During tough times, readers and audiences often seek an escape from the banality of life. The turn of the twentieth century was unequivocally a disconcerting time of transition for Europe. It is in this context that Franz Kafka (1883-1924) captured the complex surrealism and absurd loneliness of urban life. His writing functioned as a condemnation and a vindication of an era that provided no simplistic answers to pressing social questions. Anarchist overtones, Marxist critiques, and deliberate existentialism; all of it dark and none of it clear-cut. When readers sought an escape in his works they were provided with a precise account of the bleakest truth. Kafka does not provide an elaborate fantasy to distract from the truth. On the contrary, he illustrates the truth by distorting; empowering the reader with a fringe perspective. His writing created an escape that emphasized the fact that there was no escape, society was at a dead-end.
So as Kafka turns 130, we acknowledge that the greatest escape is a dead-end. It is from this that we learn to balance the inevitable pursuit of truth, as ominous as it may be, and the predictable need for human relationships. Happy Birthday Mr. Kafka!