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Author Franz Kafka explored the human struggle for understanding and security in his novels such as Amerika, The Trial and The Castle.
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The story centers on the life of Joseph K., who is forced to defend himself in a hopeless court system against a crime that is never revealed to him or to the reader.
The following year, Brod released The Castle, which again railed against a faceless and dominating beauarcracy. In the novel, the protagonist, whom the reader knows only as K., tries to meet with the mysterious authorities who rule his village.
In 1927, the novel Amerika was published. The story hinges on a boy,
Karl Rossmann, who is sent by his family to America, where his innocence and simplicity are exploited everywhere he travels. Amerika struck at the same father issues that were prevalent in so much of Kafka's other work. But the story also spoke to Kafka's love of travel books and memoirs (he adored The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin) and his longing to see the world.
In 1931, Brod published the short story "The Great Wall of China," which Kafka had originally crafted 14 years before.
Incredibly, at the time of his death Kafka's name was known only to small group of readers. It was only after he died and Max Brod went against the demands of his friend that Kafka and his work gained fame. His books garnered favor during World War II, especially, and greatly influenced German literature.
As the 1960s took shape and Eastern Europe was under the fist of bureaucratic Communist governments, Kafka's writing resonated particularly strongly with readers. So alive and vibrant were the tales that Kafka spun about man and faceless organizations that a new term was introduced into the English lexicon: "Kafkaesque."
The measure of Kafka's appeal and value as a writer was quantified in 1988, when his handwritten manuscript of The Trial was sold at auction for $1.98 million, at that point the highest price ever paid for a modern manuscript.
The buyer, a West German book dealer, gushed after his purchase was finalized. "This is perhaps the most important work in 20th-century German literature," he said, "and Germany had to have it."
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