Around the turn of the century and continuing until the years following World War I, a circle of German writers in Prague exerted great influence on German literature. Franz Werfel, Rainer Maria Rilke, and Max Brod were the most widely read authors of this group, but in the closing decades of the period Franz Kafka, sometimes called the author of anxiety, found an ever increasing audience. Biographers of Kafka complain that his short life does not offer anything dramatic to report: his existence could be termed provincial because the major part of his life, except for a short period of travel, was spent within a few city blocks in Prague. His father was a merchant and his mother the daughter of a brewery owner. The family, financially well-to-do, tried to maintain a nineteenth century upper-class living standard: French governess, humanistic education for the children, and efforts to preserve a bourgeois concept of German culture. The sensitive Kafka found no understanding at home; he had almost no communication with his family and the Jewish faith practiced by his parents offered him few consolations. Thus Kafka grew up in a withdrawn isolation, constantly groping for some kind of salvation which he could only find in his writings. He earned a doctor of law degree and worked for fourteen years with an insurance company.
Kafka’s continuous anxiety of being directed by forces over which he had no control and about which he had no knowledge is superbly...
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