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Franz Kafka (1883–1924) is considered one of the most important German-language writers of the 20th century. He is best known for Der Prozess (The Trial), Das Schloss (The Castle), “Die Verwandlung” (“The Transformation,” or “The Metamorphosis”), and “In der Strafkolonie” (“In the Penal Colony”). His body of work is slim—three posthumous novels and several volumes of short stories constitute the bulk of it, most of which were published after his death. Yet his tales of labyrinthine bureaucratic and legal systems, which make secret judgments on ordinary citizens via secret proceedings and based on secret laws, have remained potent metaphors, particularly in legal and public policy discussions, including recent debate about government surveillance. This entry briefly reviews Kafka’s education, early career, and time of writing. Kafka’s ...

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