10 Best Books by Franz Kafka | TheReviewGeek Recommends

Throughout his life, Franz Kafka penned numerous short stories and novels, several of which remained unfinished due to his untimely death at the age of forty. His works are famed for their exploration of absurd and surreal scenarios, so much so that the term “Kafkaesque” has been coined to describe such situations.

In this article, we’ll venture into the labyrinthine world of Kafka’s imagination, ranking ten of his most noteworthy works. As usual, your thoughts are welcome in the comments below:

Best Franz Kafka Books
“The Metamorphosis”

Earning the top spot on our list is Kafka’s magnum opus, ‘The Metamorphosis’. Written in three weeks in a burst of inspiration, this novel tells the bizarre tale of Gregor Samsa, an ordinary travelling salesman who wakes up to find himself transformed into a giant insect, a change that is never explained or rationalised.

As Gregor grapples with this unwelcome transformation, he gradually loses touch with his humanity and ultimately dies, much to the relief of his family. The story is a haunting exploration of alienation, guilt, and identity.

Best Franz Kafka Books
“The Trial”

‘The Trial’ follows closely behind in second place. This short novel chronicles the tribulations of Josef K., a man accused of an unknown crime. Throughout the narrative, Josef attempts to unravel the mystery of his supposed transgression, but neither he nor the readers ever discover what he allegedly did.

He faces prosecution from an inaccessible authority and lacks any real means of defending himself. Kafka’s biting critique of bureaucratic inefficiency and the impotence of the individual within the system make this work chillingly relevant even today.

Best Franz Kafka Books
“The Castle”

‘The Castle’, another Kafka classic, is a must-read if you have a taste for the unique. The protagonist, known only as “K”, arrives in a village with the hopes of gaining access to a castle. Despite his relentless efforts, K’s quest remains unfulfilled as Kafka died before completing the novel.

In a letter, Kafka hinted that the novel would conclude with K’s death in the village and the receipt of an absurd, quintessentially Kafkaesque missive from the castle. The novel is a profound study of bureaucracy, isolation, and the human longing for acceptance.

Best Franz Kafka Books
“A Hunger Artist”

‘A Hunger Artist’ is a disturbing story of a man who starves himself for others’ entertainment. As the artist loses interest in his profession, he simultaneously reaches the peak of his art.

Published in 1922, this narrative provides a poignant commentary on the artist’s struggle for recognition and the public’s fickle tastes.

Best Franz Kafka Books
“In The Penal Colony”

‘In the Penal Colony’ is an intriguing story that lays bare the gruesome execution of a prisoner. The narrative focuses heavily on the “apparatus” that carves the prisoner’s sentence onto his back before his death. Through this chilling tale, Kafka explores themes of justice, power, and the perversion of moral values.

Some consider ‘In The Penal Colony’ as Kafka’s understanding of real-life incidents involving pre-war brutality and injustice in justice. 

Best Franz Kafka Books
“Letter To His Father”

In ‘Letter to His Father’, Kafka lays bare the fears and anxieties of his childhood. This 40-page missive reveals the deep-seated influence his father had on him, primarily negative.

Kafka hoped that this letter could bridge their emotional distance, but his mother returned the letter to him unopened. This deeply personal work offers readers a glimpse into the author’s psyche.

Best Franz Kafka Books

‘Amerika’, also known as ‘The Man Who Disappeared’, is next on our list. This incomplete novel charts the journey of European teenager Karl Roßmann, who is forced to immigrate to America following a scandal with a housemaid.

Although the novel ends abruptly, Kafka indicated to his friend Max Brod that it would culminate in reconciliation. The narrative, fraught with absurdities and injustices, bears the unmistakable stamp of Kafka’s tragicomic vision.

Best Franz Kafka Books
“The Judgment”

‘The Judgement’ is a short story about a young merchant and his domineering father. After an innocent conversation, the father unexpectedly passes a harsh judgement on his son, sentencing him to drown himself. The abruptness of the judgement and the son’s willing acceptance of it makes this story one of Kafka’s most enigmatic works.

Best Franz Kafka Books
“The Great Wall of China”

The penultimate entry on our list is ‘The Great Wall of China’, a short story that reflects on the construction of the monumental wall.

Written in 1917 and published in 1930, the story delves into the politics of power, isolation, and communication, with the wall serving as a metaphor for the barriers between individuals and communities. It’s narrated in first person by an older man from the south.  

Best Franz Kafka Books
“The Complete Stories”

Finally, we have ‘The Complete Stories’, a collection that brings together all of Kafka’s short stories, from the briefest sketches to longer works like ‘The Metamorphosis’.

It includes the parable ‘Before the Law’ and ‘An Imperial Message’, both masterpieces in miniature. This collection is essential reading for anyone wishing to delve into Kafka’s unique literary realm.

There we have it, our list of 10 best books by Franz Kafka. What do you think about our picks? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below:

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