Wednesday, August 06, 2008


The word Kafkaesque is an auctorial descriptive. It means that Kafkaesque is an adjective based on author's name, other examples of auctorial descriptives are Draconian, Lovecraftian, Cartesian, Borgesian, Dickensian et al. The word Kafkaesque is used to describe the surreal concept, ideas or situations which evokes a similarity with the works of the Prague writer Franz Kafka, especially with his novels The Trial and The Metamorphosis.

These novels mostly concerns troubled individuals in a nightmarishly surreal and bureaucratic world. Most of his short stories were unfinished works which were released posthumously. He used long sentences which was a typical German influence and those could take up the entire page.

Coming back to where we started from, The New Yorker describes the word Kafkaesque "marked by surreal distortion and often a sense of impending danger: Kafkaesque fantasies of the impassive interrogation, the false trial, the confiscated passport... haunt his innocence". Whereas Dictionary.com refers to the same as "marked by a senseless, disorienting, often menacing complexity: Kafkaesque bureaucracies". In The New Yorker, John Updikes says "Self-loathing and self-distrust lurk in his work with somatic unease; he is the forbear of modern man's sense of dread".

So we can say that the word Kafkaesque is a synonym for magic realism, where the protagonist experiences bizarre situations under the influence of a modern day world. For example in his work The Metamorphosis, Kafka depicts Gregor Samsa, a travelling salesman who wakes up to find himself transformed into a giant monstrous vermin.

Now the reason I started writing about the word Kafkaesque is that I was reading The Metamorphosis in the past few days and was attracted by the portrayal of the Kafkaesque world. There is a hell and heaven difference between a Kafkaesque and a Lovecraftian world. Although to me the Lovecraftian world seems more real, yet I must say that Kafka's views were very powerful and sometimes disturbing. For the benefit of my readers I have made a copy of The Metamorphosis available which you can download here. You can read it for free, but before redistributing it I would request you to go through the Copyright pages.

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