Franz Kafka Google doodle: 130 years later, would Kafka still be mad at Dad?
Franz Kafka, author of "The Metamorphosis," is celebrated on his birthday today with a Google doodle. "The Metamorphosis'" main character's relationship with his father, especially after he turns into an insect, is denoted with physical violence and forced isolation — not unlike Kafka's relationship with his own father, writes Ernst Pawel in his biography ("The Nightmare of Reason: A Life of Franz Kafka") of the writer.
That relationship was described by Kafka in a 100-page handwritten "Letter to my Father." Written in ten days in November 1919, Kafka apparently hoped that the letter could lead to a reconciliation between him and a father he describes as hypocritical, emotionally abusive, and punishingly demanding.
From one passage in the letter: "Your extremely effective rhetorical methods in bringing me up, which never failed to work with me, were: abuse, threats, irony, spiteful laughter, and – oddly enough – self-pity."
Kafka asked his mother to deliver the letter to his father for him, but she later refused and gave the letter back. Kafka died four years later of tuberculosis.
The letter is a fascinating, albeit sometimes dark, perspective on parenting from the parented. Here are a few quotations from Kafka's letter to his father that, taken together, may offer some wisdom on the don'ts and don'ts of raising children.
1. If your kid cries during the night, don't lock him outside
"One night I kept on whimpering for water, not, I am certain, because I was thirsty, but probably partly to be annoying, partly to amuse myself. After several vigorous threats had failed to have any effect, you took me out of bed, carried me out onto the pavlatche, and left me there alone for a while in my nightshirt, outside the shut door. I am not going to say that this was wrong—perhaps there was really no other way of getting peace and quiet that night—but I mention it as typical of your methods of bringing up a child and their effect on me. I dare say I was quite obedient afterward at that period, but it did me inner harm. What was for me a matter of course, that senseless asking for water, and then the extraordinary terror of being carried outside were Twothings that I, my nature being what it was, could never properly connect with each other."