Franz Kafka: the First Millennial
A writer who was ahead of his time
It is a cold night at the dawn of the holiday season. The Trial by Franz Kafka continues to sit on top of my desk. Its cover pays homage to its surreal nature, presenting two columns of eyes in five horizontal rows, giving the indication that it is a book about control and paranoia. I am unfamiliar with most of the plot, other than the famous opening of its main character being accused of a crime he did not commit., but I am familiar with the themes it tackles. This was the main reason I became interested in the book in the first place. Kafka has a mystic-like representation in my conscious. There is a profound lack of optimism in almost all his stories, and I’ve always believed that such works are only written by men who have ventured into the void.
Kafka was ahead of his time. His work centered around the overwhelming nature of existence before many began to ponder such possibilities on a cultural level. No other writer of the early 20th Century was able to capture the despair of the human condition in modern times quite like Kafka was able to. In many ways, this has made Kafka the very first embodiment of the millennial dogma.
You may be wondering what has led me to conclude such a thing. The answer is simple: his condition and state of mind mirror that of a millennial almost to a perfect resemblance. If one is to look into the details of his life, it would be easy to uncover that many of his major works were published much after his death. Why is such the case? He was a working man who never made much money for his art. He was unable to turn his creative talents and ambitions in literature into a career. The shackles of a normal life were a heavy burden for his inhibitions, and I suspect that they had a large role to play in his frustrations with existence. He was a man who saw disappointment and misery in himself and others on almost a daily basis. The political climate during such times, and the events of The Great War must’ve surely played a role in his psychological state as well. And let us not forget the array of health problems that he faced throughout his life.
Living an existence under such conditions is what has come to define this generation. The events that took place during our childhood led us to be exposed to information on a scale never before seen in human history. Social media has caused us to see the world on much more complex notes than any past generation ever did. The results have been mixed, but the overall impression among us is that we have unlocked Pandora’s Box. There is nothing to strip us away from this burden. Truth did not set us free; it further imprisoned us in our own ignorance.
Kafka is a peculiar figure in the realm of literature. His writings were not used to observe or learn any lessons about morality or ethics, but to serve as a warning for the predicaments of reality. In many ways, they were prophetic in nature, and his influence is found at the core of millennial’s existential struggle with the vast and powerful systems of control that permeate their daily lives. It is my understanding that Kafka didn’t give any solutions to his stories. The enemy always won, and the struggle is forgotten, swallowed up by an indifferent world. If there is any optimistic aspect of his work, it is one that is filled with bleakness and beyond their pages. Part of what has come to define him as a writer is his belief that there is no escaping the condition.
It is obvious that Kafka and millennials share the same sentimentalities over life, but there is a distinction between both. While Kafka came to embrace his condition to suffer, millennials refuse to surrender. Hope lies in the balance of our identity. Whether such sentiments and expectations are met is a process that is ongoing. Life moves on regardless.
Thank you very much for reading. If you enjoyed this, here is more of my work:
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