Reclaiming Franz kafka, doctor of jurisprudence

There is no end of interest in the work of Franz Kafka, surely one of the great modernists of our time. Stories such as "The Trial" and "In the Penal Colony" live in popular culture. Images like the hapless Gregor Samsa, the man who became a giant insect, have iconic status. But while critical interpretations of Kafka still proliferate, there is precious little commentary on Kafka's work as a lawyer. By looking at this less visible side of Kafka's life and work - a side that Kafka himself tried to keep well hidden - we can gain a new understanding of Kafka's literary oeuvre. Kafka's fascination with mechanical detail as well as his penetrating insight into the workings of modern bureaucracy were all influenced by his activity as the principal member of the legal section of a quasi-public, quasi-private accident insurance company. Kafka coupled a concrete prose style to literalness of expression deployed in the service of strange stories and enigmatic tales in unfamiliar settings, but none of this can be separated from a professional position that put him in personal contact with horrific industrial injuries as processed through an uncaring bureaucracy bound to an antiquated justice system - contacts that reinforced an innate identification with the victims of social inequality and indifference.
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