‘Being Unhappy’ by Franz Kafka, translated by Michael Hofmann

I like stories that seem to have something missing, in which something of the meaning is located outside the story. ‘Being Unhappy’ is both restless and pointless, and slightly disturbing, as well as slightly distasteful. I don’t even know if I like this story any more. I just know it did something for me and for my work at some point. If I went with one of Kafka’s longer, better known stories, it wouldn’t be ‘Metamorphosis’, but ‘Josephine the Mouse Singer’; it wouldn’t be ‘The Hunger Artist’, but ‘Investigations of a Dog’.

First published in German in Bretrachtung, 1913. Widely translated, including in Metamorphosis and Other Stories, Penguin, 2007Read it online, in a different translation, here

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