Description of a Struggle – Franz Kafka

Book: The Complete Short Stories of Franz Kafka.
Status: Still reading.

I thought I’d take my first quotes from a book I’m still reading, and an author I love.
These snippets I liked come from the first story in the book and is one of the earliest existing stories that Kafka wrote, called Description of a Struggle.
Kafka begun this story in 1904 at the age of 20/21 and continued to dip into it until 1909. I’ve read that this isn’t a favourite of some readers, and some advising new readers of Kafka to skip it to begin with. I agree that certain stories should be read first, such as ‘The Judgment’, ‘Metamorphosis’ and ‘In the Penal Colony’, to get a feel of classic Kafka. However I really enjoyed reading this story. It breaks off so suddenly into a drama then to a sort of magical realism that it really surprises you. Saying that, my favourite section of Description of a Struggle is the first section, which is basically realism for the main part, then turns surreal. Parts I quote may not seem particularly interesting but I like the way Kafka brings us into the narrators thoughts and movements. I had to stop myself from quoting much more! Expect a slight Kafka bombardment as I go through this book…

“I looked at him sadly – the piece of fruitcake which I had in my mouth did not taste particularly good – and said into his rather flushed face: ‘I’m glad of course that you consider me trustworthy, but displeased that you have confided in me. And you yourself, if you weren’t in such a state, would know how improper it is to talk about an amorous girl to a man sitting alone drinking schnapps.’”

“Hardly were we outside when I evidently began to feel very gay. I raised my legs, let my joints crack, I shouted a name down the street as though a friend of mine had just vanished around the corner; leaping, I threw my hat in the air and caught it boastfully.”

“No sooner had I given him an encouraging slap on the back than I suddenly no longer understood his mood, and withdrew my hand. Since I had no use for it, I stuck it in the pocket of my coat.”

“All day in the office, evenings at a party, at night on the streets, and nothing to excess. A way of life so natural that it borders on the excessive!”

“’…But sleep? On a night like this? What an idea! Just think how many thoughts a blanket smothers while one lies alone in bed, and how many unhappy dreams it keeps warm.’”

“So I had already got as far as that. He could tell me things like that and at the same time smile and look at me with big eyes. And I – I had to restrain myself from putting my arm around his shoulders and kissing him on the eyes as a reward for having absolutely no use for me.”

“Then I might say to it with my eyes closed: ‘Mountain, I do not love you, for you remind me of the clouds, of the sunset, of the rising sky, and these are things that almost make me cry because one can never reach them while being carried on a small litter. But when showing me this, sly mountain, you block the distant view which gladdens me, for it reveals the attainable at a glance. That is why I do not love you, mountain by the water – no, I do not love you.’”

“‘God, how much more profitable it would be if the Thinker could learn from the Drunk!’”

(Edit) Another part of the first section I just had to add is this, although I can’t add it all, it’s almost a page worth, I’m adding part of it. The narrator suddenly thinks his height displeases his new friend, and begins to bend down as he walks. It’s almost Pythonesque!

“…‘What’s this? You’re all crooked! What on earth are you up to?’
‘Quite right. You’re very observant,’ said I, my head on the seam of his trousers, which is why I couldn’t look up properly.
‘Enough of that! Stand up straight! What nonsense!’
‘No,’ I said, my face close to the ground, ‘I’ll stay as I am’.
‘You really can annoy a person, I must say. Such a waste of time! Come on, put an end to it.’”

Taken from ‘Description of a Struggle’ by Franz Kafka, translated by Tania and James Stern.
Available from Amazon UK  –


One thought on “Description of a Struggle – Franz Kafka

  1. Stephus says:

    Great quotes! I absolutely love this story, and I’m a huge fan of Kafka. There’s just no one like him. 🙂

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