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From Its Origin In 1939 To Becoming The New Cool, What Exactly Is ‘Kafkaesque’?

Kafkaesque

Basically, the term Kafkaesque is used to describe situations or circumstances that are illogically complex in a surreal, bizarre, or nightmarish way.

Kafkaesque comes from the name of an author Franz Kafka.

Franz Kafka And His World

Franz Kafka was one of the major German-language novelists and short story writers of the twentieth century. Kafka’s works mainly expressed the absurdity of modern society, especially the impersonal nature of bureaucracy and capitalism.

Kafka’s world is one in which God is dead. An individual stands alone and at odds with society. In his texts, society seems to operate in a secretive manner that the individual cannot understand. It is a world devoid of meaning or purpose other than to clear one’s name of the nebulous sense of guilt that is present in the atmosphere.

Frederick R. Karl on Kafkaesque

Frederick R. Karl, author of an exhaustive critical biography on Franz Kafka says, “Kafka is the only 20th-century literary figure whose name has entered the language in a way no other writer has.” But he is against the misuse of the term ‘Kafkaesque’.

He says “What I’m against is someone going to catch a bus and finding that all the buses have stopped running and calling that Kafkaesque. That’s not.”

In an interview, Mr. Karl says that “Kafkaesque is when you enter in a surreal world in which all your control patterns, all your plans, the whole way in which you have configured your own behavior, begins to fall to pieces when you find yourself against a force that does not lend itself to a way you perceive the world.”

“You don’t give up, you don’t lie down and die. What you do is a struggle against this with all of your equipment, with whatever you have. But of course, you don’t stand a chance. That’s Kafkaesque.” He added.

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Kafkaesque: The New Cool
Kafkaesque: The New Cool

Kafkaesque in Breaking Bad

The term has also been used as a name of an episode in an American crime series ‘Breaking Bad’, where one of the characters finds himself to be surrounded in a very complex and surreal situation that is very difficult to handle. The situation going on in that particular episode is described as Kafkaesque.

Conclusion

The adjective ‘Kafkaesque’ has come into common use nowadays, used to denote mundane yet absurd circumstances. People might find it cool to use this term to describe their circumstances but this can somehow can be seen as a misuse of the adjective ‘Kafkaesque’.

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