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KafkaJudaism, Politics, and Literature$
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Ritchie Robertson

Print publication date: 1987

Print ISBN-13: 9780198158141

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198158141.001.0001

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The Urban World

The Urban World

Der Verschollene (1912–1914) and Die Verwandlung (1912)

(p.38) 2 The Urban World

Ritchie Robertson

Oxford University Press

By 1900, the population of Prague was approaching 400,000 and it was encircled by spreading working-class suburbs. Franz Kafka was worried by many of the effects of technology, but he was also fascinated by its latest developments. Among these were the cinema and the aeroplane. It would seem beyond doubt that the presentation of the world's most advanced industrial and technological society, by a method between realism and fantasy, was a major part of Kafka's project. America is not just the setting but the theme of the novel, though not its only theme: we know that Kafka's title for his book was Der Verschollene, placing the focus on Karl Rossmann. The moral and psychological themes surrounding Rossmann are familiar from Das Urteil and Die Verwandlung, the other stories Kafka wrote in the autumn of 1912. The single most important source for Kafka's critical view of America was the account by the journalist Arthur Holitscher of his travels in the United States and Canada. Religion, too, seems to be more characteristic of Europe than of America.

Keywords:   Franz Kafka, Prague, Der Verschollene, Die Verwandlung, realism, America, religion, technology, Karl Rossmann, Arthur Holitscher

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