Franz Kafka was born in Prague, July 3, 1883, the son of
Hermann and Julie Kafka. The oldest, he had three surviving younger sisters.
Valli, Elli, and Ottla. His father was a self-made middle class Jewish
merchant, who raised his children in the hope of assimilating them into the
mainstream society of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
The official ruling language of the empire was German, so
Franz attended German grammar school (Volksschule am Fleischmarkt), and later
the German Gymnasium (Altstädter Deutsches Gymnasium). He finished his
Doctorate of Law in Prague, studying at the German language University (Die
deutsche Universität) there. He initially gained employment at a private
insurance firm Assicurazioni Generali and then with the
Arbeiter-Unfall-Versicherungs-Anstalt für das Königreichs Böhmen in Prag.
Kafka's job at the Worker's Accident Insurance provided him
with a steady income and 'regular' office hours, so that he could dedicate his
evenings to writing. His diaries contain continuing accounts of his
restlessness and sleeplessness, as he would work all night writing, only to
return to the office for the next day of work, thoroughly exhausted.
Although he spoke and wrote Czech fluently throughout his
life, his literary work was all completed in German. He is known to have
started writing at an early age, but all of his earliest attempts were later
destroyed. His first published work came in 1907, and he continued to publish
throughout the next seventeen years, but most of his works were published
posthumously by his friend Max Brod. Kafka's relationship to his father
dominates all discussions of both his life and his work. See his Brief and den
Vater to get a feel for the relationship between the thin, intellectual, and
awkward Franz, and the robust, loud, and military corporal Father. The ideas
of 'father' and 'family' permeate the fabric of many of Kafka's texts, either
directly as in Das Urteil or Die Verwandlung or more abstractly as
in the cases of his two novels The Trial and The Castle (which
remained unpublished during his lifetime).