It is possible that too much attention is paid to the relationship of Kafka with his father. I doubt it would be such a pronounced item of interest if Kafka had not written his rather infamous Letter To His Father. To me, it is just as telling that Kafka guaranteed that his father would never actually receive the missive (he gave it to his mother to deliver). Still, we none of us are unaffected by our parents (or their lack). This article offers interesting observations.
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Kafka and His Uneasy Relationship with Egocentricity
Franz Kafka was one of the most intriguing writers of the 20th century. An anecdote might be the best way to illustrate some of the questions that surround him: 1929 Nobel Prize winner Thomas Mann lent Albert Einstein a copy of one of Kafka’s novels. Einstein tried to read it but ended up giving it back saying, "Couldn’t read it for its perversity. The human mind isn’t complicated enough."
The anecdote contains some of the main elements that surround Kafka: Mann obviously thought him noteworthy; Einstein didn’t like the book at all; and, according to Einstein, Kafka depicted a perverse world. On this last point there is general agreement: Kafka’s books depict life as a bizarre and maddening maze of bureaucracy where people are accused of crimes but are never told what they have done wrong. The term "Kafkaesque" has become part of the English language, meaning that something is overly complex in a seemingly pointless, and often disturbing way.
I want to try and see if I can make sense of what confounded Einstein, in particular: why didn’t Kafka just "make the best of life" like others do and accept our ego and egocentric lives? To attempt this I am going to use two tools: the first is Kafka’s own 41-page "Letter to his Father"; and the second is an interesting theory on the biological roots of the human condition that I have recently stumbled upon. It is by the Australian biologist and author Jeremy Griffith.