35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
on July 26, 2005
The diaries reveal that Kafka was not only the one-dimensional character of the disturbed, alienated, and melancholic man that contemporary literary analysis presents him as, but a person with a complexity of feeling, humor, and distinct moments of happiness and joy.
The segment where he vacillates, through an organized list, as to whether he should marry his fiancé or not I found most enjoyable, and it is also fascinating to watch the diaries darken as Kafka ages, and to long for the unfinished fragments of stories and the gaps in narrative as he struggles against tuberculosis.
History claims that he was the prophetic bearer of images of totalitarianism and social suppression, but it is often forgotten that Kafka was also an ordinary man leading a rather ordinary, if not emotionally tempestuous, life.
These diaries are indispensable in understanding the underlying philosophy and thought behind his literary works, and in coming to know more intimately the author who created them, rather than relying upon a preconceived notion of Kafka as an isolated, miserable apparition.
33 of 37 people found the following review helpful
on October 14, 2006
Franz Kafka's diaries were never meant to be published. Yet his diaries are spread across the internet, the actual published diaries translated into many languages and countless printings. These dairies are very personal, and the gentle Prague Jew would certainly be appalled.
Why do we continue to find these writings so fascinating?
Well, simply, they're terribly honest. Kafka never meant for these diary entries to be published, let alone read by another person. For those interested in the mechanics and soul of writing, Kafka's diaries are a source of true wonder. A confessional of a gentle soul, a man trapped in an insurance job, staying up through the night writing his heart-out, his thoughts, pains and acute observations of a time on the brink of great and terrible change, the death and cruelty of two world wars.
When reading Kafka, there is an overwhelming darkness, loneliness, a strong shadow that continually hovered around him, a "something" he tried to rid himself of through intense self reflection, which the reader of these diaries will discover.
Kafka's life story is, for the most part, a tragedy. A painful experience as one, sometimes, can feel his self consciousness, that subtle pain at the back of the neck, when, you know, you're being stared at...and his continued bad health.
I've attempted to read Kafka's diaries many times, and only now, for some reason, can withstand the pain of his perceptions, his precarious relationship with his father, and the few women he loved and the true love he never married.
Kafka is a man that loved writing for writing's sake, an artist who experimented daily, till dawn most nights, to pick up his little brief case and begin his work as an insurance lawyer in a semi-official insurance institute.
A strange yet moving entry:
21 February 1911
I live my life here as if I were entirely certain of a second life, as if for example I had entirely gotten over the failed time spent in Paris, since I will strive to return soon. Connected to this, the sight of the sharply divided light and shadow on the street paving.
For a moment I felt myself covered in armour.
How distant, for example, are the muscles of my arms
Kafka's writing was for the act itself without pretension or grandious dreams, (though his success during his 40 year lifetime was no disappointment) an act of instinct, pure and natural. Kafka is the true writer's writer.
29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on March 1, 1997
Kafka left instructions with Max Brod to burn all of these journals. Max, however, believed they were too important to be lost and devoted himself to organizing the diaries for publication.
Kafka made his entries in a manner convenient for himself: starting at the back, writing upside down, changing journals daily. All of this made the task of organizing them very difficult. Max Brod did a tremendous job and only misjudged the placement of a handful of entries.
The diaries themselves contain a lot of things no writer would want seen. They are fragments, drafts, and sketches he worked on during the nights. Most are not very good--as they are. Their value comes in the later, published, incarnations. These writings give us a little insight into the way Franz Kafka worked. Several of the entries are worked and reworked over a period of years. They show subtle shifts in Kafka's insight, perspective, and craftsmanship.
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on June 9, 2004
I Loved reading this book. I hope not to offend others who don't share my opinion in this, but I found the beginning to be a bit slow to get my attention. But as I kept with it, I was completely taken by Kafka, in a much more personal way than I have been in reading his books and short stories. He comes across so sensitive and loveable, even with all his faults. There's a paragraph in there about how he respects the maid [I think] and so when he finds her to ask for his heat to be raised, he doesn't ask her to raise it because she is in the middle of washing a floor and thought she might not want him to see her in such a way. That just made me want to fly back in time and tell him what a sweet, kind man he was, and how he shouldn't have been so hard on himself.
I'm sure that men aren't looking for that in a book, but I'm sure there's something in there for you too!
He just comes across as such a darling...the translation is terrific, and really brings out the beauty of his writing. The beginnings and snippets of the stories are also great; unfortunately you want to know how they end, but you aren't afforded that luxury!
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on November 20, 2012
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
This book is one that I pick at after I read a particularly nice short story by Kafka. Of course, since these are his diaries, these are not plot driven. But plots are not the only reason one might read a text. These are his raw insights that he never thought would be read by other humans. He had given explicit instructions to his closest friend to have his diaries and several of his unfinished manuscripts destroyed after his death. Now, realistically, if he actually wanted them destroyed, he would have done so himself--so this leaves one to speculate. Regardless, the entries provide a remarkable insight into the mind of a man who lived a very dreary life and experienced mostly angst and sorrow.
10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on October 7, 2007
Yes, yes, I know it's odd to describe Kafka's writing as comic, but he really was one of the funniest writers of the Twentieth Century. His outlook on life reminds me so much of Charlie Chaplin's famous mantra that life is a tragedy in close up, in long shot it's a comedy. Kafka is loved by millions because he is the most universal writer of them all. High on the peaks of Twentieth Century literature features the brilliant stylistic prose of Nabokov, the pyrotechnics of Joyce, the pitch black comedy of Beckett, the sublime little observations of Proust. But right at the summit sits the unlikely figure of the wretched, kvetching tortured sick soul and body of Kafka, the world's greatest underdog. With these diaries chronicling his dreams, his awareness of the fragility of his physical body, his anguished relations with his family and friends, the daily nightmare of his office job and the time it stole from his creative pursuits, Kafka speaks for us all. For instance, a single paragraph sentence from 1913 reads:
I'll shut myself off from everyone to the point of insensibility. Make an enemy of everyone, speak to no one.
Now anyone who has ever been a teenager will feel a burning empathy with that sentiment!
Then some bits are brilliantly, nightmarishly extraordinary, like this musing, also from 1913:
To be pulled in through the ground-floor window of a house by a rope tied around one's neck and to be yanked up, bloody and ragged, through all the ceilings, furniture, walls, and attics, without consideration, as if by a person who is paying no attention, until the empty noose, dropping the last fragments of me when it breaks through the roof tiles, is seen on the roof
I read this part on a train, and snorted with laughter. Kafka is such a lovable tortured genius, carrying the weight of his misery around like an anvil on his back. Such a warped brilliant imagination.
Keep a copy of these diaries on your bedside table for those moments when you are fed up with the wretched pressures of the world, can't stand other people, and want to selfishly wallow like a pig in the mud of your own self pity. Priceless.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Kafka was the kind of unique genius who could not help expressing that genius in every line he wrote. These diaries contain not only the record of much of his daily anxiety but also many of his brilliant poetic perceptions of the world and of his own mind. There is an uncanny beauty in this work which reminds of the phrase of Emerson crossing Boston Common ' glad to the brink of fear' Kafka in a diary entry spoke of ' writing as prayer ' and it is clear too that Kafka was most alive, and most praying when writing .
This work is most highly recommended especially for those who are able to bear the torments and fears involved in the life of creation of one of world literature's great geniuses at work.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Franz Kafka's 1910-23 diary entries are essential reading for anyone who seeks a better understanding of the author's literary world. This 1988 printing contains all the surviving Kafka diaries in one comprehensive volume. More revelatory than any biography, the diaries remain as compelling as his fictional work.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on December 3, 2012
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
I've loved Kafka's work forever so reading the diaries was interesting. Intense stuff to be taken in smallish doses. Recommended.
7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on July 23, 2005
The Diares of Franz Kafka reveal him to not just be the disturbing and clever author, but a genuine philosopher in his own right. Because he never published huge tomes of philosophy, he is completely overlooked. Kafka tends to address only himself in his diary, but he grapples with universal problems of the human condition. My copy of the Diaries is underlined, highlighted, and circled on almost every page. He puts into words, even in the translation, so many important and elegant ideas that have not been adequately expressed before or after him. If you have even the slightest interest in Kafka or philosophy, or alienation, buy this book. Buy two copies, in case you lose the first one. Once you've read it, you will not want to be without access to it, ever. Incredible.