52 ways of thinking about Kafka

Links to the original pieces for the chorus of voices that inspired our Kafka-themed Diary for 2024, which in turn inspired a special one-off event at the 2024 Hay Festival.

Diary: Putting on Kafka’s Tux

Patricia Lockwood, 24 March 2022

If this were written in the 1990s it would be called ‘Kafka’s Tuxedo’, and in order to illustrate it, we would have resurrected Chagall for a single night so that he could paint Kafka as an empty suit riding a horse over the rooftops of Prague, with a violin between his legs to represent tragedy and two stars for his eyes.

Diary: Fresh Revelations

Alan Bennett, 20 October 1994

13 January. Having supper in the National Theatre restaurant are Lindsay Anderson and Gavin Lambert. ‘I suppose you like this place,’ says Lindsay. I do, actually, as the food is now...

Born​ in 1928, Maurice Sendak grew up in Brooklyn, the child of Polish immigrants. On the day of Sendak’s bar mitzvah, his father learned that his family in Poland had all been killed....

On Being Left Out: On FOMO

Adam Phillips, 20 May 2021

Tragedies – which Freud uses to make sense of childhood experiences, never comedies – are about the tragic hero’s attempted self-cure for the ordeals of exclusion. Being left out begins as tragedy, and tragedy, Freud suggests, is integral to development. So the developmental question – the moral question – is this: is there another and better solution to feeling left out than revenge?

How he got out of them

Anne Hollander, 24 September 1992

The jacket photo​ for Kafka’s Clothes shows him without any, sitting tailor-fashion on a beach, smiling above naked shoulders and a thin chest, the prominent ears rhyming with prominent...

A Human Kafka

Gabriel Josipovici, 5 March 1981

When Kafka died in 1924, not one of his novels had been published. He was known to a small circle – though Janouch’s testimony shows that that circle spread beyond his friends –...

Short Cuts: Not a Little Kafkaesque

Christian Lorentzen, 20 March 2014

The salad​ was on expenses, the water was sparkling and the literary agent across the table was disappointed that I wasn’t a parent, I didn’t do yoga, I wasn’t a former cult...

Kafka at Las Vegas

Alan Bennett, 23 July 1987

There are many perils in writing about Kafka. His work has been garrisoned by armies of critics with some fifteen thousand books about him at the last count. As there is a Fortress Freud so is...

Poem: ‘Worst When It’s Poetry’

Frederick Seidel, 5 May 2016

Here’s a naked fellow dressed up in some clothes, Arrogantly flaunting what he actually loathes – The Savile Row swagger and the nonchalant pose! He’s who he isn’t and he...

Double Thought: Kafka in the Office

Michael Wood, 20 November 2008

‘It’s certainly an excellent arrangement,’ the official says, ‘always unimaginably excellent, even if in other respects hopeless.’ We can easily picture, or even...

Diary: Pamuk’s Museum

Elif Batuman, 7 June 2012

In 2010, I moved from California, where I had lived for 11 years, to Turkey, where I had never stayed longer than a month or two.

Unlike Kafka

Amit Chaudhuri, 8 June 1995

The shame of being on the wrong side of history: this is what Kazuo Ishiguro’s first three novels have been about. It is not a condition that has been written about a great deal in English,...

Kafka wrote that, were it not for the final act, Michael Kohlhaas would be ‘a thing of perfection’, which is a diplomatic way of saying that Kleist absolutely butchers it. In fact, one of the many interesting things about this novella is that, like its contradictory protagonist, it manages to be at once a masterpiece and a disaster.

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