Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Zürau Aphorisms” as Want to Read:
The Zürau Aphorisms
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Zürau Aphorisms

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  2,114 ratings  ·  179 reviews
The essential philosophical writings of one of the twentieth centurys most influential writers are now gathered into a single volume with an introduction and afterword by the celebrated writer and publisher Roberto Calasso.

Illness set him free to write a series of philosophical fragments: some narratives, some single images, some parables. These aphorisms appeared,
Paperback, 160 pages
Published December 26th 2006 by Schocken (first published 1931)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.76  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,114 ratings  ·  179 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Zürau Aphorisms
Sep 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A cage went in search for a bird


The crows like to insist a single crow is enough to destroy heaven. This is incontestably true, but it says nothing about heaven, because heaven is just another way of saying: the impossibility of crows.

During his stay in the house of his sister Ottla in the Bohemian village of Zürau from mid September 1917 to the end of April 1917, to recuperate following the onset of his tuberculosis, Kafka gave the impression having been close to happiness, and relief. In his
Mar 06, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of the beautiful things about this mesmerizing little collection of Kafka-isms is that theres a line or two for nearly any mood you might be in, any topic you might want to pause to reflect on.

I found much of it genuinely encouraging:
If you were walking across a plain, felt every desire to walk, and yet found yourself going backward, it would be a cause for despair; but as you are in fact scaling a steep precipice, as sheer in front of you as you are from the ground, then your backward
Riku Sayuj
May 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: r-r-rs
Apparently Kafka can write with clarity - in Aphorisms.

As I read in another goodreads review - Even the least of his works is worth reading.
Jun 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
On one hand, it is clear that Kafka was not an aphorist. Read Albert Camus's Notebooks or Franco-Romanian philosopher E. M. Cioran's various books or Kierkegaard's Either/Or, and you will encounter a great aphorist. But then, Kafka was such a great writer that he could not help hitting the target on occasion.

Kafka spent some eight months at Zurau in Czechoslovakia with his sister Ottla when he discovered he had tuberculosis. He felt some relief being away from the pressures of marriage, work,
Rahul Holani
Feb 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
Every work of Kafka needs an extraordinary level of understanding of the life to understand his work to its truest essence. I could understand few of the aphorisms but most of them are beyond my understanding. Only life experiences would makes us capable of understanding them.
Jul 28, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-bought
Aphorisms is a fantastic form of writing, or concentrating on a thought that should only be a sentence or two. There is for sure, a connection to poetry, because the language has to be extremely precise and to the point. Franz Kafka's "Aphorisms" is a collection of his witticisms and thoughts in this manner. "Belief is progress doesn't mean belief in progress that has already occurred. That would not require belief." Without a doubt (or belief) I will be dipping into this book on an ongoing ...more
Feb 19, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction-read, czech
1. The true path is along a rope, not a rope suspended way up in the air, but rather only just over the ground. It seems more like a tripwire than a tightrope.

13. A first indication of glimmering understanding is the desire to die. This life seems unendurable, another unreachable. One no longer feels ashamed of wanting to die; one petitions to be moved from ones old cell, which one hates, into a new one, which one will come to hate. A last vestige of belief is involved here, too, for during the
Mar 31, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"I have never been here before: my breath comes differently, the sun is outshone by a star beside it." (17)
This edition of Kafka's aphorisms contains both his better-known Zürau Aphorisms, and writings under the title of "He" : Notes from the Year 1920. The aphorisms read like fragments from Heraclitus, heavy with the boundlessness of pre-Socratic philosophy; yet with that unique style, tone, and touch that is Kafka's. One note about the edition: there was an enigmatic general introduction,
Tanuj Solanki
Jun 21, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: e-book, german
an hour is all it takes. and you will have more than one sentence to remember all your life.
Lou Last
Sep 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The joys of this life are not its joys, but our fear of climbing into a higher life; the torments of this life are not its torments, but our self-torment on account of this fear.

Sin always comes openly, and in a form apprehensible to the senses. It walks on its roots and doesnt need to be plucked out of the ground.

All the sufferings we occasion we must also suffer. We dont all share one body, but we do share growth, and that leads us through all pain, whether in this form or that. As the child
The first thing to appreciate before opening this collection is the notion of an aphorism. As Daniel Frank aptly writes in the foreword:
The word aphorism comes from the Greek αφοριζειυ, which means to define. The Greek word is a compound of the preposition αποapart fromand όριζειυto divide or separate from as a boundary and from which we get the word horizon. An aphorism suggests the distance that allows one to see the horizon. The horizon is an early experience of a boundary.

Kafka's aphorisms
Julie Rylie
Mar 26, 2010 rated it it was amazing
one of the most inspiring books i had the pleasure to read and the best part is that you can even reflect on the aphorism and write your thoughts right below. P-e-r-f-e-c-t.

One of the best ones: From a certain point onward there is no longer any turning back. That is the point that must be reached.
Jul 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The variety of views that one may have, say, of an apple: the view of the small boy who has to crane his neck for a glimpse of the apple on the table, and the view of the master of the house who picks up the apple and hands it to a guest.
- pg. 12

* * *

As firmly as a hand holding a stone. Held, however, so firmly, merely so that it can be flung a greater distance. But there is a path even to that distance.
- pg. 21

* * *

There is no possessing, only an existing, only an existing that yearns for its
Rebekah Morgan
Apr 03, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
I read this in one sitting to avoid doing math homework. Although it was enjoyable, I find aphorisms to be the most masculine form of writing. Writing a whole book of unverified and unsupported statements is something that, until recently, only a man would ever do.
Peter Landau
Jan 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I like a short book, with only a few sentences at most on each page. It makes me feel accomplished. I can read the whole thing in a day, if not a sitting. I also like to talk about things which divide people religion is a great springboard for conversation. I dont care enough to get upset with people I don't agree with. These ideas are so fanciful it would be like getting angry with someone who disagreed about your opinion on STAR WARS, though many do. And I like Franz Kafka, so THE ZÜRAU ...more
Jason Walker
Apr 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I've read this book at least two times through. It is not the kind of book that you read coer-to-cover in a single setting. At least two of the aphorisms are tacked to my wall in my office at all times. We are not single function, biological or mental, we are at all times the most complicated of creatures. This book is a reminder of how to simplify.
Jan 01, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: german
Some splendid nuggets of Kafka here, but in general I don't think it's Kafka at his best. Kafka is probably my favourite author on the planet, and his other works- particularly his short stories and novellas, and also some parts of his diaries- so altered my life and continue to move me on rereads. So while I liked this book, I don't think it lives up to some of his other writings.
Kierkegaard is alive. This should be read over and over again.
Jul 18, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Calasso's take on Kafka's theology.
David Meditationseed
Generally a book of aphorisms should not be read at one time because they are collections of thoughts that provide a time for reflection in each of them, such as poetry, which opens up spaces for interpretations and discoveries of meanings and metaphors.

In this collection of Kafka, we will probably get some of his thoughts that we can carry for life. But in my opinion, I prefer their tales and stories, that's where their symbolisms get me most.

In this selection, we will see many of the themes
May 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"You are the exercise, the task. No student far and wide." (21)

"One of the most effective seductions of Evil is the call to struggle." (7)

The aphorisms are simply incredible, and bear multiple readings. I do fear some meaning has been unnecessarily lost in the Hofmann translation. I read a note elsewhere about aphorism 40, which Walter Benjamin refers to in his preparatory notes to his theses on history. Hofmann translates this aphorism as "It's only our notion of time that allows us to speak of
Sanket Hota
Feb 22, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some of my favorites:
"Grasp the good fortune that the ground on which you stand cannot be any bigger than the two feet planted on it."

"Some deny the existence of misery by pointing to the sun; he denies the existence of the sun by pointing to misery."

"A cage went in search of a bird."

"The animal wrests the whip from its master and whips itself in order to become master, not knowing that this is only a fantasy produced by a new knot in the master's whiplash."

"A prison he could have come to terms
Åñbü Çhélvåñ
Jul 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
i really liked this book.but the aphorisms here are more obscure than anyother book of aphorisms i have read so far.
the book contains 2 parts;1)the zurau aphorisms 2)HE,
this part mainly deals with the evil and good,paradise and expulsion from paradise,way to truth,belief,suffering,blablabla,,
most of the aphorisms [needless to say as it is kafka's] are different at first,after alot of ponderings on them.very deep,profound at last.
i guess outta 109,13-15 aphorisms didnt move
Aug 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
There is a destination but no way there; what we refer to as way is hesitation. 

I really enjoyed this little book, it shows how Kafka writes poetically. It shows different messages with different meanings, and reminded me why I enjoy reading Kafka so much. It was a quick and easy read that made me question some of the things written here as they are pertinent subjects. 

This is the first book I read alike it and I have to admit there is not a lot to say to a book as short as this, but I highly
Jan 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
"There is no possessing, only an existing, only
an existing that yearns for its final breath, for

"From a certain point on, there is no more
turning back. That is the point that must be

"All human errors stem from impatience,
a premature breaking off of a methodical
approach, an ostensible pinning down of an
ostensible object."

"Sexual love deceives us as to heavenly love;
were it alone, it would not be able to do so,
but containing within itself, unknowingly, a
germ of heavenly
Mar 18, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Kafka spent too much time alone.
Molly Gaudry
Favorite aphorism: Belief in progress doesnt mean belief in progress that has already occurred. That would not require belief. ...more
Oct 30, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: must-reads
As a writer, you are constantly trying to connect to the past and the present. The past is always tricky, though. Classics can be seen as timeless, but that is not always the case. I remember reading Kafkas Metamorphosis in high school and feeling the immediate disconnect to his writing.
As I embark on my first foray into allegory, it was recommended to me by my English professor to retry Kafka. She handed me her personal copy of The Zurau Aphorisms with a promise to hand it back within a week.
Sidharth Vardhan
Apr 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: europe, non-fiction
"Leopards break into the temple and drink all the sacrificial vessels dry; it keeps happening; in the end, it can be calculated in advance and is incorporated into the ritual.

Gives you a wonderful insights into Kafka's mind - some of these tell you about his views on morality, idea of truth, tradation etc. There are a lot of antidotes regarding story of Adam's fall. There are still others that act more like teasers for some novel that Kafka seem to be planning to write.

Of course they are a
This treasure trove of Kafka's aphorisms is not very new on the question of content, but it's the first time that they have been published exactly as Kafka had authored and layed them out. Every page contains one quote, letting the white space around it provide the reflective silence.

As for the sayings, most do already appear in his diaries, but some are original. In this form, they are certainly to be appreciated again.

Kafka once said (not in this book): "I think we ought to read only the kind
« previous 1 3 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • An Odyssey of the North
  • Scharlach (Fischer Klassik Plus)
  • History and Utopia
  • Rahel Rechtet Mit Gott. Legenden
  • The New Gods
  • Un mariage à Lyon
  • Twilight and Moonbeam Alley
  • İnsan Ne İle Yaşar?
  • Der Zwang
  • Storia di una caduta
  • Arayışlar
  • El candelabro enterrado
  • Şair Evlenmesi
  • Şu Hortumlu Dünyada Fil Yalnız Bir Hayvandır
  • Feniçka
  • Μαύρο νερό
  • Sırça Köşk
  • Journey into the Past
See similar books…
Franz Kafka was one of the major fiction writers of the 20th century. He was born to a middle-class German-speaking Jewish family in Prague, Bohemia (presently the Czech Republic), AustriaHungary. His unique body of writingmuch of which is incomplete and which was mainly published posthumouslyis considered to be among the most influential in Western literature.

His stories include "The

News & Interviews

April is the most hopeful of months, promising warm days and sunshine just around the corner. The weather is a little unpredictable, sure, but tha...
56 likes · 10 comments
“There is a destination but no way there; what we refer to as way is hesitation.” 55 likes
“Leop­ards break in­to the tem­ple and drink all the sac­ri­fi­cial ves­sels dry; it keeps hap­pen­ing; in the end, it can be cal­cu­lat­ed in ad­vance and is in­cor­po­rat­ed in­to the rit­ual.” 26 likes
More quotes…