Pause for thought: Franz Kafka

The book that axes the frozen sea within us.

Kafka(1)“Altogether I think we ought to read only books that bite and sting us. If the book we are reading doesn’t shake us awake like a blow on the skull, why bother reading it in the first place? So that it can make us happy, as you put it? Good God, we’d be just as happy if we had no books at all; books that make us happy we could, in a pinch, also write ourselves. What we need are books that hit us like a most painful misfortune, like the death of someone we loved more than we love ourselves, that make us feel as though we had been banished to the woods, far from any human presence, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us. That is what I believe.”

From a letter written in 1904 to the Czech art historian Oskar Pollak. The writings of Franz Kafka are considered to be among the most influential in Western literature. His novels are The Trial (1925), The Castle (1926) and Amerika (1927). He wrote some 100 short stories – several incomplete – including The Metamorphosis (1912) and In the Penal Colony (1914).

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Philip Lee

Writer and musician who tries to join up the dots.

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