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YMMV / Franz Kafka

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  • Alternative Character Interpretation: Vladimir Nabokov gave a lecture on The Metamorphosis, in which he drew on his own experience as a lepidopterist to argue that Gregor, being a giant beetle, in fact had wings, and therefore was capable of flight, but just never realised it. This interpretation has not caught on.
  • Everyone Is Jesus in Purgatory: There are (at least) a thousand and one possible interpretations of his work.
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  • Harsher in Hindsight: A lot of Kafka's work becomes tougher to read when you know that in less than twenty years after his death, The Holocaust would take place (which would claim the lives of many of Kafka's family and friends). All the surreal and impossible stuff such as nightmarish bureaucracy, intense persecution with the protagonist not knowing why they are being persecuted, and the grotesque torture of the Penal Colony became a reality. Orson Welles cited this as the main reason why his adaptation of The Trial ends on slightly less of a down note than the original.
  • Heartwarming Moments: Shows up once or twice in The Metamorphosis... if only to set up for the Downer Ending. Unlike most cases, knowing the ending ahead of time makes the Heartwarming that much more fuzzy... and once you've read the entire book, the Downer Ending becomes that much more tragic.
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  • Misaimed Fandom: Kafka's friends found his most dark and depressing books hilarious. They had a point, though - some pages of The Trial were deliberately made this way. Alternatively, it could be argued that those who take the stories too seriously (without recognizing the very dark but nevertheless present humor) are the ones interpreting them wrong. Kafka himself was said to have laughed himself to tears while reading his work aloud, after all. (And there's a reason he's the namesake for Kafka Komedy.)
  • Nightmare Fuel: "In the Penal Colony" stands out in this regard, featuring a device designed to induce Cruel and Unusual Death over the course of several hours.
  • Paranoia Fuel: His works are filled with this and probably the Trope Codifier for it.
  • Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped: Modern bureaucracy is alienating, confusing and often brutal in the most banal ways.
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  • The Woobie: The protagonists of many of Kafka's stories, and Kafka himself, especially in his diaries, the overall sadness of his life which ended far too soon.


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