Historical news?

March – Kafka and his letter of ultimatum

In March 1918, Kafka was furious at the attitude of his then publisher, Kurt Wolff. He told his friend Max Brod that he had written a “letter of ultimatum” to Wolff. (This letter, unfortunately, has not been preserved). Among other things, the publisher had changed the title of his collection of short stories, The Country Doctor, without Kafka’s permission, and the proofreading was taking years to complete. The book was finally published in 1920.

March – Kafka is ill

“These infuriating doctors! Determined in the office and so ignorant of healing that, if this official determination left them, they would be standing like schoolboys before the sickbeds.”

Diary, March 5, 1912

“If a doctor is a friend, it might work, but otherwise it’s impossible to communicate with them. For example, I have three doctors, the one here, Dr. Kral, and Uncle. It isn’t odd that they give me different advice, but it is incomprehensible that they give me conflicting advice (Dr. Kral is for injections, Uncle against).

Letter to Ottla Davidová, March 16, 1921


February – Kafka is finally satisfied with his living quarters 

Kafka longed very much for a peaceful, harmonious place to live. When he was living in a flat in Dlouhá Street, for instance, he wrote the following: “I have moved into a room where the noise is about ten times greater than in the previous one … Without an unobstructed view, without the possibility to see a large part of the sky from the window and perhaps even a tower in the distance … without this I am miserable…”

He was truly happy in a tiny little house at Golden Lane No. 22 in the Prague Castle complex, where his sister Ottla provided him refuge. He wrote the following about this: “Today it suits me perfectly and completely. In every way: the beautiful path leading up to it, the silence there; only a thin wall separates me from a neighbor, but that neighbor is quiet enough … then the advantage of the way home …” In the spring of 1917, however, the lease was up, so he then moved to an apartment in Schoenborn Palace (where the U.S. Embassy is now based) in the Malá Strana district.

February – Kafka learns Hebrew

In the winter of 1922–23, Franz Kafka took Hebrew lessons from Puah Ben-Tovin, a young woman from Palestine who had come to study in Prague. He had acquired the basics of the language through individual study, but he also wanted to pick up colloquial vocabulary.  He also reportedly considered moving to Jerusalem, but abandoned the idea due to ill health. Kafka’s had lessons with Ben-Tovin for about six months.

February – Kafka moved by a painting

“A long stretch of the river was filled across its entire breadth with boats waiting for a lock to open. In all the boats were cheerful young people in light pale clothing; they were almost reclining, freely abandoned to the warm air and the coolness of the water… joking and laughter spread from boat to boat… He was observing the celebration, which was not actually a celebration but which could be called one. Naturally he had a strong desire to take part; he was directly reaching for it, but he had to openly admit to himself that he was excluded from it … his whole lineage, education, physical training would have had to be conducted differently.”

In this diary entry dated February 2, 1920, (written in the ‘er’ form – referring to himself in the third person), Kafka is describing the 1895 oil painting Boulter’s Lock, Sunday Afternoon by Edward John Gregory.

January – Kafka and prostitutes

„Pohlaví na mě doléhá, mučí mě dnem i nocí, bylo by zapotřebí překonat strach a stud a asi i smutek, abych mu odlehčil, na druhé straně je ale jisté, že bych příležitost, nabízející se rychle a zblízka a ochotně, ihned využil bez toho strachu a smutku a studu“. Přesně to si Franz Kafka zapsal do svého deníku 18. ledna 1922. Reiner Stach k tomu ve své knize To že je Kafka?: 99 odhalení dodává: … „pro Kafku jako pro většinu měšťanských mužů té doby nebyla návštěva u prostitutek ani tak problémem morálním, jako spíše hygienickým.“

January – Kafka reveals a story’s theme

Kafka did not present his works in any significant way. At most, he read from them as they were taking shape to his closest circle of friends, and he hardly ever talked about his subject-matter. However, in the book Is That Kafka?: 99 Finds, Reiner Stach points out that there was one occasion when Kafka did discuss subject-matter with the writer Oskar Baum. The story in question is about a group of people who meet without invitation and without knowing each other. It is a banquet where everyone can eat what they like. Each person can come and go without being under any obligation to the host. But it is always necessary to show unfeigned pleasure at being seen! This tale of redemption from solitude was meant to refer to the emergence of public cafés.

January – Kafka’s first notes for his novel The Castle

Kafka made his first notes for The Castle at the end of January in Špindlerův Mlýn in the Giant Mountain (Krkonoše) of North Bohemia. They were intended for the beginning of a novel that never saw the light of day, but Kafka subsequently rewrote them for the opening chapter Arrival as we know it today. In the original draft, Kafka writes, among other things: “The room, which alas I see only now, has not been prepared as carefully as I would have liked. But this will be remedied immediately.” – “That’s not the point”, said the guest, “I expected nothing but a dirty hole and a disgusting bed. Don’t try to deceive me. I only want to know one thing: Who told you I was coming?” – “No one, sir”, said the innkeeper.


Franz Kafka was engaged three times (twice to Felice Bauer and once to Julie Wohryzek), but never actually god married.

A small engagement reception was held at Easter time in 1914, at which Kafka – a sworn vegetarian – refused to touch the meat that was served. Moreover, he had reportedly told his financée during Easter that he wouldn’t eat meat because of her, but that he might do so with a different woman. In a letter to Felice, Kafka pointed out that the announcement of the reception in the local newspaper “sounds to me as though on Whitsunday, F.K. is going to perform an acrobatic stunt at some variety show.”


Reiner Stach: Kafka. Die frühen Jahre [Kafka: The Early Years], 2014

Reiner Stach: Kafka. Die Jahre der Entscheidungen [Kafka: The Decisive Years], 2002

Reiner Stach:  Kafka. Die Jahre der Erkenntnis: [Kafka: The Years of Insight], 2008

Reiner Stach: Ist das Kafka? 99 Fundstücke [Is That Kafka?: 99 Finds], 2012

Josef Čermák: Prahou Franze Kafky [Through Kafka’s Prague], 2008