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  • Published: 30 July 2024
  • ISBN: 9780241695746
  • Imprint: Penguin Classics
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 704
  • RRP: $45.00

The Diaries of Franz Kafka




An essential new translation of the author’s complete, uncensored diaries — revealing the idiosyncrasies and rough edges of one of the twentieth century’s most influential writers

Dating from 1909 to 1923, Franz Kafka’s Diaries contains a broad array of writing, including accounts of daily events, assorted reflections and observations, literary sketches, drafts of letters, records of dreams, and unrevised texts of stories. This volume makes available for the first time in English a comprehensive reconstruction of Kafka’s handwritten diary entries and provides substantial new content, restoring all the material omitted from previous publications — notably, names of people and undisguised details about them, a number of literary writings, and passages of a sexual nature, some of them with homoerotic overtones.

By faithfully reproducing the diaries’ distinctive — and often surprisingly unpolished — writing as it appeared in Kafka’s notebooks, translator Ross Benjamin brings to light not only the author’s use of the diaries for literary invention and unsparing self-examination but also their value as a work of genius in and of themselves.

  • Published: 30 July 2024
  • ISBN: 9780241695746
  • Imprint: Penguin Classics
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 704
  • RRP: $45.00

About the author

Franz Kafka

Franz Kafka (1883–1924) was born into a Jewish family in Prague. In 1906 he received a doctorate in jurisprudence, and for many years he worked a tedious job as a civil service lawyer investigating claims at the State Worker's Accident Insurance Institute. He never married, and published only a few slim volumes of stories during his lifetime. Meditation, a collection of sketches, appeared in 1912; The Stoker: A Fragment in 1913; Metamorphosis in 1915; The Judgement in 1916; In the Penal Colony in 1919; and A Country Doctor in 1920. The great novels were not published until after his death from tuberculosis: America, The Trial and The Castle.

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Praise for The Diaries of Franz Kafka

Essential . . . The new volume, in a sensitive and briskly idiomatic translation by Ross Benjamin, offers revelation upon revelation. It’s an invaluable addition to Kafka’s oeuvre

Dwight Garner, The New York Times

Momentous . . . Life also bursts into literature at the level of form, and in Kafka’s diaries even the words are acrobatic. As Ross Benjamin notes in the thoughtful introduction to his new translation, his aim is to capture the extent to which the diaries were a 'laboratory for Kafka’s literary production' and thereby catch the author 'in the act of writing.' He has succeeded. Everything in the diaries thrashes . . . [They] are the intimate incisions of an author who could write only by etching words into the flesh

Becca Rothfield, The New Yorker

Benjamin, whose translation is the first complete and uncensored edition of the Diaries to be made available to an English readership . . . begins from scratch the whole business of restoring to the notebooks their 'provisionality, materiality, and mutability . . [His] aim is to give us the writer in his 'workshop,' blotting the page, changing his mind, running at a sentence a dozen times and still not getting it right

Frances Wilson, The New York Review of Books

Readers will welcome this new edition of the Diaries, complete, uncensored, in a fluent translation by Ross Benjamin, and supplemented with 78 pages of invaluable notes, the fruit of half a century of Kafka scholarship

J. M. Coetzee, author of Disgrace

This new and scrupulously faithful translation of the Diaries brings us, unembellished by theory, the true inner life of the twentieth century’s most complex and enigmatic literary prophet, whose very name has come to us as symbol and vision of innocent vulnerability in the face of irrational force

Cynthia Ozick, author of Antiquities

Franz Kafka’s inner life has always been a bit of a mystery. The expurgated diaries in their original German and English versions hinted at his complicated, often confused relationship to sex, politics, illness, and being Jewish. This readable new translation of the complete German version of the diary transforms the silent Kafka of a century ago into a Kafka not only of his times but of ours

Sander Gilman, author of Franz Kafka, The Jewish Patient

Thirty two years after their original publication in German, Franz Kafka's complete Diaries are here in Ross Benjamin's outstanding translation ... Now we have in English some of the most intimate reflections and literary experiments of one of the towering geniuses of modern literature

Saul Friedländer, author of Franz Kafka: The Poet of Shame and Guilt

A fresh, unadulterated translation of Kafka’s notebooks, dense with introspection and writerly despair . . . The attraction of Kafka’s diaries has always been his coruscating descriptions of his existential struggles as a writer and human being. He captures his frustration in ways that are wrenching, vivid, and highly quotable

Kirkus Reviews

Finally! Three decades after the publication of the critical edition of Franz Kafka's diaries in Germany, English readers can now 'catch Kafka in the act of writing,' thanks to this monumental endeavor by translator Ross Benjamin. This new volume offers us Kafka's singular perspective and delivers an expanded window into Kafka's unique personality. The intricately researched and detailed Notes (75 pages of them!) provide us with a wealth of knowledge and context. For those of us in thrall to Kafka the Man as well as the Writer, the Notes add layers of life to Kafka's world and milieu and reveal a new depth and richness to Kafka's humanity. This new volume is an essential addition to the library of every serious student and reader of Kafka

Kathi Diamant, author of Kafka's Last Love and director of the Kafka Project

Mr. Benjamin’s translation doesn’t just supplant the previous edition — it inaugurates a new phase of Kafka’s afterlife in English . . . The writing glimmers with sensitivity, and openness to the world

Max Norman, The Wall Street Journal

Ross Benjamin has given the literary world an incredible treasure in this thoughtful edition. Kafka has never been so fully present, both as a man and a writer

Marissa Moss, New York Journal of Books

Essential . . . The new volume, in a sensitive and briskly idiomatic translation by Ross Benjamin, offers revelation upon revelation. It’s an invaluable addition to Kafka’s oeuvre

The New York Times

Momentous . . . Life also bursts into literature at the level of form, and in Kafka’s diaries even the words are acrobatic. As Ross Benjamin notes in the thoughtful introduction to his new translation, his aim is to capture the extent to which the diaries were a 'laboratory for Kafka’s literary production' and thereby catch the author 'in the act of writing.' He has succeeded. Everything in the diaries thrashes . . . [They] are the intimate incisions of an author who could write only by etching words into the flesh

The New Yorker

Benjamin, whose translation is the first complete and uncensored edition of the Diaries to be made available to an English readership . . . begins from scratch the whole business of restoring to the notebooks their 'provisionality, materiality, and mutability . . [His] aim is to give us the writer in his 'workshop,' blotting the page, changing his mind, running at a sentence a dozen times and still not getting it right

The New York Review of Books

Readers will welcome this new edition of the Diaries, complete, uncensored, in a fluent translation by Ross Benjamin, and supplemented with 78 pages of invaluable notes, the fruit of half a century of Kafka scholarship

J. M. Coetzee, author of Disgrace

This new and scrupulously faithful translation of the Diaries brings us, unembellished by theory, the true inner life of the twentieth century’s most complex and enigmatic literary prophet, whose very name has come to us as symbol and vision of innocent vulnerability in the face of irrational force

Cynthia Ozick, author of Antiquities

Franz Kafka’s inner life has always been a bit of a mystery. The expurgated diaries in their original German and English versions hinted at his complicated, often confused relationship to sex, politics, illness, and being Jewish. This readable new translation of the complete German version of the diary transforms the silent Kafka of a century ago into a Kafka not only of his times but of ours

Sander Gilman, author of Franz Kafka, The Jewish Patient

Thirty two years after their original publication in German, Franz Kafka's complete Diaries are here in Ross Benjamin's outstanding translation ... Now we have in English some of the most intimate reflections and literary experiments of one of the towering geniuses of modern literature

Saul Friedländer, author of Franz Kafka: The Poet of Shame and Guilt

A fresh, unadulterated translation of Kafka’s notebooks, dense with introspection and writerly despair . . . The attraction of Kafka’s diaries has always been his coruscating descriptions of his existential struggles as a writer and human being. He captures his frustration in ways that are wrenching, vivid, and highly quotable

Kirkus Reviews

Finally! Three decades after the publication of the critical edition of Franz Kafka's diaries in Germany, English readers can now 'catch Kafka in the act of writing,' thanks to this monumental endeavor by translator Ross Benjamin. This new volume offers us Kafka's singular perspective and delivers an expanded window into Kafka's unique personality. The intricately researched and detailed Notes (75 pages of them!) provide us with a wealth of knowledge and context. For those of us in thrall to Kafka the Man as well as the Writer, the Notes add layers of life to Kafka's world and milieu and reveal a new depth and richness to Kafka's humanity. This new volume is an essential addition to the library of every serious student and reader of Kafka

Kathi Diamant, author of Kafka's Last Love and director of the Kafka Project

Mr. Benjamin’s translation doesn’t just supplant the previous edition — it inaugurates a new phase of Kafka’s afterlife in English . . . The writing glimmers with sensitivity, and openness to the world

The Wall Street Journal

Ross Benjamin has given the literary world an incredible treasure in this thoughtful edition. Kafka has never been so fully present, both as a man and a writer

New York Journal of Books