Franz Kafka, a German-speaking Bohemian novelist, is widely regarded as one of the most influential writers of the 20th century. Kafka was born on July 3, 1883, in Prague, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, to a middle-class Jewish family. Kafka grew up speaking German, but he also learned Czech, which would later influence his writing.
Kafka produced a wealth of literature, including novels, novellas, and short stories. His works are characterized by their surreal and absurdist elements, exploring themes of alienation, guilt, and isolation.
Kafka’s writing is famous for its intricate, labyrinthine style and the existential questions it raises. His works have inspired countless artists and writers, from Jorge Luis Borges to David Lynch.
In this blog post, we’ll explore some of the most memorable Franz Kafka quotes, looking at the themes and ideas that underpin his writing. Whether you’re a Kafka aficionado or a curious reader, join us as we delve into the world of Franz Kafka’s writing and explore the many insights it has to offer.
Some of the quotes appear in the following video:
Franz Kafka Quotes
Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old.
In the fight between you and the world, back the world.
So long as you have food in your mouth, you have solved all questions for the time being.
The spirit becomes free only when it ceases to be a support.
You can hold yourself back from the sufferings of the world, that is something you are free to do and it accords with your nature, but perhaps this very holding back is the one suffering you could avoid.
It is not necessary that you leave the house. Remain at your table and listen. Do not even listen, only wait. Do not even wait, be wholly still and alone. The world will present itself to you for its unmasking, it can do no other, in ecstasy it will writhe at your feet.
In theory there is a possibility of perfect happiness: To believe in the indestructible element within one, and not to strive towards it.
He who seeks does not find, but he who does not seek will be found.
Not everyone can see the truth, but he can be it.
Association with human beings lures one into self-observation.
Believing in progress does not mean believing that any progress has yet been made.
The decisive moment in human evolution is perpetual. That is why the revolutionary spiritual movements that declare all former things worthless are in the right, for nothing has yet happened.
By imposing too great a responsibility, or rather, all responsibility, on yourself, you crush yourself.
Start with what is right rather than what is acceptable.
By believing passionately in something that still does not exist, we create it. The nonexistent is whatever we have not sufficiently desired.
My ‘fear’ is my substance, and probably the best part of me.
There are only two things. Truth and lies. Truth is indivisible, hence it cannot recognize itself; anyone who wants to recognize it has to be a lie.
Self-control means wanting to be effective at some random point in the infinite radiations of my spiritual existence.
Productivity is being able to do things that you were never able to do before.
It is often safer to be in chains than to be free.
In a certain sense the Good is comfortless.
A first sign of the beginning of understanding is the wish to die.
One must not cheat anyone, not even the world of its victory.
How can one take delight in the world unless one flees to it for refuge?
A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us.
We all have wings, but they have not been of any avail to us and if we could tear them off, we would do so.
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.
There is nothing besides a spiritual world; what we call the world of the senses is the evil in the spiritual world, and what we call evil is only the necessity of a moment in our eternal evolution.
If I shall exist eternally, how shall I exist tomorrow?
Evil is whatever distracts.
God gives the nuts, but he does not crack them.
Every revolution evaporates and leaves behind only the slime of a new bureaucracy.
One advantage in keeping a diary is that you become aware with reassuring clarity of the changes which you constantly suffer.
My guiding principle is this: Guilt is never to be doubted.
Suffering is the positive element in this world, indeed it is the only link between this world and the positive.
From a certain point onward there is no longer any turning back. That is the point that must be reached.
We are sinful not only because we have eaten of the Tree of Knowledge, but also because we have not yet eaten of the Tree of Life. The state in which we are is sinful, irrespective of guilt.
Don’t despair, not even over the fact that you don’t despair.
Test yourself on mankind. It is something that makes the doubter doubt, the believer believe.
Always first draw fresh breath after outbursts of vanity and complacency.
The relationship to one’s fellow man is the relationship of prayer, the relationship to oneself is the relationship of striving; it is from prayer that one draws the strength for one’s striving.
Hiding places there are innumerable, escape is only one, but possibilities of escape, again, are as many as hiding places.
Religions get lost as people do.
Sensual love deceives one as to the nature of heavenly love; it could not do so alone, but since it unconsciously has the element of heavenly love within it, it can do so.
The history of mankind is the instant between two strides taken by a traveller.
We are separated from God on two sides; the Fall separates us from Him, the Tree of Life separates Him from us.
The fact that our task is exactly commensurate with our life gives it the appearance of being infinite.
One tells as few lies as possible only by telling as few lies as possible, and not by having the least possible opportunity to do so.
I am a cage, in search of a bird.
It is comforting to reflect that the disproportion of things in the world seems to be only arithmetical.
Martyrs do not underrate the body; they allow it to be elevated on the cross. In this they are at one with their antagonists.
It is only our conception of time that makes us call the Last Judgement by this name. It is, in fact, a kind of martial law.
Don’t bend; don’t water it down; don’t try to make it logical; don’t edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly.
It is only our conception of time that makes us call the Last Judgement by this name. It is, in fact, a kind of martial law.
Many a book is like a key to unknown chambers within the castle of one’s own self.
I am free and that is why I am lost.
I cannot make you understand. I cannot make anyone understand what is happening inside me. I cannot even explain it to myself.
I write differently from what I speak, I speak differently from what I think, I think differently from the way I ought to think, and so it all proceeds into deepest darkness.
The meaning of life is that it stops.
All language is but a poor translation.
I have the true feeling of myself only when I am unbearably unhappy.
A non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity.
Books are a narcotic.
I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound and stab us.
Paths are made by walking.
Writing is utter solitude, the descent into the cold abyss of oneself.
He is terribly afraid of dying because he hasn’t yet lived.
There is an infinite amount of hope in the universe … but not for us.
I usually solve problems by letting them devour me.
You are the knife I turn inside myself; that is love. That, my dear, is love.
They say ignorance is bliss…. they’re wrong.
Better to have, and not need, than to need, and not have.
People label themselves with all sorts of adjectives. I can only pronounce myself as ‘nauseatingly miserable beyond repair’.
It would have been so pointless to kill himself that, even if he had wanted to, the pointlessness would have made him unable.
Most men are not wicked… They are sleep-walkers, not evil evildoers.
Love is a drama of contradictions.
First impressions are always unreliable.
Just think how many thoughts a blanket smothers while one lies alone in bed, and how many unhappy dreams it keeps warm.
We photograph things in order to drive them out of our minds. My stories are a way of shutting my eyes.
All I am is literature, and I am not able or willing to be anything else.
sleep is the most innocent creature there is and a sleepless man the guiltiest.
The Kafka paradox: art depends on truth, but truth, being indivisible, cannot know itself: to tell the truth is to lie. thus the writer is the truth, and yet when he speaks he lies.
Logic may indeed be unshakeable, but it cannot withstand a man who is determined to live.
Everything that you love, you will eventually lose, but in the end, love will return in a different form.
I no longer know If I wish to drown myself in love, vodka or the sea.
We live in an age which is so possessed by demons, that soon we shall only be able to do goodness and justice in the deepest secrecy, as if it were a crime.
Do not waste your time looking for an obstacle – maybe there is none.
Please — consider me a dream.
I never wish to be easily defined. I’d rather float over other people’s minds as something strictly fluid and non-perceivable; more like a transparent, paradoxically iridescent creature rather than an actual person.
If the literature we are reading does not wake us, why then do we read it? A literary work must be an ice-axe to break the sea frozen inside us.
I have hardly anything in common with myself and should stand very quietly in a corner, content that I can breathe.
In a way, you are poetry material; You are full of cloudy subtleties I am willing to spend a lifetime figuring out. Words burst in your essence and you carry their dust in the pores of your ethereal individuality.
Isolation is a way to know ourselves.
Just because your doctor has a name for your condition, doesn’t mean he knows what it is.
I do not see the world at all; I invent it.
I have spent my life resisting the desire to end it.
Only the moment counts. It determines life.
You are at once both the quiet and the confusion of my heart.
If you become involved with me, you will be throwing yourself into the abyss.
Nothing is as deceptive as a photograph.
You can choose to be free, but it’s the last decision you’ll ever make.
I never imagined that so many days would ultimately make such a small life.
I can love only what I can place so high above me that I cannot reach it.
There are some things one can only achieve by a deliberate leap in the opposite direction.
I lack nothing. I only needed myself.
Anything that has real and lasting value is always a gift from within.
I wanted to escape the unrest, to shut out the voices around me and within me, so I write.
There are two cardinal sins from which all others spring: Impatience and Laziness.
They’re talking about things of which they don’t have the slightest understanding, anyway. It’s only because of their stupidity that they’re able to be so sure of themselves.
The man in ecstasy and the man drowning: both raise their arms.
The right understanding of any matter and a misunderstanding of the same matter do not wholly exclude each other.
One reads in order to ask questions.
From a real antagonist one gains boundless courage.
Interesting Facts about Franz Kafka
After these inspiring Franz Kafka quotes, here are some interesting facts about Franz Kafka that may surprise you. Enjoy!
- Didn’t Let His Job Interfere with His Writing – Kafka called his writing a “form of prayer” and he loved writing so much, that nothing was going to stop him from doing it, not even a job. In 1907, he started working at an insurance company, but wasn’t pleased with the job, since it left him little time to write. Kafka decided to resign after only a year of working there. He then found a new job at the state insurance institute, where he finished working at 2 pm, which gave him enough time of the day to focus on his writings.
- Like-Minded People – Show me your friends, and I’ll tell you who you are. It is no secret that the people you hang around with influence you and your life. While studying, Kafka formed a close group of friends, which he met through a literature society that organized talks, readings, and discussions about books and the arts. Several of them would also become important writers in the future, like Max Brod, Felix Weltsch, Franz Werfel, Oskar Baum, and Ludwig Winder. After their days in the university, this group of people would come to be known as “The Close Prague Circle”.
- Mental Disturbances – It is believed that Kafka has suffered from a wide range of mental health problems. It is speculated that he may have had a borderline personality disorder, psychophysiological insomnia, eating disorders, and even schizophrenia. The evidence can be found in his writing style, personal accounts, and anecdotes that were mentioned by the people who were close and dear to him. In his personal writings, Kafka admits that he even considered suicide during the early 20th century, and in his stories, his preoccupation with death is clearly shown. Kafka burned most of his own work, and on his deathbed, he demanded that his friend and editor Max Brod destroy all his remaining writing. Thankfully, Brod did not comply with Kafka’s instructions and dying wish.
- Soaring Reputation After Death – Kafka was admired by his friends and the people close to him, who saw him as a fine writer and interesting person. However, during his life, his works and writings weren’t so much acknowledged, because 90% of them were burned and from the 10% that was left, only a few of his works were published. It is only after he died that he began to be appreciated by the rest of the world, especially in the latter half of the 20th century. His works began to be published all over the world and translated to more than 40 languages. He is most celebrated in Prague, and in 2005, the Kafka Museum was established, dedicated to his works and life.
- The Most Influential Writer of the 20th Century – Although Kafka lived a shot life, as he died at the age of 40, he left a literature legacy after him, with a lot of notable writers being influenced by his works, among them are Nabokov, Márquez, Borges, Camus and Satre. Although Kafka is less quoted than other writers, he set a new way of approaching the world through literature, and his ideas and style continue to inspire even to this very day.