Creator / Franz Kafka
A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us.

"Anyone who cannot come to terms with his life while he is alive, needs one hand to ward off a little his despair over his fate... But with his other hand he can note down what he sees among the ruins."

Franz Kafka (1883-1924) was one of the major German-language fiction writers of the 20th century. His unique body of writing—much of which is incomplete and was mainly published posthumously—is among the most influential in Western literature. His stories, such as The Metamorphosis (1915), and novels, including The Trial (1925) and The Castle (1926), concern troubled individuals in a nightmarishly impersonal, modern, and bureaucratic world.

Not to be confused with Frank Capra, Frank Zappa, or Kefka. And most certainly not Kafuka Fuura.

This author's work includes examples of:

  • Alternate Character Interpretation: In-work in The Trial when the prison chaplain tells Josef the story "Before the Law." Is the gatekeeper an Obstructive Bureaucrat who misled the man into keeping him out until he was too old to enter, or is he a tragic hero beholden to the Law while the man is free to enter, but chooses not to?invoked
  • Ambiguously Jewish: Kafka's work doesn't directly ever reference his Jewish background, but the Jewish angst somehow seems to seep through anyway.
  • Author Avatar: A lot of his characters at least share some traits with him, such as a domineering father and a creative desire stifled by the doldrums of everyday life.
  • Authors Of Quote: Kafka's aphorisms are often reprinted, mostly as epigrams at the start of a book.
  • Bewildering Punishment: The central point of The Trial.
  • Body Horror - Some of his characters are physically marred by the traumas they undergo.
  • Calling the Old Man Out - Almost. Letter to His Father, which was never given to his dad.
  • Chew Toy - The protagonists of his books hardly ever seem able to catch a break.
    • Karl Rossman, protagonist of Amerika, unwillingly gets the family maid pregnant, gets sent off to America by his father without any practical skills he could make a decent living with, finds a long-lost uncle, only to be thrown out after he visits an acquaintance against his uncle's will, gets a alright job as a lift boy, is dismissed due to the Head Porter who has it in for Karl because he does't greet the Porter politely and regularly, falls in with rogues (not the lovable kind), etc.
  • Crapsack World: The late 19th-early 20th Century landscape of his stories.
  • Dead Artists Are Better - the titular character from "The Hunger Artist." Not to mention Kafka himself.
    • Subverted in "Josephine the Singer", though: after she, representing culture in general, dies, nobody will remember her.
    • Kafka himself of couse died before attaining universal fame.
  • Determinator - K in The Castle. Deconstructed: All his efforts are in vain. He would be happier if he just gave up.
  • Disproportionate Retribution - "The Judgement" among others.
  • Downer Ending - The only books that do not have one are the books Kafka never finished.
  • Fish out of Water: Karl Rossman in America.
  • Ice-Cream Koan - Deliberately.
  • Kafka Komedy - Franz Kafka is the Trope Namer. When read the right way by a person with a very dark sense of humour, his books can be genuinely funny. According to his friends, Kafka himself would sometimes laugh out loud while reading his own work.
    • Similarly, Orson Welles always considered his film adaptation of The Trial to be a black comedy, and considered it wildly funny himself.
  • Kangaroo Court
  • Koan - "Before the Law, there stands a guard..."
  • Magic Realism
  • Metamorphosis
  • Mind Screw
  • Mundane Fantastic
  • No Ending
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat - In "Before the Law" or "Vor dem Gesetz", the doorkeeper acts as the literal and symbolic obstructive bureaucrat, blocking the man from the country from getting admittance to the Law.
  • One-Letter Name - K. in The Castle and Joseph K. in The Trial.
  • Ontological Mystery - The Trial is a cynical, bureaucratic example.
  • Our Monsters Are Weird - Several of his vignettes feature rather bizarre and fantastic creatures, the oddest perhaps being the Odradek in his short story "The Cares of a Family Man."
  • Out of Order: The Trial contains a lot of self-contained chapters, and it is unclear in what order Kafka intended them to be read.
  • Recut: In adapting The Trial, Orson Welles rearranged the order of Kafka’s chapters. In this version, the chapter line-up read 1, 4, 2, 5, 6, 3, 8, 7, 9, 10. However, the order of Kafka's chapters was arranged by his literary executor, Max Brod, after the writer's death, and this order is not definitive. Source
  • Schizo Tech: The 1994 film version of The Castle is set in a Clock Punk setting, with medieval architecture, early automobiles, and phones.
  • Shaggy Dog Story
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog - Almost everything by Kafka falls into this category.
  • Slice of Life - His collected writings contain one-page stories that don't really have a point to them, apart from describing an interesting scene and observing things about it.
  • Surreal Horror - His protagonists are often utterly (and sometimes fatally) bewildered by circumstances that would be funny if the consequences were less hideous.
  • Torture Technician - the Officer from "In the Penal Colony" who uses an execution device with needles to mark the crime the person is being executed for (the person dies eventually after several hours of pain of either shock or blood loss)
  • Unreliable Narrator - For example in the short story The Judgement, where at first the narrator seems to be pretty much identical with protagonist Georg Bendemann, bragging what a considerate person he is because he doesn't tell his unfortunate friend abroad what a happy, successful life he has. How nice and understandable, thinks the reader - until Bendemann's father calls him out and accuses him of being a liar so that we have to start questioning Bendemann's motives and if the friend abroad actually exists.
  • Useless Protagonist - Many of his works have protagonists who either willingly or unwillingly have no active role in how the stories progress.
  • Weirdness Censor - Apart from the protagonists, very few people in his stories notice or care when something clearly out of the ordinary has happened.
  • White Collar Worker - Kafka himself and his characters provide an early example of this trope.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy - Josef K in The Trial thinks he's a plucky everyman fighting against injustice. He's very, very wrong.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain

Appearences in popular culture:

  • He appears in a historical / flashback episode of Northern Exposure, played by the series' star Rob Morrow. Yes, the show set entirely in Alaska.
  • In The Producers, while looking for the worst play ever written, Max reads the first line from The Metamorphosis, and rejects it as being too good.
  • Robert Crumb made an analytical comic book / book about Kafka's life.
  • The young Indiana Jones meets him in ''Young Indiana Jones."
  • Frank Zappa advises buyers of his album We're Only in It for the Money to read Kafka's "In the Penal Colony" before listening to the last track.
  • The "Director's Cut" episode of Home Movies features a plotline where teenage metalhead Duane attempts to persuade Brendon to film his Rock Opera of Kafka's ''Metamorphosis,'' which Brendon is unwilling to do, preferring to direct a film called Louis, Louis depicting a fictional encounter between Louis Pasteur and Louis Braille.
    "A, rock opera, based on Franz Kafka's Metamorphosis... I don't think so."
  • The Onion ran a video about how Prague's Franz Kafka International airport is the most alienating, dehumanizing airport in the world.
  • There's a Shout-Out to In the Penal Colony in The Shadow of the Torturer where the head torturer shows a prisoner an apparatus designed to carve slogans into someone's flesh and mentions that it isn't working properly. In the original story, there is such an apparatus, which malfunctions and carves a slogan into the guard's flesh.
  • Kafka himself is the protagonist of Steven Soderbergh's 1991 film Kafka.
  • In Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, Johnny's cockroaches (although he believes them all to be one constantly regenerating cockroach) are named "Mr. Samsa," after the character from The Metamorphosis.
  • The works of Kafka are a major influence on Tokyo Ghoul and its sequel, Tokyo Ghoul:Re. Near the beginning of the series, Kaneki compares his transformation into a Half-Human Hybrid to The Metamorphosis. It is also mentioned that oft-mentioned novelist Sen Takatsuki titled her first work Dear Kafka, hinting that she was influenced by his work. In the sequel, Kafka's short story A Crossbreed is discussed briefly and seems to be a metaphor for the relationship between Half-Human Hybrid Sasaki and his Parental Substitute, Arima.
  • The Scottish post-punk band Josef K were named after the main character of The Trial, The Castle, and A Dream.
  • Israeli skit show The Jews Are Coming, satirising Jewish / Israeli history and lore, featured a skit in which the moribund Kafka asks Max Brod to burn all of his writings, but keeps asking him to spare more and more works, to the point he wants to keep the empty pizza box in his room. Finally, Brod, who got so worked up about burning something, randomly burns a piece of paper he finds... Which turns out to be Kafka's medication prescription for his tuberculosis. Kafka dies that day.
  • The Samsa from Werewolf: The Apocalypse, artifically-created giant shapeshifting cockroaches, are named for the main character of "Metamorphosis".