In December 1912, after meeting his love interest, Felice Bauer, Kafka published his first book. It was a collection of short stories entitled Contemplation. More short stories followed, often centering on his preoccupations with alienation and the inability of the self to find a place. "One is alone, a total stranger and only an object of curiosity," he wrote in "Wedding Preparations in the Country," one such early story. "And so long as you say 'one' instead of 'I,' there's nothing in it and one can easily tell the story; but as soon as you admit to yourself that it is you yourself, you feel as though transfixed and are horrified."9 Kafka wrote in German, with sentences that sometimes took up a whole page.
In 1914, Kafka wrote a novel entitled The Trial (but not published until after his death). The Trial had one of the most "Kafkaesque" plots of any of his works. Protagonist Josef K. is arrested and tried for an unnamed crime. No one will explain to him the reason for his arrest. And he descends further into a terrifying world while hounded by shadowy authorities. The mood and themes of Kafka's writing foreshadowed the curtain of totalitarianism that would descend across Eastern Europe after his death.
In April 1914, Kafka proposed to Felice Bauer. However, he soon decided that marriage was not for him and broke off the engagement just three months later. They rekindled their relationship the following year and became engaged a second time in July 1917. Just five months after that, however, Kafka canceled their engagement for a second - and final - time. His cold feet don't seem to have hurt Bauer's perception of him. Despite their multiple break-ups, she later said, "My Franz was a saint."10