When Kafka wrote to his friend Max Brod to burn his novels after his death, Brod took the opposite course and today, thanks to his efforts, Kafka is one of the most original writers of the 20th century

Marija Georgievska
Featured image

Franz Kafka is one of the major and best-known authors of the 20th century. His style of writing was unique because until then, no other authors put their protagonists in the kind of dead-end situations as he.

Some critics claim that Kafka was a political prophet because his best-known works are the incomprehensible social-bureaucratic powers that in many ways caused existential anxiety, alienation, guilt and even absurdity. The anxieties and alienations were felt by many in 20th century Europe and North America.

Franz Kafka.


Max Brod. Photo Credit

His best-known works are The Trial, The Castle, Amerika, and The Metamorphosis. These novels were published after Kafka’s death by his friend and literary executor Max Brod. When Kafka was very ill, he wrote a letter to his friend where he says that he is leaving all his work to him and that he wants him to destroy them after he is gone.

In his book “Franz Kafka, a Biography” from 1937, Brod explains how he couldn’t do what his friend wanted and so he ignored Kafka’s request and published his novels.

Jaroslav Róna’s bronze statue of Franz Kafka in Prague. Photo Credit

Brod and Kafka first met in 1902, at Charles University. In that moment, Brod was giving a lecture about Schopenhauer at the German students’ hall. After the lecture, Kafka addressed Brod and accompanied him home. Brod describes Kafka as a quiet person, hard to notice, and with an elegant suit. Brod was interested in Kafka at once and one of the reasons was that he was more open than usual with him. From then on, they became really close friends and met frequently until Kafka’s death.

Plaque marking the birthplace of Franz Kafka in Prague. Photo Credit


The first edition of the novel “America”. Photo Credit

Kafka was strongly doubtful about his writing talents and Brod tried repeatedly to reassure him but he failed almost every time. During his lifetime, Kafka published just a crumb of his overall work. After his death, Brod published The Trial which today is considered to be the author’s most successful novel.

In 1926, The Castle was released and in 1927 the novel America. The short story The Great Wall of China was published in 1931, 14 years after it was originally written by Kafka.

Plaque commemorating Max Brod, next to the grave of Franz Kafka. Photo Credit


Franz Kafka’s grave. Photo Credit

His works are a reflection of his life. It is generally agreed that the author suffered from social anxiety and depression until his death. Kafka had laryngeal tuberculosis and died of starvation because eating was too painful for him when tuberculosis got worse.

Read another story from us: The Beat Hotel was the Paris headquarters of the writers of the Beat generation

On his death bed, he was editing his story “A Hunger Artist” which is his last written work. Kafka was buried in the New Jewish Cemetery in Prague on 11 June 1924. When Brod published his works, the name and work of Franz Kafka gained worldwide posthumous fame.