That’s how it will be, except that there you will stand in stark reality, each very day and from that day forward, with a body and a real head, that’s to say a forehead too, for you to beat upon with your hand.
This is Kafka’s first published book, a slim collection of “short stories.” The title means “meditation” or perhaps “contemplation,” and that’s really what’s here, not short stories. I read the translation by Malcolm Pasley, included in The Metamorphosis & Other Stories, published as part of Penguin’s Great Books of the 20th Century series. This book only takes up about thirty pages and given that there are eighteen “stories” here that gives you some idea of how short they really are. They’re really just sketches. A man is walking alone at night when two men, one chasing the other, run past him; he kind of wonders what’s going on; the end. A girl is walking down the sidewalk, enjoying the sun on her face; an adult walks by and blocks the sun for a moment; the sun returns when the adult passes; the end. And these are the most plot heavy, for lack of a better term. I really didn’t get this book at all. The one section I did like was The Bachelor’s Ill-Luck, which is a meditation on isolation and loneliness in the person of an aged bachelor without family or friends, living in a tiny, empty apartment. It deals with some actual Kafka-esque themes, even though it’s only a page long and it’s darkness gives some hint of the other writing Kafka will do later. Other than that, I found the book basically pointless and uninteresting. ½ star.
tl;dr – Kafka’s first published volume is a slim volume of pointless meditation; contains almost no trace of the genius to come. ½ star.