GABBLER RECOMMENDS: Midnight Madness: Franz Kafka’s “Investigations of a Dog: And Other Creatures” By Nathan Scott McNamara

‘FRANZ KAFKA NEVER left home. Outside of a year in Berlin and a stay at a sanatorium near Vienna before his death, he lived in the same part of Prague — mostly at his parent’s house — for all 40 years of his life, worked as a clerk at the Workers’ Accident Insurance Institute, and never married.

Kafka’s inertia, a sort of isolation from the larger world, was central to his obsessive and anxiety-fueled stories. He defended his solitude and curated his deranged state. He even wrote in the middle of the night, while the rest of Prague slept. In 1912, in a letter to Felice Bauer, Kafka explained that each day he was at the office from 8:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., then ate lunch, then slept (“usually only attempts…”) until 7:30 p.m. Then after 10 minutes of naked exercise in front of the open window, he usually took an hour-long walk with his friend Max Brod, and finally had dinner with his family.

Wrapped up in Kafka’s genius is his mental and physical frailty, his provinciality, and his single-minded fixations. Rather than the sense of a Herculean writer, we’re drawn in by the sense of a man who’s being destroyed by the grueling realities of modern living. Kafka didn’t have the time to write, but he still did. A writer and full-fledged participant in industrialized society, Kafka wasn’t healthy, and he died of tuberculosis at 40.’

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