• When Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect. (1)
• A cage went in search of a bird. (2)
• A first sign of the beginning of understanding is the wish to die. (3)
Roberto Aizenberg, Painting (Pintura), 1985. Oil on canvas, 86 x 57 cm. Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Buenos Aires
• Every man lives behind bars, which he carries within him. (4)
• Like a path in autumn: no sooner is it cleared than it is once again littered with fallen leaves. (5)
• One cannot escape oneself. That is fate. The only possibility is to look on and forget that a game is being played with us. (6)
• There are some things one can only achieve by a deliberate leap in the opposite direction. (7)
• The true path is along a rope, not a rope suspended way up in the air, but rather only just over the ground. It seems more like a tripwire than a tightrope. (8)
• The word "sein" signifies in German both things: to be, and to belong to Him. (9)
• It's often safer to be in chains than to be free. (10)
• Try with all you might to comprehend the decrees of the high command, but only up to a certain point; then avoid further meditation. (11)
• Human nature, essentially changeable, unstable as the dust, can endure no restraint; if it binds itself it soon begins to tear madly at its bonds, until it rends everything assunder, the wall, the bonds and its very self. (12)
• Perhaps this quiet yet unquiet waiting is the harbinger of grace or perhaps it is grace itself. (13)
• Life is astoundingly short. (14)
• A book must be like an ax for the frozen sea within us. (15)
Franz Kafka, Die Verwandlung, Leipzig: K. Wolff 1915. Illustration by Ottomar Starke
1 Franz Kafka (1883-1924), The Metamorphosis (Die Verwandlung), 1915, ch. 1, ref. dehumanization
2 The Zürau Aphorisms, 1917.
3 The Collected Aphorisms, 1917-18, no. 13
4 In Gustav Janouch, "Conversations with Kafka," tr. Goronwy Rees, Encounter, August 1971
5 The Zürau Aphorisms, 1917
6 In Janouch, Conversations with Kafka, 1953, tr. Goronwy Rees, p. 99
7 Ibid., p. 107
8 The Zürau Aphorisms, 1917. Franz Kafka, Obras Completas, Barcelona: Teorema, 1: El camino verdadero pasa por una cuerda, que no está extendida en alto, sino sobre el suelo. Parece preparada más para hacer tropezar, que para que uno siga su rumbo. See also David Kaufmann, "Kafka in the Countryside," Forward, 8.9.06, http://www.forward.com/articles/2419/
9 Reflections, 1917-20
10 The Advocate, The Trial (Der Prozeß), 1925, ch. 8. An allusion to Rousseau's famous dictum, "Man is born free, and he is in chains everywhere" (The Social Contract, 1762).
11 The Great Wall of China (Beim Bau der chinesischen Mauer). A "very wise maxim" regarding the rationale behind the construction of the Great Wall.
13 In Janouch, Conversations with Kafka, 1953, p. 93
14 The Next Village, 1917-23
15 Letter to Oskar Pollak, 27 January 1904
Franz Kafka, photograph, 1906
• We all have wings, but they have not been of any avail to us and if we could tear them off, we would do so.
• Evil is whatever distracts.
• Every revolution evaporates and leaves behind only the slime of a new bureaucracy.
• Don Quixote's misfortune is not his imagination, but Sancho Panza.
• How pathetically scanty my self-knowledge is compared with, say, my knowledge of my room. There is no such thing as observation of the inner world, as there is of the outer world.
• One advantage in keeping a diary is that you become aware with reassuring clarity of the changes which you constantly suffer.
• I have the true feeling of myself only when I am unbearably unhappy.
Alberto Giacometti, Walking Man, bronze
• My "fear" is my substance, and probably the best part of me.