“What I needed was a little encouragement, a little friendliness, a little help to keep my future open, instead you obstructed it, admittedly with the good intention of persuading me to go down a different path.” ~ Franz Kafka, Letter to My Father
Kafka’s father, Hermann Kafka, worked his way up from poverty. As soon as he was able to push a wheelbarrow, he began delivering kosher meats for his father. He left home at the tender age of fourteen, joined the army at nineteen, and then took on employment as a traveling salesman. He had a strong work ethic, eventually becoming owner of a retail store for men’s and women’s accessories where he used a black crow-like bird called the jackdaw (Kavka in Czech) as his business logo. He also established himself through an advantageous marriage to Julia Löwy, who was better educated and the daughter of a prosperous brewer. As the business grew, Hermann had high blood pressure, as well as respiratory and cardiac problems; therefore, the family worked hard not to excite him. He especially did not like humor at his own expense and often expressed his disapproval of Franz’s passion for writing, pressuring his son to take over the family business. Throughout his life, Kafka was overwhelmed and intimidated by his domineering, tyrannical father. Kafka’s troubled relationship with him is documented in his over 100-page Letter to My Father, which Kafka’s mother advised Kafka never to give him, as well as his short stories The Judgement and The Metamorphosis. Kafka wanted love and encouragement, but he felt abandonment as his parents worked long hours trying to run the business.
Photo: Kafka’s father Hermann Kafka and his mother Julie (Löwy)