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In the Penal Colony

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Overview

"In the Penal Colony" is a short story by Franz Kafka.

"In the Penal Colony" (In der Strafkolonie) is a short story in German by Franz Kafka. It is set in an unnamed penal colony. As in other of Kafka's writings, the narrator is detached from, or perhaps numbed by, events that one would normally expect to be registered with horror. In the Penal Colony is a story about the last use of an elaborate torture and execution device that carves the sentence of the man on his skin in a flowery script before letting him die, all in the course of twelve

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In the Penal Colony

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Overview

"In the Penal Colony" is a short story by Franz Kafka.

"In the Penal Colony" (In der Strafkolonie) is a short story in German by Franz Kafka. It is set in an unnamed penal colony. As in other of Kafka's writings, the narrator is detached from, or perhaps numbed by, events that one would normally expect to be registered with horror. In the Penal Colony is a story about the last use of an elaborate torture and execution device that carves the sentence of the man on his skin in a flowery script before letting him die, all in the course of twelve hours.

Franz Kafka (3 July 1883 - 3 June 1924) was a German-language writer of novels and short stories, regarded by critics as one of the most influential authors of the 20th century. Most of his works, such as "Die Verwandlung" ("The Metamorphosis"), Der Prozess (The Trial), and Das Schloss (The Castle), are filled with the themes and archetypes of alienation, physical and psychological brutality, parent-child conflict, characters on a terrifying quest, labyrinths of bureaucracy, and mystical transformations.

Kafka was born into a middle-class, German-speaking Jewish family in Prague, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In his lifetime, most of the population of Prague spoke Czech, and the division between Czech- and German-speaking people was a tangible reality, as both groups were strengthening their national identity. The Jewish community often found itself in between the two sentiments, naturally raising questions about a place to which one belongs. Kafka himself was fluent in both languages, considering German his mother tongue.

Kafka trained as a lawyer and after completing his legal education, obtained employment with an insurance company. He began to write short stories in his spare time. For the rest of his life, he complained about the little time he had to devote to what he came to regard as his calling. He regretted having to devote so much attention to his Brotberuf ("day job", literally "bread job"). Kafka preferred to communicate by letter; he wrote hundreds of letters to family and close female friends, including his father, his fiancée Felice Bauer, and his youngest sister Ottla. He had a complicated and troubled relationship with his father that had a major effect on his writing. He also suffered conflict over being Jewish, feeling that it had little to do with him, although critics argue that it influenced his writing.

Only a few of Kafka's works were published during his lifetime: the story collections Betrachtung (Contemplation) and Ein Landarzt (A Country Doctor), and individual stories (such as "Die Verwandlung") in literary magazines. He prepared the story collection Ein Hungerkünstler (A Hunger Artist) for print, but it was not published until after his death. Kafka's unfinished works, including his novels Der Prozess, Das Schloss and Amerika (also known as Der Verschollene, The Man Who Disappeared), were published posthumously, mostly by his friend Max Brod, who ignored Kafka's wish to have the manuscripts destroyed. Albert Camus, Gabriel García Márquez and Jean-Paul Sartre are among the writers influenced by Kafka's work; the term Kafkaesque has entered the English language to describe surreal situations like those in his writing.

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Editorial Reviews

S Reviewer
This annotated version is great for a better understanding of the connections between the Penal Colony and other Kafka writings. That kind of information isn't usually provided in annotations, and even though I've read many of Kafka's stories the connections aren't immediately apparent to me. Also, the clarification of certain German words and the possible hidden meanings is extremely useful. There is also quite a bit of interpretation which helped me engage with the text a bit more critically.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781501020810
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Publishing
  • Publication date: 8/31/2014
  • Pages: 54
  • Sales rank: 1,039,067
  • Product dimensions: 5.06 (w) x 7.81 (h) x 0.11 (d)

Meet the Author

Franz Kafka
Franz Kafka was a German-language writer of novels and short stories, regarded by critics as one of the most influential authors of the 20th century. Kafka strongly influenced genres such as existentialism.

Biography

Franz Kafka was born in 1883 to a well-to-do middle-class Jewish family. His father, the self-made proprietor of a wholesale haberdashery business, was a domineering man whose approbation Franz continually struggled to win. The younger Kafka's feelings of inadequacy and guilt form the background of much of his work and are made explicit in his "Letter to His Father" (excerpted in this volume), which was written in 1919 but never sent.

Kafka was educated in the German language schools of Prague and at the city's German University, where in 1908 he took a law degree. Literature, however, remained his sole passion. At this time he became part of a literary circle that included Franz Werfel, Martin Buber, and Kafka's close friend Max Brod. Encouraged by Brod, Kafka published the prose collection Observations in 1913. Two years later his story "The Stoker" won the Fontaine prize. In 1916 he began work on The Trial and between this time and 1923 produced three incomplete novels as well as numerous sketches and stories. In his lifetime some of his short works did appear: The Judgment (1916), The Metamorphosis (1916), The Penal Colony (1919), and The Country Doctor (1919).

Before his death of tuberculosis in 1924, Kafka had charged Max Brod with the execution of his estate, ordering Brod to burn the manuscripts. With the somewhat circular justification that Kafka must have known his friend could not obey such an order, Brod decided to publish Kafka's writings. To this act of "betrayal" the world owes the preservation of some of the most unforgettable and influential literary works of our century.

Biography courtesy of BN.com

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    1. Date of Birth:
      July 3, 1883
    2. Place of Birth:
      Prague, Austria-Hungary
    1. Date of Death:
      June 3, 1924
    2. Place of Death:
      Vienna, Austria
    1. Education:
      German elementary and secondary schools. Graduated from German Charles-Ferdinand University of Prague.

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