Kafka in Hell

Kafka: The Decisive Years and Kafka: The Years of Insight, Reviewed | New Republic

For Kafka, none of these lawyerly obligations, however demanding, counted as work. No matter that his acumen and skills were regularly rewarded with promotion by the pair of bookish and obliging men who were his superiors, and though he was deemed so valuable that they contrived to have him exempted from military service, he felt depleted, and even assaulted, by the very papers his own hand produced. Of this necessarily official language he wrote bitterly, “I am still holding all of it in my mouth with revulsion and a feeling of shame, as though it were raw flesh cut out of me (that is how much effort it cost me) … everything in me is ready for lyrical work, and a work of that kind would be a heavenly resolution and a real coming alive for me, while here, in the office, because of such a wretched document I have to tear from a body capable of such happiness a piece of its flesh.” And again, with the emphasis of despair, “real hell is there in the office; I no longer fear any other.” And yet another tightening of the vise: “For me it is a horrible double life from which there is probably no way out except insanity.”

Notably, Kafka worked at an insurance company during this time.

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