A to Z Blog Challenge

K is for Kafka


“Perhaps there is another kind of writing, I only know this one: in the night, when fear does not let me sleep.” I knew the meaning of Kafkaesque before I read the author’s work. If Lovecraft is the father of horror, then Franz Kafka is certainly the father of surreal nightmares. Not the kind with strange monsters, but the waking kind filled with anxiety and uncertainty. A sense that something is wrong, that people know something about us—that we are, in their eyes and perhaps our own hearts, guilty of some thing. Kafka had the unique ability to transfer loneliness, isolation and frustration to the written page. He could build a sense of terror, doom and defeat in a way that transposed those emotions to the reader.

Perhaps the greatest lesson to be learned from Kafka it that great writers seldom believe the work is ready for publication. Kafka burned many of his manuscripts before his death and his most famous novels, The Trial, The Castle and Amerika are unfinished. The Trial written and stored in such random pieces, debate continues today as to how Kafka might ultimately have ordered the chapters…and yet it is a masterpiece.

Where George Orwell was direct in his portrayal of “evil” governments, Kafka remained subtle. In that manner, his descriptions are far more realistic, as he crafted the frustrating, dangers of the faceless bureaucracy. He had no need to create a government that used threats and violence for subjugation instead his focus was more truthful of the world—the slow churn of red tape, of unknown accusations, of complicated processes.

Some where in my future writing is the idea to write a Kafka type novel. I am not yet skilled enough at my craft to attempt it and doubtful of my ability to ever pull it off. Still, his works remain an inspiration both in their complexity and in their state of un-finish. When I pen tales such as A World Without I try to keep the master in mind.

Kafka is certainly the most intimidating, but not the only author who I look to for advice on the mastery of my own style. There are many and each offers something to learn from, a model to attempt and guideline for improvement. Hemmingway’s terse yet simple writing style. King’s every-day guy story voice. Lovecraft’s impossible monsters. Edgar Allan Poe’s gothic imagery. James, Koontz, Faulkner, McCormac, Stoker, Laymen, Stevenson and Hardy—they all add styles and techniques to the writer’s toolbox. A toolbox, not a final product because I don’t want to be them, I want their expertise to be the tools that help me build my own legacy. Kafka is just currently too heavy a tool to lift.

11 replies »

  1. I haven’t read Kafka, but if I could write like Koontz (or King, obviously), I’d be happy (no, ecstatic). I remember reading a single sentence in one of the Odd Thomas books that was so mesmerizing I had to stop reading for a while and just try to take it in.

  2. I saw where he lived for a while in Prague and it seemed to suit him. I recall reading Metamorphosis and, although very strange, I could not put it down.

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