Literature: Encounter and Unfamiliarity

A view on the writer Franz Kafka

It is quiet around us, no word can be heard. A tail of questions obtrudes, coming from outside, from afar. It soundlessly pulsates around us: Do we exist with sense? What moves us, makes us run? It is sometimes so empty inside us, is it absurd if it was different? Franz Kafka enters the room, leans on a brick wall, takes a pad and starts writing. This is where we meet this man for the first time, in a quiet room, in the evening light, familiar and yet unfamiliar.
Who was he, the author, who was catapulted into the world literature of a century by a broken  promise? Franz Kafka, german-speaking in Czech Prague, a Jew between Christians, with an Austrian passport, not German. Someone who wrote in a style that could be too dry to us, to turn another page, but about things whose compelling shimmer could only be captured by him. Novels, fragments, short stories- tales that revolved around recurring subjects. Something big in little things, inimitably deep, frightening, frantic, enlightening. The world through the eyes of a man, who knew he could not understand it.
If you listen carefully, you could think to find a meaning, a realisation, a view: The world is small, but overwhelming things happen in it. A single human being in a strange unfathomable environment, lost, feeling secure, sometimes somewhere in between. A feeling in him that something unknown and confusing is ambushing  him, to be lost in a world that you can not understand and certainly not control.
At the mercy of a higher power, whose face you don’t know.
Everything told in sober words. The opposite force is the confusing, the cryptically animated surrounding. The style of writing can be explained with his job: Kafka worked for a big insurance company, wrote reports, articles and protocols. The bureaucratic tint came from work, but where did his connection to the inexplicable, his tendency to the “confusion prose” come from? Perhaps from the string of tragedy, that pulls itself through his young life: He fought for the respect and recognition of his father, who was not at all pleased with his son all his life, the relationships he had faded into nothingness, the marriage he desired, never happened-for others a small temerity in the moral of the early 20th century, for him the fate of a bachelor.
Kafka stood in his own life and in the world with a philosophical-sceptical keynote, tossed into a country and era. Nothing he wrote was really bound to his time, if you free the thoughts from the robe of age, you find wisdom directed at the world, portioned inconspicuously, wrapped up in the ordinary and unremarkable with a tint of quiet absurdity.
When you read, you want to meet him, in some hotel lobby, in a corridor, or between a city’s buildings. You want to have a cup of tea with him, empty a bottle of wine and get to know this person, Kafka. How was he? Like you or maybe even like me? Would it be a good conversation, a good encounter in the oddity of the early 20th century?
He is still standing in the room, calmly leaning on the wall, the evening light in his face. In actual fact I only want to ask him one question: “Why are we here?”.