Famous Biographies: Franz Kafka

Don't get your hopes up,this guy isn't here to pump you up with his brother, Hans. Franz was more into pumping you down, with dark and scary stories. But hey, plenty of people are into that too.

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Transcript

00:19

My world is my creator’s: Herr Franz Kafka. [Gregor Samsa points to Franz Kafka with an insect arm]

00:23

As he once said, “As soon as you admit to yourself that it is you yourself, you feel

00:28

as though transfixed and are horrified.”

00:31

Well, prepare to be horrified. [Gregor Samsa now has insect eyes]

00:33

Born July 3, 1883 in Prague, my creator, Franz, was the first of six children. [Franz next to a picture of his sisters]

00:41

It was a brief, bleak life for the Kafka siblings.

00:44

His two brothers died in infancy, and his three sisters were murdered by the Nazis during [The sisters eyes are crossed out]

00:49

the Holocaust, which Franz did not survive long enough to see.

00:53

Franz was raised in a middle-class, Jewish family, though not particularly observant. [Franz in front of a picture of his family]

00:58

Feelings of isolation consumed Herr Kafka’s life.

01:02

He even feared his own father, seeing him as an arrogant brute, though he kept that

01:07

to himself.

01:08

Wisely so.

01:09

Franz attended German language schools up through college, where he eventually studied law. [Franz in school]

01:15

A decent student, but far from a standout, his passion was elsewhere. [Franz on the beach]

01:19

It was in the literary club that he excelled. [Franz at a book reading club]

01:22

Here, Herr Kafka found not only his passion, but also lifelong friends, including Max Brod—his

01:29

eventual literary executor and biographer. [Franz and Max stood together]

01:32

Though I think I’m doing a fine job myself.

01:36

A couple years after graduating college in 1906, young Franz worked at the Workers Auto [Franz in his graduation gown]

01:41

Insurance Institute government agency handling workers’ compensation insurance. [Franz doing paperwork at his desk]

01:47

Very exciting kind of like NFL quarterback...

01:50

The work was in fact inspiring as it sounds.

01:53

As in….it was not. [Franz speaking to his boss]

01:55

It was simply a means to make money.

01:57

Every day consisted of work until early afternoon, then lunch, rest, exercise, and dinner with [Franz doing all his activities]

02:02

the family.

02:03

At the time, Franz still lived at home, which is a nightmare in its own right, no? [Franz stood in front of his house]

02:08

Finally, at about 11PM, there was time to sit down and write until sleep overtook him.

02:14

Despite such a busy schedule, hard work paid off. [Franz is covered in cash]

02:17

After just a few months, Hyperion magazine published his first series of short stories. [Papers of Franz's published stories]

02:22

But that wasn’t enough for Franz.

02:24

Nothing could calm his appetite to write. [Franz writing in his room]

02:27

He even once said, “God does not want me to write, but I—I must.”

02:32

Kafka…the original rebel without a cause.

02:37

In the late 1920s, anti-Semitism began to spread through Eastern Europe. [Hitler in a big hall]

02:41

This deeply upset Herr Kafka.

02:43

His relationship with Judaism was… complicated. [Franz's 'ShmoopBook' page saying his relationship is complicated]

02:47

He admired its writing and theatre, but was

02:49

disgusted by how his identity as a Jew alienated him from what was considered the norm. [Franz looking at the picture of his family]

02:54

This suffering only worsened his depression and anxiety.

02:58

Kafka said: “What an effort to stay alive!

03:01

Erecting a monument does not require the expenditures of so much strength!” [Strong man picks up a statue and puts it down in a field]

03:06

But there was a shining light among the sadness and woe. [Spotlight on Franz]

03:10

In 1912, at Max Brod’s house, Kafka met and fell in love with Felice Bauer. [Franz meeting Felice]

03:16

They exchanged over 500 letters in their five years together. [A pile of the letters they sent to each other]

03:20

That same year, Herr Kafka’s first book, Contemplations—a collection of short stories—

03:26

was published.

03:27

In 1914, he published what many consider to be his most “Kafkaesque” story, [A picture of his book]

03:32

“The Trial”.

03:33

Kafkaesque, as in happy sunshine and rainbows raining skittles. [A guy looking shocked as skittles fall from the sky]

03:37

Just kidding.

03:38

It’s actually more dark rain clouds and spiders and stuff. [Spider appears in front of a dark night sky]

03:43

In “The Trial,” Josef K, the protagonist, is arrested for an unnamed crime. [Josef K in court]

03:49

No one will explain what he was arrested for or why. [Josef in his cell]

03:53

He is then hounded by shadowy authority figures, following him everywhere he goes. [A police officer watching Josef down an alley]

03:58

This dark tale was an eerie foreshadowing of the totalitarian rule that swept Europe [Hitler steps onto stage]

04:03

years later.

04:04

That’s right, in addition to his writing talents, Kafka was a bit of a fortune teller, too. [Kafka reading someone's hand]

04:10

He should have gone into the stock market...

04:12

That April, Kafka overcame his nerves and proposed to Felice… [Franz proposing to Felice]

04:17

And then lost that nerve and broke it off three months later. [Franz telling Felice he has changed his mind]

04:20

3 years later, Kafka realized his mistake and proposed again… [Franz proposing again in the same place]

04:24

Then broke it off again, 5 months later.

04:28

Poor Fräulein Bauer. [Felice looking disappointed]

04:30

Kind of like Penny and Leonard...

04:32

Finally, in December 1915, the world was blessed with Kafka’s greatest work, The Metamorphosis. [Franz writing at his desk]

04:39

This was the only novel my creator completed in his lifetime. [Franz Kafka's book 'Metamorphosis']

04:44

The story is about me, Gregor Samsa. [Gregor Samsa stood in front of a coffee shop]

04:46

I was a simple traveling salesman until I woke to find myself transformed into this:

04:52

a bug… insect… vermin. [Gregor Samsa goes back to his insect form]

04:55

I don’t know how it happened, but I literally transformed into what I have always felt myself [Samsa stood in front of the spooky night sky]

04:59

to be: stranger to my home, stranger to my family, even stranger to myself. [Samsa looking in the mirror]

05:06

I have Herr Kafka’s feelings toward his own life to thank for my metamorphosis.

05:11

There’s so much alienation in this book, it might as well be called E.T.. [Alien in space]

05:15

Anyway, enough about me.

05:17

The next stage of Franz’s life is dreary enough.

05:20

In August of 1917, he began to cough blood—the first sign of tuberculosis. [Franz at the doctor]

05:26

Franz had to take a leave from work – the one perk of being sick – and was taken care [Franz speaking to his boss]

05:31

of by his younger sister, Ottilie.

05:33

He traveled to various sanatoriums throughout Europe. [Franz travelling around a map]

05:36

But his health continued to deteriorate.

05:39

In 1920, knowing death was near, he asked Max Brod to

05:43

burn all but a few of his papers. [Max Brod agreeing]

05:46

Thankfully, Max did not carry out this wish, or I would not be the famous critter I am today.

05:52

A complication of tuberculosis made it painful for Herr Kafka to eat. [Kafka looking at bratwurst]

05:56

Mirroring his main character in “A Starving Artist”, Kafka slowly starved to death. [Kafka collapses]

06:02

On June 1924, Franz Kafka passed away. [Picture of Kafka's grave stone]

06:06

He was 40 years old.

06:08

A short, tragic life—much like the bleak short stories he left behind.

06:13

Alas, he is gone in body, but not in spirit.

06:16

Kafka’s tales of struggle still speak to us today from beyond the grave.

06:21

His pain then is our pain now. [A potato kits Kafka in the head]

06:24

A never-ending search for identity, for love, and for meaning in a world that seems to pay [Girl dressed in black in a dark room]

06:29

no mind to these pains that plague our minds.

06:32

On that uplifting note…

06:34

Have a vunderval day.

06:35

And watch out for rolled-up newspapers. [Samsa is hit by a newspaper]