Kafka today is a household word around the world, one of the few writers to have an adjective named after him (‘‘Kafkaesque’’), describing the dream-like yet oppressive atmosphere characteristic of his works. When his writings first appeared, however, some reviewers found them baffling, tedious, or exasperating; and the two extreme ideological movements of the twentieth century both found his message unacceptable. The Nazis banned him, and Communist critics denounced him as decadent and despairing.
But fairly quickly Kafka began to be praised by a host of influential...
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