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Kafka's Office Writings

Recently released by Princeton University Press, Kafka’s Office Writings may well be the last of the last of the Kafka texts to appear in English. Kafka’s writings as a professional lawyer with the Workmen’s Accident Insurance Institute, may not seem to hold a lot of promise, but the description of the contents sounds strangely intriguing (though I may just be seduced by the jacket copy):

These documents include articles on workmen’s compensation and workplace safety; appeals for the founding of a psychiatric hospital for shell-shocked veterans; and letters arguing relentlessly for a salary adequate to his merit. In adjudicating disputes, promoting legislative programs, and investigating workplace sites, Kafka’s writings teem with details about the bureaucracy and technology of his day, such as spa elevators in Marienbad, the challenge of the automobile, and the perils of excavating in quarries while drunk.

(And I always heard you excavate quarries better after having a few . . . )

To celebrate this release, Nextbook has been running a five-part series by Joshua Cohen about the office writings and its relation to Kafka’s other works:

Kafka’s office writings, as presented here, cannot be read on their own (they are incomprehensibly boring) but, instead, must be read as companions, to demystify the three novels and stories (which are anything but boring). Taken together, though, both workaday fact and masterwork fiction create a network of connections that exposes not just the concerns of a single writer, but also that of a singular culture—the culture of the Office, which has imposed itself on what used to be our lives.

The fifth part isn’t online yet (I’ll update this post when it goes live), but parts 1-4 are available at the following links: The Office: Kafka Edition, Before Kafka, Kafka, and After Kafka.

[Update: Part 5 — Conclusion is now available.]



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