HomeQuotes200 Franz Kafka Quotes on Literature and Life

200 Franz Kafka Quotes on Literature and Life

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1. “I write differently from what I speak, I speak differently from what I think, I think differently from the way I ought to think, and so it all proceeds into the deepest darkness.”

2. “I am free and that is why I am lost.”

3. “I cannot make you understand. I cannot make anyone understand what is happening inside me. I cannot even explain it to myself.”

4. “The meaning of life is that it stops.”

5. “All language is but a poor translation.”

6. “A non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity.”

7. “He is terribly afraid of dying because he hasn’t yet lived.”

8. “Even if no salvation should come, I want to be worthy of it at every moment.”

9. “Self-control is something for which I do not strive.”

10. “I carry the bars within me.”

11. “Start with what is right rather than what is acceptable.”

12. “Idleness is the beginning of all vice, the crown of all virtues.”

13. “There are only two things—truth and lies. Truth is indivisible, hence it cannot recognize itself; anyone who wants to recognize it has to be a lie.”

14. “It is often safer to be in chains than to be free.”

15. “If you find someone who makes you smile, who checks up on you often to see if you’re okay, who watches out for you and wants the best for you, who loves and respects you? Don’t let them go. People like that are hard to find.”

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16. “Books are narcotic.”

17. ”Don’t bend, don’t water it down, don’t try to make it logical, and don’t edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly.”

18. “Evil is whatever distracts.”

19. “Better to have and not need than to need, and not have.”

20. “You are the knife I turn inside myself; that is love. That, my dear, is love.”

21. “I have spent all my life resisting the desire to end it.”

22. “A mind is like a parachute. It doesn’t work if it isn’t open.”

23. “I am a cage in search of a bird.”

24. “There is a destination but no way there; what we refer to as way is hesitation.”

25. “I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound or stab us.”

26. “A first sign of the beginning of understanding is the wish to die.”

27. “Paths are made by walking.”

28. “I usually solve problems by letting them devour me.”

29. “Life’s splendor forever lies in wait for each one of us in all its fullness, but veiled from view, deep down, invisible, far off. It is there, though, not hostile, not reluctant, not deaf. If you summon it by the right word, by its right name, it will come.” 

30. “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 roll in ecstasy at your feet.”

31. “Youth is happy because it has the capacity to see beauty. Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old.”

32. “I never wish to be easily defined. I’d rather float over other people’s minds as something strictly fluid and non-perceivable; more like a transparent, paradoxically iridescent creature rather than an actual person.”

33. “Productivity is being able to do things that you were never able to do before.”

34. “Do not waste your time looking for an obstacle—maybe there is none.”

35. “From a certain point onward, there is no longer any turning back. That is the point that must be reached.”

36. “The more one hesitates before the door, the more estranged one becomes.”

37. “So long as you have food in your mouth, you have solved all questions for the time being.”

38. “He who seeks does not find, but he who does not seek will be found.”

39. “Association with human beings lures one into self-observation.”

40. “Forget everything. Open the windows. Clear the room. The wind blows through it. You see only its emptiness, you search in every corner and don’t find yourself.”

41. “Torment yourself as little as possible, then you’ll torment me less.”

42. “We need the books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide.”

43. “This can be explained by my theory that living authors have a living relationship with their books. With their very existence, they fight for or against them.”

44. “A book should serve as the ax for the frozen sea within us.”

45. “Many a book is like a key to unknown chambers within the castle of one’s own self.”

46. “If the book we are reading does not wake us, as with a fist hammering on our skull, then why do we read it?”

47. “The true independent life of the book doesn’t begin until the death of the author, or more correctly sometime after his death, for these zealous men keep struggling for their books even a while after they have died. But then the book is left all alone and has to rely on the strength of its own heartbeat.”

48. “How many words grace the pages of this book? They are supposed to bestir memory. As if words could remember! For words are miserable mountain climbers and miserable miners of meaning. They do not retrieve the hidden treasures from the heights or dredge them from the depths!”

49. “A lawyer is a person who writes a 10,000-word document and calls it a ‘brief.’”

50. “Writing is a deeper sleep than death. Just as one wouldn’t pull a corpse from its grave, I can’t be dragged from my desk at night.”

51. “Writing is prayer.”

52. “Hold fast to the diary from today on! Write regularly! Don’t surrender!”

53. “I need solitude for my writing; not like a hermit, that wouldn’t be enough, but like a dead man.”

54. “The Kafka paradox—art depends on truth, but truth, being indivisible, cannot know itself. To tell the truth is to lie. Thus, the writer is the truth, and yet when he speaks, he lies.”

55. “I wanted to escape the unrest, to shut out the voices around me and within me, so I write.”

56. “Writing is utter solitude, the descent into the cold abyss of oneself.”

57. “Written kisses don’t reach their destination, rather they are drunk on the way by the ghosts.”

58. “You’ve seen yourself how difficult the writing is to decipher with your eyes, but our man deciphers it with his wounds.”

59. “Writers speak stench.”

60. “All I am is literature, and I am not able or willing to be anything else.”

61. “I ought to be able to invent words capable of blowing the odor of corpses in a direction other than straight into mine and the reader’s face.”

62. “One advantage in keeping a diary is that you become aware with reassuring clarity of the changes which you constantly suffer.”

63. “When I arbitrarily write a single sentence, for instance, ‘He looked out of the window,’ it already has perfection.”

64. “I can’t think of any greater happiness than to be with you all the time, without interruption, endlessly, even though I feel that here in this world there’s no undisturbed place for our love—neither in the village nor anywhere else.”

65. “Love is a drama of contradictions.”

66. “I can love only what I can place so high above me that I cannot reach it.”

67. “Everything you love is very likely to be lost, but in the end, love will return in a different way.”

68. “Sensual love deceives one as to the nature of heavenly love. It could not do so alone, but since it unconsciously has the element of heavenly love within it, it can do so.”

69. “In argument, similes are like songs of love. They describe much, but prove nothing.”

70. “I no longer know If I wish to drown myself in love, vodka, or the sea.”

71. “Last night, I dreamed about you. What happened in detail I can hardly remember. All I know is that we kept merging into one another. I was you, you were me. Finally, you somehow caught fire.”

72. “I look a girl in the eye and it was a very long love story with thunder and kisses and lightning. I live fast.”

73. “Nothing unites two people so completely, especially if, like you and me, all they have is words.”

74. “Perhaps it isn’t love when I say you are what I love the most.”

75. “Should I be grateful or should I curse the fact that despite all misfortune I can still feel love—an unearthly love but still for earthly objects.”

76. “I want in fact more of you. In my mind, I am dressing you with light. I am wrapping you up in blankets of complete acceptance and then I give myself to you. I long for you. I, who usually long without longing, as though I am conscious and absorbed in neutrality and apathy, really, utterly long for every bit of you.”

77. “In a way, you are a poetry material. You are full of cloudy subtleties I am willing to spend a lifetime figuring out. Words burst in your essence and you carry their dust in the pores of your ethereal individuality.”

78. “I’d like to have all the time there is just for you, for thinking about you, and for breathing in you.” 

79. “Slept, awoke, slept, awoke. Miserable life.”

80. “When one is alone, imperfection must be endured every minute of the day. A couple, however, does not have to put up with it.”

81. “Just think how many thoughts a blanket smothers while one lies alone in bed, and how many unhappy dreams it keeps warm.”

82. “Kill me, or you are a murderer.”

83. “I dream of a grave, deep and narrow, where we could clasp each other in our arms as with clamps, and I would hide my face in you and you would hide your face in me, and nobody would ever see us anymore.”

84. “Aren’t our eyes made to be torn out, and our hearts for the same purpose? At the same time, it’s really not that bad. That’s an exaggeration and a lie. Everything is an exaggeration.”

85. “What am I doing here in this endless winter?”

86. “It certainly was not my intention to make you suffer, yet I have done so. Obviously, it never will be my intention to make you suffer, yet I shall always do so.”

87. “You can hold yourself back from the sufferings of the world. That is something you are free to do, and it accords with your nature, but perhaps this very holding back is the one suffering you could avoid.”

88. “Suffering is the positive element in this world, indeed it is the only link between this world and the positive.”

89. “The only truth is longing. But even the truth of longing is not so much its own truth. It’s really an expression for everything else, which is a lie. This sounds crazy and distorted, but it’s true.”

90. “We are as forlorn as children lost in the woods. When you stand in front of me and look at me, what do you know of the griefs that are in me, and what do I know of yours? And if I were to cast myself down before you and tell you, what more would you know about me that you know about hell when someone tells you it is hot and dreadful?”

91. “I am in chains. Don’t touch my chains.”

92. “Don’t despair, not even over the fact that you don’t despair.”

93. “I do not suffer excessively. For I do not suffer consistently, it does not pile up. At least, I do not feel it for the time being, and the degree of my suffering is far less than the suffering that is perhaps my due.”

94. “When the little mouse, which was loved as none other was in the mouse-world, got into a trap one night and with a shrill scream forfeited its life for the sight of the bacon, all the mice in the district, in their holes were overcome by trembling and shaking; with eyes blinking uncontrollably, they gazed at each other one by one, while their tails scraped the ground busily and senselessly. Then they came out, hesitantly, pushing one another, all drawn towards the scene of death. There it lay, the dear little mouse, its neck caught in the deadly iron, the little pink legs drawn up, and now stiff, the feeble body that would so well have deserved a scrap of bacon.”

95. “It would have been so pointless to kill himself that, even if he had wanted to, the pointlessness would have made him unable.”

96. “I would like to die and watch others crying over me, is what such a writer constantly experiences—he dies or he does not live and continually cries over himself.”

97. “To die would mean nothing else than to surrender nothing to nothing, but that would be impossible to conceive.”

98. “I was wise, if you like because I was prepared for death at any moment, but not because I had taken care of everything that was given to me to do, rather because I had done none of it and could not even hope to ever do any of it.”

99. “Only after death, only in solitude, does a man’s true nature emerge.”

100. “Always only the desire to die and the not-yet-yielding; this alone is love.”

101. “But what if all the tranquility, all the comfort, all the contentment were now to come to a horrifying end?”

102. “For that reason alone, we human beings ought to stand before one another as reverently, as reflectively, as lovingly, as we would before the entrance to hell.”

103. “One is no longer ashamed of wanting to die; one asks to be moved from the old cell, which one hates, to a new one, which one will only in time come to hate.”

104. “There are two cardinal sins from which all others spring—impatience and laziness.”

105. “They’re talking about things of which they don’t have the slightest understanding, anyway.” 

106. “It’s only because of their stupidity that they’re able to be so sure of themselves.”

107. “The indestructible is one—it is each individual human being and it is common to all, hence the incomparably indivisible union that exists between human beings.”

108. “Sleep is the most innocent creature there is and a sleepless man the most guilty.”

109. “There is an infinite amount of hope in the universe. But not for us.”

110. “Women or more precisely put. Perhaps, marriage is the representative of life with which you are meant to come to terms.”

111. “The history of mankind is the instant between two strides taken by a traveler.”

112. “We are sinful not only because we have eaten of the Tree of Knowledge but also because we have not yet eaten of the Tree of Life. The state in which we are is sinful, irrespective of guilt.”

113. “For how could a person—even only as nothing—consciously surrender himself to nothing, and not merely to an empty nothing but rather to a roaring nothing whose nothingness consists only in its incomprehensibility.”

114. “Not everyone can see the truth, but he can be it.”

115. “Martyrs do not underrate the body, they allow it to be elevated on the cross. In this, they are at one with their antagonists.”

116. “No sooner said than done. So act your man of worth.”

117. “For humans, the idea of freedom is all too often a means of deceiving themselves. And although freedom is among the most exalted of feelings, so is the illusion of freedom among the most exalted of illusions.”

118. “Human nature—essentially changeable, unstable as the dust—can endure no restraint; if it binds itself, it soon begins to tear madly at its bonds, until it rends everything asunder, the wall, the bonds, and itself.”.

119. “Isolation is the way to know ourselves.”

120. “You can choose to be free, but it’s the last decision you’ll ever make.”

121. “The right understanding of any matter and a misunderstanding of the same matter do not wholly exclude each other.”

122. “There are some things one can only achieve by a deliberate leap in the opposite direction.”

123. “Now I can look at you in peace. I don’t eat you anymore.”

124. “Believing in progress does not mean believing that any progress has yet been.”

125. “First draw a fresh breath after outbursts of vanity and complacency.”

126. “Yet even if I manage that, one single slip and a slip cannot be avoided, will stop the whole process, easy and painful alike, and I will have to shrink back into my own circle again.”

127. “‘You only need to change your direction,’ said the cat, and ate it up.”

128. “When you become involved with others you quite possibly stepped down a level or two, but if you become involved with me, you will be throwing yourself into the abyss.”

129. “It is unnecessary to accept everything as true, one must only accept it as necessary. ‘A melancholy conclusion,’ said K. ‘It turns lying into a universal principle.’”

130. “One has either to take people as they are, or leave them as they are. One cannot change them, one can merely disturb their balance.”

131. “The truth is always an abyss. One must—as in a swimming pool—dare to dive from the quivering springboard of trivial everyday experience and sink into the depths, in order to later rise again, laughing and fighting for breath, to the now doubly illuminated surface of things.”

132. “I’m doing badly, I’m doing well—whichever you prefer.”

133. “I do not read advertisements. I would spend all of my time wanting things.”

134. “Only the moment counts. It determines life.”

135. “This life appears unbearable, another unattainable.”

136. “By believing passionately in something that still does not exist, we create it. The nonexistent is whatever we have not sufficiently desired.”

137. “Many complain that the words of the wise are always merely parables and of no use in daily life, which is the only life we have.”

138. “If I shall exist eternally, how shall I exist tomorrow?”

139. “The experience of life consists of the experience which the spirit has of itself in matter and as matter, in mind and as mind, in emotion, as emotion, etc.”

140. “Self-control means wanting to be effective at some random point in the infinite radiations of my spiritual existence.”

141. “We live in an age which is so possessed by demons, that soon we shall only be able to do goodness and justice in the deepest secrecy as if it were a crime.”

142. “The fact that our task is exactly commensurate with our life gives it the appearance of being infinite.”

143. “For everyone wants to live as long as he is alive. Even the degree of self-revelation and surrender is not enough for writing.”

144. “I am not well. I could have built the pyramids with the effort it takes me to cling on to life and reason.”

145. “Life is astonishingly short. As I look back over it, life seems so foreshortened to me that I can hardly understand, for instance, how a young man can decide to ride over to the next village without being afraid that, quite apart from accidents, even the span of a normal life that passes happily may be totally insufficient for such a ride.”

146. “Anyone who cannot cope with life while he is alive needs one hand to ward off a little of his despair over his fate who cannot cope with life.”

147. “Relationships are easier with animals than with men.”

148. “In the fight between you and the world, back the world.”

149. “I do not see the world at all. I invent it.”

150. “The true word leads; the untrue misleads.”

151. “How can one take delight in the world unless one flees to it for refuge?”

152. “One must cheat no one, not even the world of its victory.”

153. “The Bible is a sanctum; the world and sputum.”

154. “Heaven is dumb, echoing only the dumb.”

155. “How pathetically scanty my self-knowledge is compared with my knowledge of my room. There is no such thing as observation of the inner world, as there is of the outer world.”

156. “This tremendous world I have inside of me. How to free myself, and this world, without tearing myself to pieces. And rather tear myself to a thousand pieces than be buried with this world within me.”

157. “It is comforting to reflect that the disproportion of things in the world seems to be only arithmetical.”

158. “Every revolution evaporates and leaves behind only the slime of a new bureaucracy.”

159. “So eager are our people to obliterate the present.”

160. “It’s in the nature of this judicial system that one is condemned not only in innocence but also in ignorance.”

161. “Anything that has real and lasting value is always a gift from within.”

162. “All human errors stem from impatience—a premature breaking off of a methodical approach.”

163. “There is nothing besides a spiritual world; what we call the world of the senses is the evil in the spiritual world, and what we call evil is only the necessity of a moment in our eternal evolution.”

164. “Devilish is my innocence.”

165. “When one has once accepted and absorbed evil, it no longer demands to be believed.”

166. “Most men are not wicked. They are sleep-walkers, not evil evildoers.”

167. “Evil does not exist. Once you have crossed the threshold, all is good. Once in another world, you must hold your tongue.”

168. “Men become bad and guilty because they speak and act without foreseeing the results of their words and their deeds.”

169. “The mediation by the serpent was necessary. Evil can seduce man, but cannot become man.”

170. “Religions get lost as people do.”

171. “The decisive moment in human evolution is perpetual. That is why the revolutionary spiritual movements that declare all former things worthless are in the right, for nothing has yet happened.”

172. “The spirit becomes free only when it ceases to be a support.”

173. “The relationship to one’s fellow man is the relationship of prayer, the relationship to oneself is the relationship of striving; it is from prayer that one draws the strength for one’s striving.”

174. “Test yourself on mankind. It is something that makes the doubter doubt, the believer believes.”

175. “God gives the nuts, but he does not crack them.”

176. “We are separated from God on two sides; the fall separates us from Him, the tree of life separates Him from us.”

177. “Faith, like a guillotine, as heavy as light.”

178. “Even the merest gesture is holy if it is filled with faith.”

179. “My ‘fear’ is my substance, and probably the best part of me.”

180. “But what shall I do when instead of a heart this fear is beating in my body?”

181. “He is afraid the shame will outlive him.”

182. “If I could drown in sleep as I drown in fear, I would be no longer alive.”

183. “I only fear danger where I want to fear it.”

184. “There is nothing bad to fear; once you have crossed that threshold, all is well.”

185. “I can never tear myself open wide enough to people to reveal everything and so frighten them away.”

186. “The dream reveals the reality, which conception lags behind. That is the horror of life—the terror of art.”

187. “As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a monstrous vermin.”

188. “We were so different and in our difference so dangerous to each other.”

189. “In theory, there is a possibility of perfect happiness—to believe in the indestructible element within one, and not to strive towards it.”

190. “I’m tired, can’t think of anything, and want only to lay my face in your lap, feel your hand on my head and remain like that through all eternity.”

191. “My condition is not unhappiness, but it is also not happiness, not indifference, not weakness, not fatigue, not another interest—so what is it then?”

192. “What if I slept a little more and forgot about all this nonsense.”

193. “How suicidal happiness can be!”

194. “I am constantly trying to communicate something incommunicable, to explain something inexplicable, to tell something I only feel in my bones and which can only be experienced in those bones.”

195. “I have the true feeling of myself only when I am unbearably unhappy.”

196. “To weak eyes, it becomes solid, to weaker eyes it shows fists; before weaker eyes still it feels ashamed and smites down whoever dares to look at it.”

197. “Unfortunately, one can never quite forget about them, especially during the night.”

198. “I have only such a fugitive awareness of things around me that I always feel they were once real and are now fleeting away.”

199. “I love you enough to rid myself of anything that might trouble you. I will become another person.”

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