 'yearning', alluding to Kafka's writing in a diary entry about Moses awaiting the promised land.
  • (I think the modern reference to the guise of how NFTs provide anonymity to art was funny)
  • It is often complicated to find Kafka's thoughts on gender; as Roth notes, he evokes an 'estrangement, often but not necessarily male',  Kafka expresses particular angst towards himself and his bodily form as not matching his intentions.  
  • 'That unhappiness only made sense if the world I moved through was, like Kafka’s own, a broken or distorted one. “Kafka’s prose sides with the outcasts"' - this condenses the beauty of Kafka's writing well.
  • '[P]atriotic parades organized by Jewish merchants - “One of the most disgusting symptoms of the war"'. Kafka was particularly antagonistic to the overt nationalism which consumed social bonds, but he often sympathised and aligned with 'minor literature', outcast nationalities, identities and faiths. Kafka's recognition in literature can be explained by what Ziolkowski describes as 'peripheral Kafkas', many marginalised backgrounds and traditions finding meaning in his writing. I can strongly recommend Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature.
  • 'What stands out about Kafka is his aliveness on the page, an aliveness achieved by very few writers before or since', 'Kafka continues to speak to us, transcending and resisting each and all of the avant-garde and philosophical movements he was adjacent with' - this agrees with my thoughts that Kafka cannot be clearly defined into one particular genre or belief - aside from, perhaps, modernism. And Kafka, despite his perceived nihilism, conveys great hope, humanity and life in his works.
  • I am not sure what Roth sees as the 'middlebrow progressive' narrative, but I think to some extent, in any mainstreaming of a text, there is a simplification and abstraction.
  • Roth's sympathies for Brod reassure me that there exist others like us who see the foresight of his preservation and revelation of Kafka's writings.


'A shortcut to empathy' this interview was eye-opening to how literature lets us, to the truest extent possible, what it is to be someone else. In all our lives, we struggle with inheritance - we carry the sum of our families lost and our collective past. As Isaac Bashevis wrote:

“The dead don’t go anywhere. They’re all here. Each man is a cemetery. An actual cemetery, in which lie all our grandmothers and grandfathers, the father and mother, the wife, the child. Everyone is here all the time"

Krauss looks to Judaism - how a people in Jerusalem reinvented and carried themselves through prayer and text. Krauss argues text is how we reinvent ourselves and our past; we contribute to the fiction of ourselves. To me, Kafka captures the essence of life and puts it into text just as Krauss describes. Kafka's diaries illuminate his struggles to reveal greater truths.