I remember my first introduction to Kafka, I was a senior in high school and had to read Metamorphosis which was weird, uncomfortable, and really dark. More than anything though, it was unique and utterly unforgettable.
During an adventure I took to Charleston, South Carolina (more on that later), I picked up his Complete Stories at the College of Charleston’s Barnes and Noble.
After one month, I finally finished it and my first thought was: “My head hurts.” I was spinning. His stories had a similar quality to James Joyce’s Dubliners (another must read in my opinion) in that they are all fast paced and some just seem to have abrupt endings with no real sense of closure. Kafka, however is able to make you feel the anxiety and racing thoughts he must have had. His stories have moments where they are really incoherent, ideas seem to run across the page, some lead to another, some don’t seem to lead to anything. Why read it then? Because he is able to let you into his mind and see his reality. Sure it isn’t probably isn’t yours and it isn’t mine, but he is able to show you around his world and make you feel what he felt and in this sense, I think he is a very gifted writer.
Would I suggest this as a casual tea-sipping Saturday read? Absolutely not. Nor do I think it is a good introductory piece into literature (maybe The Metamorphosis, A Country Doctor, and Investigations of a Dog are the exceptions). However, I would suggest it to the intermediate-advanced nerd (nerd is a loving term here). Especially if you like psychology (you can psychoanalyze Kafka for DAYS) and if you already have some experience reading drier material…Like Bram Stoker’s Dracula or Plato’s Republic.