Every Kafka book, if not really badly translated, deserves a 5-star rating. However, the foreword of this book is misleading and insufficient, in fact, any critic on Kafka without detailed analysis on Kafka's family and the society is misleading and insufficient. Kafka was an over-sensitive humanbeing. He was thin and weak, while his father was big and strong. He worshiped his father. Although he did not want to obey his father (he wanted a career in writing), he was not strong enough to fight him (he finally earned his law degree). He loved his family and sacrificed a lot to his family, but they were common mercenary, heartless people who never understood his pain, which resulted The Judgement (toward his father) and The Metamorphisis (toward his whole family). Kafka was not a German, nor did Prague ever belong to Germany. It seems that few people are aware that Kafka lived in the breaking and dying Austro-Hungarian Empire, a mess of multi-nationality and multi-language. Hitler or Stalin or foreign politics was not Kafka's concern, and his works bear little evidence upon the struggle between Germans and Jews, the problems came within his own country, which was experiencing the pain of breaking into independent nations and the transition from monarchy to modern capitalism. The government was desperately showing its fading power by turning itself into a killing machine. (In The Trial, Joseph K never knew what he had been charged for, he could not find anybody to assist him, and he was finally secretly executed without a trial). Kafka's job has no important impact on his writing, but it exposed him to enough loneliness and unfortune in the lower society, and corruption in the government, which certainly added no credit to the Empire. Kafka actually saw the government and his father as the same tyrant, without either, Kafka would not be Kafka. If there is anything Kafkaesque, it is Kafka's way to see the world. Kafka did not imagine anything, he just honestly describe the world in his view. That is why no one can imitate Kafka. Whatever bizzare to us is routine to him. He writes with such calmness that it makes one think: maybe there does exist someone turning into a roach everyday. Translation is not frictionless, no matter how well done it is. If you really love Kafka, and want a better understanding, start learning German today! (Unfortunately people cannot revise their reviews after they are posted, please forgive any immature thought).
"The Complete Stories" has everything the beginning Kafka reader neads to get started. Of course this is required reading for the Kafka enthusiast. A well thought-out forward by John Updike prepares you for your journey into the amazing and complex mind of Kafka. The book is divided into two sections, one for the longer stories and one for the shorter stories (most of which only take up a page or two). The stories themselves are great. "The Metamorphisis" is included, in which Gregor Samsa awakens to find himself in the form of a rather large insect! "The Penal Colony", "The Judgment" and "A Country Doctor" are also included. There's certainly hasn't been an author since Kafka able to play upon the fears and emotions of the human mind, those thoughts playing in out head, when we realize that maybe some of this could happen to us. If you enjoy "The Complete Stories", be sure to pick up "Amerika", "The Castle" and "The Trial". These are Kafka's three novels and will complete your collection. All very much worth it!
Kafka was perhaps the greatest writer ever to live and this volume shows it. Every story, even every sketch of an idea that Kafka wrote down comes filled with brilliant emotions and deep meaning conveyed through simple and serious language. Shakespeare has none of the lyrical abilities of Kafka, and Homer could only dream of equaling Kafka's mastery of plot. Kafka out-psychoanalyzed Freud, and wrote circles around Joyce. His stories seem modern even by today's standards, the things that haven't come true yet in his works I believe will eventually, while I don't believe him to be a prophet he certainly had a great understanding of humankind and knew where it was headed. "A Country Doctor" is in my opinion the greatest short story ever written, a dark dream sequence with all kinds of slimy worms writhing beneath the surreal surface plot, sticking out through the rotted boards that Kafka puts down to allow us to see what we're standing over. "The Judgement," a purely perfect work of psychology, Kafka dipping deeper and hitting more nerves than in any of his other stories, giving us a picture of what it's like to be a genius controlled by a domineering, and a nonunderstanding father. And of course there are the smaller works from "Meditations," little snippets of images that flash through the mind, a kind of literary whispering in the ear while sitting in the dark. "The Burrow," another favorite, perhaps the most claustrophobic work of fiction ever conceived, the darkness of the tunnel affecting your mind for days. Read this book, in it the greatest treasure a writer ever gave us shines, a golden nugget, hidden deep within a dark pool that seems unswimable. Take the swim, and I garantee that you will find the nugget. Ignoring Kafka is like denying yourself the best there is.
Kafka has to be the one of the most influential writers of the century, not just for his ability to capture the alienation and unreality of much of modern life but because his vision, which is simultaneously totally bizarre and strangely moving, freed writers to try more and more daring ways of expressing themselves. After all, if one can write a moving story about a man who wakes one morning to discover that he has been turned into a huge cockroach, what can't the writer do? The impression left by these stories is all the more interesting when one realizes that Kafka wasn't a starving, drug or drink demented artist, but a minor clerk in a German insurance firm. A dull and orderly life. Of course, if you've ever worked for an insurance company Kafka's sense of unreality and alienation might seem natural. These are unique and wonderful concoctions. Anyone who wonders what 'Kafkaesque' really means should take a peek into his world. These stories are the best place to start. Then on to The Trial for the full, gruely experience. Wonderfully horrible.
Kafka's short stories are amazing. Few authors really harness tragedy like he does. Take "The Penal Colony" for instance. Kafka invents an ultimate devise of capital punishment, making it vile and disgusting, but coaxing the reader to almost rationalize the purpose of it's existence. As you finish the story though, you realize that it's not about an inhumane killing devise, but instead one man's obsession with it, and it's historical purposes. In a sense the story is a bad-mouthed eulogy of that man. One of Kafka's biggest achievements is his ability to have the reader sympathize with the "bad guy". Few authors can really get a reader emotionally involved with the book. So take home this book and sit in an under-lighted room as you read it, but be prepared. Soon you will find yourself lost within the words of Franz Kafka.
Who could argue with the below reviews? The book is breathtaking. The short fiction is not really a "good introduction" to Kafka, though, it is Kafka at his best. In relation to what the top 10 reviewer (with whom I otherwise very much agree) says below, however, I would add that this imagination did not merely spring from the "ordinary life" of an insurance clerk, but from the extraordinary historical condition of turn-of-the-century German and Jewish Prague. Two recommendations: Mark Anderson's *Kafka's Clothes* is a literary analysis of several of these works in the context of the declining Habsburg Empire; Scott Spector's *Prague Territories* relates Kafka's whole generation of German-Jewish Prague writers to the nationality conflict between Czechs, Germans, and Jews. Contexts for Kafka!
Kafka's genius lies in the intricate use of language. His sublte style conceals a world of secret doors to interpretation. The casual reader will easily glide by the well-masked portals and probably not come out the other end with much to show for it. On the other hand, the careful, open-minded reader could spend a lifetime exploring the labyrinth of interpretive possibilities within Kafka's works The only trouble with this particular book is the inherant difficulty related to translating literature. The translator did as fine a job as can be expected, considering the richness and pliability of the original text. Overall, this book belongs in the library of any Kafka afficionado.
Kafka's stories prove that he is a literary genius. His stories are easy to read and extremely deep. The light reader who just skims the page will not do that well with this book. But, if you are a person who loves to think about what you read, this book is for you. Kafka deserves much fame and intention because of his stories. Every story has an inner-message that can only be found by contemplation. The inner meaning usually has to do with life, respect, and love. Follow my advice, buy it, read it, love it, and E-mail me to tell me about it (firstname.lastname@example.org).
It would be foolish to offer too much praise. These stories demonstrate the internal collapse of a great mind; a mind great enough to observe its own maker. Yet for the reader who has been through such a sensation Kafka is supreme. He offers easy to read stories with almost unmatched complexities. I guess in many ways he represents what is buetiful about our deaths; a buety I must admit my daily life does not always allow me to appreciate and corraspond with. Never the less I must praise him in the end.