Franz Kafka: The Office Writings brings together, for the first time in English, Kafka's most interesting professional writings, composed during his years as a high-ranking lawyer with the largest Workmen's Accident Insurance Institute in the Czech Lands of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Franz Kafka (1883-1924) is commonly recognized as the greatest German prose writer of the twentieth century. It is less well known that he had an established legal career. Kafka's briefs reveal him to be a canny bureaucrat, sharp litigator, and innovative thinker on the social, political, and legal issues of his time. His official preoccupations inspired many of the themes and strategies of the novels and stories he wrote at night.
These documents include articles on workmen's compensation and workplace safety; appeals for the founding of a psychiatric hospital for shell-shocked veterans; and letters arguing relentlessly for a salary adequate to his merit. In adjudicating disputes, promoting legislative programs, and investigating workplace sites, Kafka's writings teem with details about the bureaucracy and technology of his day, such as spa elevators in Marienbad, the challenge of the automobile, and the perils of excavating in quarries while drunk. Beautifully translated, with valuable commentary by two of the world's leading Kafka scholars and one of America's most eminent civil rights lawyers, the documents cast rich light on the man and the writer and offer new insights to lovers of Kafka's novels and stories.
"The Office Writings, however, convincingly suggests that his job was also integral to his writing, and that his literary production was not an escape from the alienation of daily life to that 'dreamlike inner life' but a striving to reconcile the two."--Alexander Provan, The Nation
"Kafka himself complained constantly that his day job at the Prague Workmen's Accident Insurance Institute oppressed his artistic calling; this volume's editors beg to differ. In the hands of Kafka scholars Stanley Corngold and Benno Wagner and the legal scholar Jack Greenberg, the 18 briefs collected here comprise more than a record of the author's years in the insurance business. By reading between his legal writings and his fiction, the editors argue that Kafka's dual identities are inextricable: the writer is informed by the lawyer, the lawyer by the writer. Franz Kafka is the Franz Kafka we know not in spite of his day job, but rather because of it."--Rachel Sugar, The National (Abu Dhabi)
"[T]he texts have impressive sociological merit: They provide a compelling picture of what life was like for an early twentieth-century bureaucrat who took his work seriously, believed in it, and did it well. . . . But ultimately, the value of The Office Writings lies less in the potential connections to Kafka's fiction than in the fundamental disconnect."--Ben Kafka, Bookforum
"Cognizant that some readers might be put off by the legal writing style, Corngold (German & comparative literature, Princeton Univ.), Jack Greenberg (law, Columbia Univ.), and Benno Wagner (literature, media, & culture, Univ. of Siegen, Germany) provide ample and rich analyses that demonstrate the close link between Kafka's profession and his literary creativity and oeuvre. This scholarly book is indispensable to an understanding of Kafka. Highly recommended."--Ali Houissa, Library Journal (Starred Review)
Table of Contents
Another Princeton book authored or coauthored by Stanley Corngold: