Franz Kafka was born today. In the black-and-white Prague of his boyhood the sun shone yellow on the gray pavement. Debates were held in the cathedral. The rituals of life were very great. Every man had the right to a trial. Behind the mound above the hill on the northern edge of the medieval town stood a castle. Rumors of its existence encircled the turrets of the building like swarms of hornets. Kafka listened.
Franz Kafka was born on July 3, 1883. When he began to compose the stories on which his enduring posthumous fame is based, he decided to write in the German language. He knew that he was born on the day before the day the United States was born. It was this, he joked to Jaspers on one of their walks, that he had in mind when he wrote Amerika.
Franz had a father. His father had a store. It was three o'clock. The father's example made the son loathe himself. The castle existed in his mind like a bird on a branch, singing in the darkness.
Hermann and Julie Kafka did what they could. He was their first born. He arrived a year after they were married. Two other sons died as infants. What was the effect on young Kafka? "Difficult to assess," the professor said. Three younger sisters survived. The brood was brought up by governesses.
Kafka was named after Franz-Joseph, emperor of the German-speaking Austro-Hungarian Empire that spanned the ancient capitals of Prague and Vienna and Budapest. The drama of Kafka's life was the crumbling of that empire. He took a job in 1907 with the Assicurizioni Generali Insurance Company. The hours were long, the work mind-numbing, the offices filthy, the girls unhappy, the boys guilt-ridden, the hypocrisy contemptible. Then, in 1908, he found the ideal job for his extraordinary imagination. He went to work for the Workers' Accident Insurance Institute. An executive in the human resources department of a major university advised me that Kafka's practical expertise in workers' compensation issues of his own era would have equipped him to deal with our own. "Better than having two master's degrees," she said.
Kafka did not want to become famous. "Posthumous fame is not the best kind," he said. "It is the only kind."
That this prototypical Cancer with Gemini moon has Leo as a rising sign has not escaped the notice of astrological analysis. Dr. Setz of Arnheim pointed out that there is far more air (42.8%) than fire (12.8%) in Kafka's chart. "It will surprise no one that the mutable outweighs the cardinal and the fixed among the modes in Kafka's nature, but I can't be the only one present who failed to expect a domination of 55 yang to 45 yin. In a presidential election, that would be a landslide." There was much murmuring as of flies on summer eves.
In his diary Kafka wrote that coitus is "the punishment for being happy together." -- DL