I was a teenager when I discovered the dark, twisted, yet enlightening world of Franz Kafka (German-language writer) and, as an anxious Existentialist at the time, he remained a companion of my youth.
Below, are some remarkable quotations of Kafka's that I still return to:
I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound and stab us...
A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us.
*A non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity.
You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will writhe in ecstasy at your feet.
The true way goes over a rope which is not stretched at any great height but just above the ground. It seems more designed to make people stumble than to be walked upon.
In the struggle between yourself and the world, side with the world.
The tremendous world I have in my head! But how can I release it and release myself without tearing myself apart? And it is a thousand times better to tear myself apart than to keep it in check or buried in me. That is what I am here for, of that I am quite clear.
Perhaps there is only one cardinal sin: impatience. Because of impatience we are driven out of Paradise; because of impatience we cannot return.
No people sing with such pure voices as those that live in deepest hell; what we take for the song of angels is their song.
If there is a transmigration of souls... I am not yet on the bottom rung. My life is a hesitation before birth.
Believing means liberating the indestructible element in oneself...
Never again psychology! ...all these so-called illnesses, sad as they may appear, are facts of faith, efforts of people in distress to find moorings in maternal soil of some kind.
Beyond a certain point there is no return. This point has to be reached.
For those who might be interested, here’s the review a book of conversations between Alex Stein & I exploring the intimate Kafka & others thinkers/poets/seekers
[Original illustrations by Franz Kafka]