Amerika Background

Amerika Background

Amerika is the first novel written by Franz Kafka, but remained incomplete until Kafka's death and was only published posthumously. The German book was released three years after Kafka's death in 1927 although the first English translation was not published for 11 more years when Routledge's English translation was published in 1938. The book goes by many titles that stem from its likely not having a finalized title during Kafka's life. Some titles by which the novel is known are: The Man Who Disappeared, The Missing Person, Der Verschollene, and the title of the short story from which the novella was born, The Stoker.

The book is a recapturing of the American experience borrowing from experiences that were relayed to him by family and friends who had made the trip to America. The book deals with themes of frustration and complicated scenarios that challenge a normal morality. One example explored stems from the young protagonist, Karl Brußmann, who defies the wishes of an uncle to fulfill obligations to poor and manipulative friends, raising the question of ultimate duty. When two rights seem contrary, which is the true right decision? What if that compromises your own security? How do you find identity in a foreign land with few resources and a complicated landscape of other people?

The book lives up the promise of Kafka's authorship. It deals with identity and absurdity in a unique vantage point. We see first-hand the struggle to find identity in a way that doesn't compromise your ability to survive in difficult situations, where the pure idealism confronts the well-established conformism. The book provides a De Tocqueville-esque, outsider's view into the grind of American life.

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