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Franz Kafka (1883-1924) was born in Prague, now in the Czech Republic, but at that time part of the Austrian Empire (which became the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1867), to a middle-class Jewish, German-speaking family. For most of his working life he was employed as an insurance official. He published a number of stories in German, mainly in literary magazines and journals, but was little known during his lifetime. He instructed his literary executor to destroy all his manuscripts, a request which the executor refused to carry out.

Kafka was sick much of his life with various ailments, the most serious of which was tuberculosis, from which he died in 1924. He was buried in Prague. After his death, his reputation gradually improved, and Kafka is now recognized as one of the greatest writers of modernist European fiction.

Given the treatment of Kafka’s manuscripts, some of the stories have complex editorial histories, and not all German versions of a particular story are exactly the same (e.g., “The Hunter Gracchus” and “The Great Wall of China”). Hence, there may be some differences between these translations and others. The work of retrieving and editing Kafka’s manuscripts is a continuing project

                                                                                                     ̶  Ian Johnston

About Franz Kafka