How Franz Kafka’s Tormented Relationship With His Abusive Father Profoundly Affected His Writing

In the latest of their “Literature” series, the School of Life offers insight into writer Franz Kafka, connecting his tormented childhood with a psychologically and physically abusive father with the disturbing themes, fear of judgement and sense of isolation that made his stories so compelling.

Franz Kafka was born in Prague in 1883 the eldest child of a terrifyingly psychologically abusive father and a mother who was too weak and in awe of her husband to protect her boy as she should have done. Kafka grew up timid, bookish, meek and full of self-hatred. …the idea of horrific arbitrary judgment was to be a constant in Kafka’s fiction. It reappears in the unfinished novel “The Trial, written two years later but now Kafka had developed it away from a father to a vast legal apparatus with judges lawyers guards and extensive bureaucratic procedures. When Joseph K is arrested on the morning of his 30th birthday he hasn’t told what he is charged with. He barely makes any attempt to find out he feel so guilty inside he just knows that he deserves punishment. …”The Metamorphosis”, a short story in which a traveling salesman Gregor Samsa wakes up one morning transformed into an insect akin to a beetle or a bed bug. It’s a story of self-disgust, about the treachery of family, and like “The Trial”, about terrifying arbitrary power.