Franz Kafka (German pronunciation: [ˈfʁants ˈkafka]; 3 July 1883 – 3 June 1924) is one of the most influential fiction writers of the early 20th century; a novelist and writer of short stories whose works, only after his death, came to be regarded as one of the major achievements of 20th century literature.
He was born to middle class German-speaking Jewish parents in Prague, Bohemia, now part of the Czech Republic, in what was then the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The house in which he was born, on the Old Town Square next to Prague's Church of St Nicholas, today contains a permanent exhibition devoted to the author.
Kafka's work—the novels The Trial (1925), The Castle (1926) and Amerika (1927), as well as short stories including The Metamorphosis (1915) and In the Penal Colony (1914)—is now collectively considered to be among the most original bodies of work in modern Western literature. Much of his work, unfinished at the time of his death, was published posthumously.
Kafka's writing attracted little attention until after his death. During his lifetime, he published only a few short stories and never finished any of his novels, unless The Metamorphosis is considered a (short) novel. Prior to his death, Kafka wrote to his friend and literary executor Max Brod: "Dearest Max, my last request: Everything I leave behind me ... in the way of diaries, manuscripts, letters (my own and others'), sketches, and so on, [is] to be burned unread." Brod overrode Kafka's wishes, believing that Kafka had given these directions to him specifically because Kafka knew he would not honor them—Brod had told him as much. (His lover, Dora Diamant, also ignored his wishes, secretly keeping up to 20 notebooks and 35 letters until they were confiscated by the Gestapo in 1933. An ongoing international search is being conducted for these missing Kafka papers.) Brod, in fact, would oversee the publication of most of Kafka's work in his possession, which soon began to attract attention and high critical regard.
The writers' name has led to the term "Kafkaesque" being used in the English language.