Kafka’s Epigrammatic Mutilation Memos

Franz Kafka began his career in the Prague head office of the Worker’s Accident Insurance Bureau of the Kingdom of Bohemia on 30 July 1908.  During the next decades, Kafka published various rather idiosyncratic "literary" works that have gained some attention in specialist circles. His contribution to the development of the Bohemian insurance industry has, however, been neglected.

Until now.  S. Fischer publishers, as part of their Critical Edition of Kafka, has issued a a carefully-edited 1,024-page volume entitled Official Writings. The volume will be of interest primarily to the millions worldwide who, like me, have found themselves captivated by the story of Central European insurance during this time of upheaval and innovation. According to a recent review (German) in Die Zeit by Andreas Maier, however, there are also gems for the ordinary reader (my translation):

"Only a specialist would want to read this massive body of text in its entirety, but it is full of finds, for instance the sub-chapter in the "1909 Yearly Report" with the title Accident- Prevention Measures with Regard to Wood-Planing Machines. In this section one learns, for example (in gloriously lucid Kafka-sentences) what the difference is between round shafts and square shafts from a safety perspective: "Such and accident, however (with the latter type of shaft) does not occur without cutting off several joints of the finger — indeed, whole fingers themselves." Accompanying this description is a table depicting various types of mutilating injuries associated with these accidents.

Buy the entire 1,024 pages (for a mere 178 Euro) here. Should an English or American publisher be interested in an English translation of this book, I would be happy to consider all reasonable offers.

Actually, on second thought, perhaps I’ll pass.

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