44 Insanely Trippy Franz Kafka Quotes That Will Make You Question Reality


Below, 44 thoughtful and powerful quotes by Franz Kafka, taken from Franz Kafka: Letters to Friends, Family, and Editors.
1. [To Felix Weltsch] “A pity that I never know whether I’ll be alive the next day or will only stagger through it, and that the later is always more probable. I will bring along an excellent article by Heimann in the Rundschau on politics and franchise.” (Prague, summer of 1917)
2. [To Kurt Wolff] “After the war… I will give up my job (giving it up is really my most intense hope), will marry and move away from Prague, possibly to Berlin…Nevertheless I—or the deep-seated bureaucrat inside me, which is the same thing—have an oppressive fear of this future.” (Prague, July 27, 1917)
3. [To Kurt Wolff] “Perhaps there is some misunderstanding concerning the “Penal Colony.” I have never been entirely wholehearted in asking for it to be published. Two or three of the final pages are botched, and their presence points to some deeper flaw; there is a worm somewhere which hollows out the story, dense as it is.” (Prague, September 4, 1917)
4. [To Max Brod] “It was very good that I went to the doctor and without you I surely would not have gone. By the way, you told him I was irresponsible, but on the contrary I am too calculating, and the Bible tells us what the fate of reckoners will be.” (Prague, September 5, 1917)
5. [To Max Brod] “Today is already looking natural, my inner weaknesses (not the disease, of which I know almost nothing as yet) are asserting themselves, from the farmyard across the way come an assortment of Noah’s ark sounds, an eternal tinsmith hammers his tin.” (Zürau, mid-September, 1917)
6. [To Max Brod] “You misunderstand it, Max, to judge by your final words in the hallway but perhaps I also misunderstand it and there is no understanding these things…because there is no seeing it whole, so turbulent and ever-moving is the gigantic mass which yet at the same time never ceases to grow.” (Zürau, mid-September, 1917)
7. [To Max Brod] “Misery, misery, but what is it but our own natures? And if the misery were ultimately to be disentangled (perhaps only women can do such work), you and I would fall apart.” (Zürau, mid-September, 1917)
8. [To Max Brod] “My attitude toward the tuberculosis today resembles that of a child clinging to the pleats of its mother’s skirts.” (Zürau, mid-September, 1917)
9. [To Max Brod] “I am constantly seeking an explanation for this disease, for I did not seek it. sometimes it seems to me that my brain and lungs came to an agreement without my knowledge. ‘Things cant go on this way,’ said the brain, and after five years the lungs said they were ready to help.” (Zürau, mid-September, 1917)
10. [To Oskar Baum] “And when everyone advises you against something, you lose desire for it. and when one doesn’t marry, one takes to the bottle, and so had he.” (Zürau, mid-September, 1917)
11. [To Max Brod] “The exquisite instinct you and I both have! A vulture, seeking quiet, I fly upward and swoop, straight as a die, into this room, opposite which a piano, wildly thumping its pedals, is playing, surely the only piano in this whole region.” (Zürau, mid-September, 1917)
12. [To Max Brod] “Our correspondence can be very simple: I do my writing, you yours, and that is answer, verdict, consolation, inconsolability, whatever one likes. For it is the same knife against whose blade our throats, our poor pigeons’ throats, one here, one there, are cut. But so slowly, so insidiously, with so little blood, so heartrendingly, so hearts-rendingly.” (Zürau, mid-September, 1917)
13. [To Max Brod] “In this context the morality is perhaps the last consideration, not even the last, the blood is the first and the second and the last. The question is how much passion is there, how much time it will take, for the walls of the heart to be pounded thin, that is if the lungs do not give out before the heart.” (Zürau, mid-September, 1917)
14. [To Max Brod] “F. has sent a few lines saying she is coming. I don’t grasp her, she is extraordinary, or rather I do grasp her but cannot hold her. I run all around her, barking, as a nervous dog might tear around a statue, or to present an equally true but converse picture, I gaze at her as a stuffed animal head mounted on the wall might look down at the person living quietly in his room. Half-truths, a thousandth of the truth. All that is true is that F. is probably coming.” (Zürau, mid-September, 1917)
15. [To Max Brod] “And he lives this way in the country, wont be budged from it, contented, the way a faintly burbling madness which one takes for the melody of life leads to contentment.” (Zürau, mid-September, 1917)
16. [To Max Brod] “This prudence, calm, superiority, and knowledge of the world is gloriously and horribly feminine—.” (Zürau, September 20, 1917)
17. [To Elsa and Max Brod] “With this snout-face the pig actually grubs up the ground…of late I have often seen the creature from close up, and you must believe me when I say that it is even more amazing that the pig does so. You would really think that just for testing purposes it would be enough to poke at the thing in question with a foot, or to smell it, or if necessary to sniff at it from close quarters—but no, all this will not do, and the pig does not even try but thrusts his snout right in, and if it has plunged into something horrid—all around me lie the droppings of my friends, the goats and the geese—then he snorts with delight.” (Zürau, beginning of October, 1917)
18. [To Elsa and Max Brod] “The pig’s body is not dirty, the animal could even be called fastidious (although this is not the kind of fastidiousness you would want to embrace). He has elegant, delicately stepping feet, and the movements of his body seem to flow from a single impulse. Only his noblest organ, his snout, is hopelessly piggish.” (Zürau, beginning of October, 1917)
19. [To Max Brod] “This afternoon I fed goats…These goats, by the way, look like thoroughly Jewish types, mostly doctors, though there are a few approximations of lawyers, polish Jews, and a scattering of pretty girls in the flock. Dr. W., the doctor who treats me, is heavily represented among them. The conference of three Jewish doctors whom I fed today were so pleased with me that they would hardly let themselves be driven home in the evening for milking.” (Zürau, mid-September, 1917)
20. [To Max Brod] “I have come to think that tuberculosis, or the kind of tuberculosis I have, is no special disease, or not a disease that deserves a special name, but only the germ of death itself, intensified, though to what degree we cannot for the time being determine.” (Zürau, beginning of October, 1917)
21. [To Felix Weltsch] “You’re right that the essential thing needed for recovery is the will to recover. I have that, but to the extent that this can be said without affectation I also have the opposite will.” (Zürau, beginning of October, 1917)
22. [To Max Brod] “[Thomas] Mann is one of those writers whose works I hunger for. This essay, too, is a wonderful broth, but because of the quantity of (figuratively speaking) Salus-like hairs floating around in the soup, one is more inclined to admire than to eat. It would seem that when one is full of sorrow, in order to heighten that sorrowful view of the world one has to stretch and bend as women do after a bath.” (Zürau, October 12, 1917)
23. [To Max Brod] “I would not want people to make a long trip…to come in this autumnal weather to this village…and all this simply to see me—who am sometimes bored… sometimes oversensitive, sometimes fretting over a letter that is supposed to come, or has failed to come, or is threatening to come, sometimes calmed by a letter I have written, sometimes immoderately concerned about myself and my own comforts, sometimes inclined to spit myself out as utterly repulsive, and so on, in all the circles the poodle traces around Faust.” (Zürau, October 12, 1917)
24. [To Felix Weltsch] “My relationship with the people here is so loose, it is hardly like being among the living. This evening, for instance, I met two people on the dark highway; there was no telling whether they were men, women, or children.” (Zürau, October 17, 1917)
25. [To Felix Weltsch] “The nature-cure theories are as wrong as their psychological counterparts. But that has little bearing on the question of whether the world can be cured from a single point.” (Zürau, October 17, 1917)
26. [To Max Brod] “I tell you this only because of one thing which relates to our conversation—I mean the “spasm of jealousy.” That was the only good moment in the day, the moment when I had an enemy—for otherwise it was a clear field, a steep downhill drop.” (Zürau, October 17, 1917)
27. [To Max Brod] “There is some kind of alien element in my sister to which I can most easily adjust in this particular form…Here I can submit.” (Zürau, beginning of November, 1917)
28. [To Max Brod] “What you call suspicious sometimes seems to me merely the play of surplus forces which you, because you are not fully concentrating, have not thrown into your writing or into Zionism—the two are really one, of course. So in this sense it may be called, if you like, a justified suspicion.” (Zürau, mid-November, 1917)
29. [To Felix Weltsch] “The first fatal flaw of Zürau: a night of mice, a fearful experience…here and there in the night I had heard a delicate nibbling , once in fact I started out of bed all atremble and had a look around and the noise stopped at once—but this time it was an uproar. What a frightful mute and noisy race this is!” (Zürau, mid-November, 1917)
30. [To Felix Weltsch] “Up the coal box, down the coal box, across the room they ran, describing circles, nibbling at wood, peeping softly while resting, and all along there was that sense of silence, of the secret labor of an oppressed proletarian race to whom the night belongs.” (Zürau, mid-November, 1917)
31. [To Felix Weltsch] “I control the mice with a cat, but how shall I control the cat? You imagine that you have nothing against mice? Naturally, nor have you anything against cannibals either, but if they should start crawling about in the night behind every chest and chattering their teeth at you, you surely could not bear them any longer.” (Zürau, beginning of December, 1917)
32. [To Max Brod] “My reaction toward the mice is one of sheer terror. Certainly this fear, like an insect phobia, is connected with the unexpected, uninvited, inescapable, more or less silent, persistent, secret aim of these creatures, with the sense that they have riddled the surrounding walls through and through with their tunnels and are lurking within, that the night is theirs, that because of their nocturnal existence and their tininess they are so remote from us and thus outside our power.” (Zürau, beginning of December, 1917)
33. [To Max Brod] “The idea that there should exist an animal who would look exactly like a pig—in itself amusing—but is as small as a rat and could emerge snuffling out of a hole in the floor. That is a horrible idea.” (Zürau, beginning of December, 1917)
34. [To Max Brod] “How hard it is to arrive at an understanding with an animal…There seem to be only misunderstandings, for the cat knows…that there is something undesirable about taking care of her needs of nature, and that the place for it has to be carefully chosen. So what does she do? Well, for example she chooses a spot that is dark, that will in addition show me her affection, and will have other qualities she finds pleasant. But from the human side this spot happens to be the inside of my bedroom slipper. So here is another misunderstanding, and there are as many of these as there are nights and needs of nature.” (Zürau, beginning of December, 1917)
35. [To Max Brod] “These past few nights have been quiet, at least there were no unequivocal signs of mice. Moreover it does not help one get to sleep to take over a portion of the cat’s assignment, and sit upright or leaning forward in bed with pricked ears and glowing eyes. But that was only on the first night.” (Zürau, beginning of December, 1917)
36. [To Max Brod] “I have lately had two or three bad experiences—or perhaps only one—which have so increased my permanent bewilderment as though I were, for instance, in the last class of gymnasium and were suddenly, through some educational decree whose basis was beyond my ken, demoted to the first grade of elementary school.” (Zürau, middle or end of January, 1918)
37. [To Max Brod] “I often have this dream: I take some stick or just break off a twig, jab it at an angle into the ground, seat myself astride it, as witches mount their broomstick, or merely lean against it the way one leans against a walking stick in the street, and that is enough for me to go flying off in long low leaps, up hill, down dale, as I like.” (Schelesen, January 1919)
38. [To Minze Eisner] “If my eyes should ever become finer, clearer, then you will get a picture, but then again it would be unnecessary, for then they would be able to see all the way to Karlsbad and straight into your heart (such power have clear human eyes), whereas now they can only painfully drift about in your sincere, and for that reason previous, letter.” (Prague, February, 1920)
39. [To Minze Eisner] “Of course youth is always lovely; one dreams of the future and stirs dreams in others, or rather one is oneself a dream, and how could that help being lovely.” (Prague, February, 1920)
40. [To Minze Eisner] “My head, I think, prefers the north, but my lungs the south. But since the lungs usually sacrifice themselves when it becomes too hard on the head, so the head in reciprocation has gradually conceived a longing for the south.” (Prague, February, 1920)
41. [To Minze Eisner] “As for the photo, Minze, let’s drop the matter, shall we, if only because in the dark (I mean, when people do not see each other) they hear each other better. And we want to hear each other well.” (Prague, February, 1920)
42. [To Minze Eisner] “Perhaps I will go to Meran after all, or else to the moon, where there is no air at all and where the lungs can take a rest.” (Prague, February, 1920)
43. [To Minze Eisner] “Everyone has his sharp-toothed sleep-destroying devil inside him, and this is neither good nor bad, but is life. If one did not have him, one would not live. What you curse in yourself, therefore, is your life. This devil is the material…that you have been endowed with and with which you are supposed to make something.” (Prague, March, 1920)
44. [To Minze Eisner] “What kind of home will it be if your devils sit in every warm corner, not one of the lot missing and all of them growing ever stronger to the same degree that you grow ever weaker?” (Prague, March, 1920)