Choice Quotes from Kafka’s Journals


“Great antipathy to ‘Metamorphosis.’ Unreadable ending. Imperfect almost to its very marrow. It would have turned out much better if I had not been interrupted at the time by the business trip.” (January 19th, 1914)

“What an effort to keep alive! Erecting a monument does not require the expenditure of so much strength!” (March 9th, 1914)

“What will be my fate as a writer is very simple. My talent for portraying my dreamlike inner life has thrust all other matters into the background; my life has dwindled dreadfully, nor will it cease to dwindle. Nothing else will ever satisfy me.” (August 6th, 1914)

“The beginning of every story is ridiculous at first. There seems no hope that this newborn thing, still incomplete and tender in every joint, will be able to keep alive in the completed organization of the world… However, one should not forget that the story, if it has any justification to exist, bears its complete organization within itself even before it has been fully formed; for this reason despair over the beginning of a story is unwarranted; in a like case parents should have to despair of their suckling infant, for they had no intention of bringing this pathetic and ridiculous being into the world. Of course, one never knows whether the despair one feels is warranted or unwarranted. But reflecting on it can give one a certain support; in the past I have suffered from the lack of this knowledge.” (December 19th, 1914)

“Just now read the beginning. It is ugly and gives me a headache. In spite of all its truth it is wicked, pedantic, mechanical, a fish barely breathing on a sandbank.” (February 9th, 1915)

“Insoluble problem: Am I broken? Am I in decline? Almost all the signs speak for it (coldness, apathy, state of my nerves, distractedness, incompetence on the job, headaches, insomnia); almost nothing but hope speaks against it.” (October 7th, 1915)

“You have the chance, as far as it is at all possible, to make a new beginning. Don’t throw it away. If you insist on digging deep into yourself, you won’t be able to avoid the muck that will well up. But don’t wallow in it. If the infection in your lungs is only a symbol,… then the medical advice (light, air, sun, rest) is also a symbol. Lay hold of this symbol.” (September 15th, 1917 – the first entry he made after the medical confirmation of his tuberculosis)

“The strange, mysterious, perhaps dangerous, perhaps saving comfort that there is in writing: it is a leap out of murders’ row; it is a seeing of what is really taking place.” (January 27th, 1922)

“More and more fearful as I write. It is understandable… The only consolation would be: it happens whether you like or no. And what you like is of infinitesimally little help. More than consolation is: You too have weapons.” (June 12th, 1923 – final entry)

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