Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

Blue Octavo Notebooks

Rate this book
Originally omitted from Kafka's famous diaries, these notebooks contain some of Kafka's most famous aphorisms From late 1917 until June 1919, Franz Kafka ceased to keep a diary, for which he had used quarto-size notebooks, instead writing in a series of smaller, octavo-size notebooks. When Kafka's literary executor, Max Brod, published the diaries in 1948, he omitted these notebooks―which include short stories, fragments of stories and other literary writings―because, he wrote, “notations of a diary nature, dates, are found in them only as a rare exception.” The Blue Octavo Notebooks have thus remained little known and yet are among the most characteristic and brilliantly gnomic of Kafka's work. In addition to otherwise unpublished material, the notebooks contain some of Kafka's most famous aphorisms within their original context. This edition of the English translation has been corrected with reference to the German text for certain omissions and discrepancies of sequence. Followers of Kafka will require this book and will find it most rewarding.” –Library Journal.

107 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1953

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Franz Kafka

2,508 books27k followers
Prague-born writer Franz Kafka wrote in German, and his stories, such as " The Metamorphosis " (1916), and posthumously published novels, including The Trial (1925), concern troubled individuals in a nightmarishly impersonal world.

Jewish middle-class family of this major fiction writer of the 20th century spoke German. People consider his unique body of much incomplete writing, mainly published posthumously, among the most influential in European literature.

His stories include "The Metamorphosis" (1912) and " In the Penal Colony " (1914), whereas his posthumous novels include The Trial (1925), The Castle (1926) and Amerika (1927).

Despite first language, Kafka also spoke fluent Czech. Later, Kafka acquired some knowledge of the French language and culture from Flaubert, one of his favorite authors.

Kafka first studied chemistry at the Charles-Ferdinand University of Prague but after two weeks switched to law. This study offered a range of career possibilities, which pleased his father, and required a longer course of study that gave Kafka time to take classes in German studies and art history. At the university, he joined a student club, named Lese- und Redehalle der Deutschen Studenten, which organized literary events, readings, and other activities. In the end of his first year of studies, he met Max Brod, a close friend of his throughout his life, together with the journalist Felix Weltsch, who also studied law. Kafka obtained the degree of doctor of law on 18 June 1906 and performed an obligatory year of unpaid service as law clerk for the civil and criminal courts.

Writing of Kafka attracted little attention before his death. During his lifetime, he published only a few short stories and never finished any of his novels except the very short "The Metamorphosis." Kafka wrote to Max Brod, his friend and literary executor: "Dearest Max, my last request: Everything I leave behind me ... in the way of diaries, manuscripts, letters (my own and others'), sketches, and so on, [is] to be burned unread." Brod told Kafka that he intended not to honor these wishes, but Kafka, so knowing, nevertheless consequently gave these directions specifically to Brod, who, so reasoning, overrode these wishes. Brod in fact oversaw the publication of most of work of Kafka in his possession; these works quickly began to attract attention and high critical regard.

Max Brod encountered significant difficulty in compiling notebooks of Kafka into any chronological order as Kafka started writing in the middle of notebooks, from the last towards the first, et cetera.

Kafka wrote all his published works in German except several letters in Czech to Milena Jesenská.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
416 (38%)
4 stars
413 (37%)
3 stars
203 (18%)
2 stars
44 (4%)
1 star
13 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 87 reviews
Profile Image for Tara.
435 reviews19 followers
May 11, 2019
“It’s the old joke. We hold the world fast and complain that it is holding us.”

A collection of delicate, glinting, captivating fragments, sharp and exquisite as broken glass.

Profile Image for Fernando.
684 reviews1,127 followers
September 29, 2022
“Nuestra salvación es la muerte, pero no ésta.”

Se termina el año 1916 y comienza el nuevo año, 1917 y Franz Kafka está a la deriva.
Su segundo intento de compromiso y casamiento con Felice Bauer está a punto de romperse y necesita una vía de escape a la tuberculosis que ya lo está acuciando.
Se refugia en Zürau en donde primeramente su hermana Otilie “Ottla” Kafka posee una pequeña huerta que ayudará en la salud a su hermano, que es vegetariano.
Munido de varios cuadernos, Franz se refugia en una pequeña casa y empieza a esbozar aforismos, reflexiones, borradores de cuentos y hasta una obra de teatro.
Los ocho cuadernos en octava son conservados y atesorados por Max Brod quien decide corregirlos solo en lo esencial para publicarlos.
Este libro se compone de esos escritos que van desde 1917 a 1919.
Están cargados de anotaciones, en el que Kafka nos sigue deleitando con sus profundas reflexiones, aunque en este caso son más profundas aún y están cargadas de un alto grado de filosofía, ya que puede notarse claramente la gran influencia del pensador, filósofo y teólogo danés Soren Kierkegaard, puesto que parece por momentos que Kafka, luego de leer los libros y ensayos de Kierkegaard expone sus propias conclusiones y acepta o refuta la idea propuestas por el primero.
Como comentara previamente, además de sus maravillosos aforismos, nos encontraremos con borradores de relatos, inicios de cuentos que nunca salieron a la luz, pensamientos y anécdotas sobre el teatro judío, así también como anotaciones luego de terminado el día, remembranzas de sus días en Zürau e interpretaciones sobre la Biblia.
De esta manera y conjuntamente con sus cartas y diarios, seguimos adentrándonos en la mente brillante de Franz Kafka, quien a mi entender junto con Jorge Luis Borges y James Joyce definió para siempre la literatura del siglo XX.
Profile Image for Geoff.
444 reviews1,232 followers
June 29, 2015
In Zürau tubercular Kafka through long nights I imagine as star-needled or dense with dark blue clouds backlit by moonglow, blue depth of cloud rift over blue dark forest humming with animal and wind chorus, branch-song, hill-shadows, blue the color inside a closed skull dense with thoughts, wanting light, blue deep blue and the day also, the sun, the span, the leaves, aphorisms like time-motes on the back breeze of the west wind upgusted, blown into our hands though meant for oblivion. Small things, bursts of words, dense… fragments. Already by the death of Kafka the 20th century’s mythology was written complete, being Anxiety, Angst, Labyrinth, Incompleteness, Disappearance. Here we have the blue thought-motes of bluest density, written down for No One’s eyes, for Never’s reading. You and I, the occupants of Never, are gifted our mythology by the severe church Survival, the cathedral of the 20th century. It was described before it occurred, and what we call an arrival of a body before its arrival is a guardian angel, which clears the way and whispers warnings, its presence indicated by a knocking in the stairwell.
Profile Image for Lynne King.
494 reviews676 followers
Read
July 20, 2015
I lay on the ground by the wall, writhing in pain, trying to burrow into the damp earth. The huntsman stood beside me and lightly pressed one foot in the small of my back. “A splendid beast,” he said to the beater, who was cutting open my collar and coat in order to feel my flesh. Already tired of me and eager for fresh action, the hounds were running senselessly against the wall. The coach came, and, bound hand and foot, I was flung in beside the gentleman, over the back seat, so that my head and arms hung down outside the carriage. The journey passed swiftly and smoothly; perishing of thirst, with open mouth, I breathed in the high-whirling dust, and now and then felt the gentleman’s delighted touch on my calves.

I really didn’t know what to expect from these eight notebooks. They are not in diary format but are actually literary pieces and fragments of ideas that run the gamut from Judaism to human suffering. Some of this was rather depressing. Is that what you call depressing brilliance as is seen in George Orwell, etc.?

My views are very mixed here. One moment I’m caught up in the lyrical beauty of the work and yet in the next paragraph ideas of Judaism (which were quite controversial in Kafka’s family) are thrown into the mix. The most inspiring part, towards the end of this short work, contains the aphorisms and I could read those over and over again.

But still the literary aspect of the book has drawn me into the heart of the matter.

In the seventh notebook, I was rather taken with the following as I could actually envisage it:

An Inviolable Dream. She was running along the highroad. I did not see her. I only noticed how she swung along as she ran, how her veil flew, how her feet lifted: I was sitting at the edge of the field, gazing into the water of the little stream. She ran through the villages; children standing in the doorways watched her coming and watched her going.

In the eighth notebook, Judaism is brought into the equation:

In the following I shall not bother about figures and statistics; that I leave to the historians of the Jewish theater. My purpose is quite simple: to present a few pages of memories of the Jewish theater, with its dramas, its actors, and its public, as I have seen, learnt and experienced this in the course of more than ten years, or, to put it differently, to raise the curtain and show the wound; only after the disease has been diagnosed, can a cure be found and, possibly, the true Jewish theatre created.

Am I pleased I read this, well actually I don’t know. It’s a dilemma for me and I’m not used to dilemmas. I’m linear…
Profile Image for Sofia.
287 reviews95 followers
September 27, 2017
"Πέρα από ένα ορισμένο σημείο δεν υπάρχει επιστροφή. Πρέπει κανείς να φτάσει στο σημείο αυτό."
Profile Image for BAM the enigma.
1,898 reviews378 followers
April 11, 2022
I think I just found this on the internet through an address sited on the Wikipedia info page
Ok, so yes it is a link to a copy of the Notebooks; however the typist? is feeling my de Balzac pain because I'm reading along and then I see this:
"JFC PAGE *ucking six of eighty one holy *uck exactly the next paragraph " lol I think the typist bit off more than he could chew?
A few more paragraphs "Kafka also wrote nonfiction but nobody wants to read it." This person (I was going to say dude because I call everyone dude but I didn't) is not happy with this assignment lol
Profile Image for Steven R. Kraaijeveld.
502 reviews1,764 followers
December 31, 2018
"Sometimes I think I can expiate all my past and future sins through the aching of my bones when I come home from the engineering works at night or, in the morning, after a night-shift. I am not strong enough for this work, I have known that for a long time and yet I do nothing to change anything." (23)
6 reviews5 followers
July 10, 2022
Kafka's Octavo 1917-1919 Notebooks are filled with literary fragments, aphorisms, story drafts, analyses of the works he's read, and even poems.

Above all, they are replete with astonishing insight, acerbic wit, indescribably-complex musings, morbidly intriguing imaginations, and vivid imagery. I was perpetually enthralled and fascinated, yet again, by the precision with which he chose his words and used them to develop absolutely striking ideas that often pertained to themes of guilt, suffering, sin and hope. Kafka's genius lies in - among other things - his ability to strip the world of its normalcy and barrennize it beyond recognition. However, this lack of recognition is not because Kafka's perception is untrue, but rather because our perception is not honest enough.

He also has the uncanny power to take the most (deceptively) simple musings and expand them until they overwhelm the mind with their complexity and revelatory insight. These ideas, often packaged in the form of aphorisms, are like diamonds in a burlap sack - their encasement in shadow dulls them, but the smallest beam of light can make their brilliance blind the eye. The way he manipulates the world and becomes ruler of its presentation is mind-blowing. Every element, every deception, every single thing surrenders to him, begging, Undress me, uncloak me, lay me bare before the world; let it gaze in astonishment at what I really am and what I can be. Kafka, I adore your mind!

The only flaw is that the Notebooks are fragmented and disjointed - I would have loved to swim in the dark, brooding sea of his consciousness instead of merely dipping my toes in it. However, his Diaries will eliminate this complaint!

"Ah, what is set before us here!
Bed and couch under trees,
green darkness, dry leafage,
little sun, damp scent of flowers.
Ah, what is set before us here!

Whither does desire drive us?
To gain this? to lose this?
Senselessly we drink the ash
And suffocate our father.
Whither does desire drive us?

Whither does desire drive us?
Out of the house, away."

"You need not leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen, simply wait. You need not even wait, just learn to become quiet, and still, and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked; it has no choice; it will roll in raptures, in ecstasy, at your feet."
Profile Image for Aggeliki.
290 reviews
October 25, 2018
Αφορισμοί διά χειρός Κάφκα ή πώς να σε βάλει στο κεφάλι του. Πολλοί από τους οποίους θα μπορούσαν να γίνουν άριστη αφορμή για ώρες συζήτησης και ανάλυσης δίχως να υπάρξει ολοκλήρωση του συλλογισμού. Γιατί; Διότι Κάφκα.
Profile Image for Lee Klein .
812 reviews877 followers
June 13, 2007
This is an amazing book. I've had maybe four copies in the last ten years and have given them all away. It's printed by two-thirds of what used to be the band Galaxie 500. The other third became Luna. A beautiful book. Includes Reflections on Sin etc . . . and aphorisms and freakish fragments.
Profile Image for Magdalen.
192 reviews95 followers
November 30, 2019
Not the Kafka i was used to , but it's definitely and interesting book.
Profile Image for Kate Savage.
669 reviews120 followers
August 31, 2014
"Your will is free means: it was free when it wanted the desert, it is free since it can choose the path that leads to crossing the desert, it is free since it can choose the pace, but it is also unfree since you must go through the desert, unfree since every path in labyrinthine manner touches every foot of the desert’s surface."

Kafka at his most fragmented and immediate. The blue octavo notebooks were the equivalent of those salt-and-pepper student composition books, meant for scribblings and first drafts. What Kafka created there is a list of irreverent and troubling Zen koans. This book solidifies for me Kafka's position as one of the most complex and interesting spiritual theorists in the West. (though as for that word "theorist," as Kafka says here: "From outside one will always triumphantly impress theories upon the world and then fall straight into the ditch one has dug, but only from inside will one keep oneself and the world quiet and true.")


Profile Image for Debra.
43 reviews8 followers
April 30, 2008
My favorite of Kafka's journals, with wonderful Nietschean aphorisms told in Kafka's inimitable cadence and voice.
Profile Image for Ümit Mutlu.
Author 41 books294 followers
May 19, 2014
"Çalılık, eskilerden bir settir, ilerleyebilmek için çalılığı ateşe vermek gerekir."

"Avarelik tüm kötülüklerin anası, tüm erdemlerin tacıdır."

"Ödevimizin yaşamımız kadar büyük oluşu, onu sonsuzmuş gibi gösteriyor."

"Kendini öldüren kişi , hapishanenin avlusunda kurulan darağacını gören, bunun onun için kurulduğunu sanan, gece hücresinden kaçıp kendini asan bir mahkumdur."

"İradenin özgürlüğü denen şey şudur: Kendini çöle vurmakta, çölü geçeceğin yolu seçmekte, nasıl yürüyeceğini belirlemekte özgürdür; fakat aynı zamanda, çölü geçmek zorunda olduğu için özgür değildir, seçeceği her yolun labirent misali çölün her noktasına uğraması zorunlu olduğu için özgür değildir."


...Çünkü haşereyi üreten boşluktur!
Profile Image for prashant.
144 reviews220 followers
February 4, 2023
‘The main thing, when a sword cuts into one's soul, is to keep a calm gaze, lose no blood, accept the coldness of the sword with the coldness of a stone. By means of the stab, after the stab, become invulnerable.’
Profile Image for Amanda M.
57 reviews21 followers
Read
October 10, 2022
I am unable to give this a star rating. As someone who loves Kafka's works, I felt it was important to read this. The average reader may not feel the same. This is a collection of ideas, writings, and stories that often don't continue or have middles or endings. I personally enjoyed this but it would easily lose the average reader who isn't invested in Kafka.
Profile Image for Robert.
Author 14 books102 followers
July 19, 2017
Kafka kept journals full of day-to-day events; he also kept eight little notebooks cum "reflections" that contain thoughts and ideas that were not so time-bound. Examples:

"The evolution of mankind--a growth of death-force."

"He felt it at his temple, as the wall feels the point of a nail that is about to be driven into it. Hence he did not feel it."

"Human judgment of human actions is true and void, that is to say, first true and then void."

In a declarative way, such statements are analogues of his beautifully opaque fictions, and yet there is, as one reads along, a sense that Kafka is not having quite as much fun and cutting closer to his own bones.

Here's another example: "In a certain sense, the Good is comfortless."

Repeatedly Kafka writes as though to him Good and Evil were meaningful terms, although as in this example, the actual meaning is empty, or Good cancels Evil, or vice versa.

He writes about God less compellingly that "impatience," which he identifies as the greatest of human flaws, or weaknesses, more than once. It is as though he is saying to himself that enduring The Trial or visiting The Castle might not be such a bad thing if one were only more patient with mystery.

Some passages go so far as to suggest, to me at least, a Zen-like attitude toward existence, which is to say a negation of existence or indifference or an acceptance of all things as one thing and one thing as all things.

"There is no having, only a being, only a state of being that craves the last breath, craves suffocation."

These little blue notebooks are shocking in the sense that they reflect conclusions external to Kafka's fictions, a brooding resignation, an editorial dismissal. As disturbing as his fictions are, they bother about telling a story and in stories lie nooks and crannies of hope or at least echoes thereof.

Perhaps some of that survives in his most private thoughts:

"The indestructible is one: it is each individual human being and, at the same time, it is common to all, hence the incomparably indivisible union that exists between human beings."

The best fiction writers cloak "thought" in plots, characters, settings, tonalities, rhythms. They create and hide in aesthetic structures. And yet fiction writers do have explicit thoughts. Here are Kafka's...cryptic, elusive, Kafkaesque.

February 11, 2013
Immersion begun...I'm sinking into his world...
a Gifts for a frigid February Night:

"What is ridiculous in the physical world is possible in the spiritual world.......The inner world can only be experienced, not described.____"
Franz Kafka, Blue Octavo Notebooks , THE THIRD NOTEBOOK, page 14, paragraph 4...

Upon this Night too cold for Moon, I should snuggle with K. and discuss with him:

1) Poets often struggle to describe that "inner world". {Yes or no?}

2) Moments exist when "the inner world" arrives upon your page, your pen having seemingly surpassed your brain...Perhaps, even you, the Poet, do not understand what has arrived? Will you ever fully understand?

I have far more to Read, but far too little. CherylFaith 10 Feb., 2013
Profile Image for Jenni.
171 reviews31 followers
July 30, 2007
I never realized how religious he was until I read this. Many notes about Christian faith, sin, suffering, evil. A list of 109 "Reflections," and a few parable-like stories. Some are incredibly funny:

"To all of my fellow lodgers:
I am in possession of five toy rifles. They are hanging in my wardrobe, one on each hook. The first belongs to me, and the others can be claimed by anyone who wishes to send his name. . . "
35 reviews
June 17, 2011
kafka's last notebooks of fragments, ideas, and burning nights. kafka in a sheaf of notes is much more intelligible than in his tightly constructed pieces - here you can see the burdens hammering in his chest. the lines are so precious and unfamiliar in their origin - they've stayed rattling in my head like strange pets
Profile Image for Jody Rambo.
11 reviews4 followers
August 4, 2008
initially intrigued by the fact that kafka kept a diary in quarto-sized notebooks, i searched for a copy. aphoristically rich. dreamy at times. a bit like being in a small gallery of only picasso's blue period paintings.
Profile Image for Al Matthews.
64 reviews4 followers
December 27, 2007
4.36, in fact.

This is nice -- the little jottings that were I gather Kafka's primary genre. Believe this edition is designed by Naomi of (Exact Change Press and) Galaxie 500.

Profile Image for kttf.
10 reviews
October 20, 2012
Parts of it were brilliant, some others not so.. It was after all just a collection of unfinished thoughts. I'd likely leave recommendations to Kafka fans.
Profile Image for Ingrid Contreras.
Author 7 books952 followers
December 29, 2018
Kafka is a genius. Contains this line: “A cage went looking for a bird,” and many just as dazzling.
354 reviews43 followers
January 31, 2019
Strictly speaking of interest only when read comparatively with The Zürau Aphorisms, whose phrasing/sense I prefer.
Profile Image for Maggie.
33 reviews12 followers
November 4, 2019
"How can one be glad about the world except if one takes one's refuge in it?"
Displaying 1 - 30 of 87 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.