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The Complete Short Stories

4.35  ·  Rating details ·  22,824 ratings  ·  577 reviews
This volume contains all of Kafka's shorter fiction, from fragments, parables and sketches to longer tales. Together they reveal the breadth of Kafka's literary vision and the extraordinary imaginative depth of his thought. Some are well-known, others are mere jottings, observations of daily life, given artistic form through Kafka's unique perception of the world.
Paperback, 457 pages
Published May 18th 1999 by Vintage Classics (first published 1946)
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Ben Winch
The idea that there exists such thing as a “must read” book is one of the great fallacies diluting literature. To judge a reader unfavourably because a certain book is not on his or her shelf, rather than to praise and learn from the idiosyncratic choices to be found there instead, is to wish for a literature of bland homogeneity. To label a book “must read” is to condemn it to being misunderstood. And when that book is by the strange, reclusive, haunted black-humourist Franz Kafka, and is given ...more
Oct 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“Around me things sink away like fallen snow, whereas for other people even a little liqueur glass stands on the table steady as a statue.”

4.5 stars.

There are stories in this collection (and these were by far my favorite kind) that clutch and fumble and scrabble across the surface of your mind, entities so eerily misshapen and askew that you don’t want to let them in.

Grimacing and winking, they slither in anyway.

Before you know it, everything you thought solid and real begins to fall away.
I think it's a little mistake to judge Kafka considering only "The Metamorphosis". There's a whole different view on things in some of his stories. You're not going to find a nice, warm, fuzzy, Care Bear kind of book (that line made sense in my mind). But some of his stories do show another side of him. I personally like the psychological twisted, complicated, claustrophobic and absurd ones with a weird sense of humor (yes, he can be funny) and infinite interpretations. But that's just me.

Sidharth Vardhan
The Old Man in the Woods


The Monkeys by fire

We monkeys have sat by this ever-burning fire for generations because we are afraid to go outside the perimeter of its light into the dark. Although we have tried to look beyond into the darkness everyday hoping to find something; yet all of us are afraid to step out. And this fear is not baseless, for whoever has entered the darkness has never returned.

Thus this fire has a very central role to play in our lives. It has been there for as long
Το Άθχημο Γατί Καρολίνα
There is a book written by Max Brod in 1928, four years after Kafka's death, titled Zauberreich Der Liebe (The Kingdom of Love /The Magic Realm of Love) its main character inspired after Kafka. I would be interested in reading it, if I could find the English translation somewhere. This book was rejected by Walter Benjamin with arguments that make no sense, in a letter to Gerhard Scholem, Paris, June 12, 1938. I do not know by what logic Walter Benjamin considers himself a connoisseur of Kafka's ...more
Aug 17, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone, at least a little
Buy a good collection of Kafka's stories and put it in the bathroom.


If you've been led to believe that Kafka wrote drab stories about alienation and angst (and that The Metamorphosis is a tradgedy), then take a magic marker, cross out the name on the spine, and pretend it's a weird book by Dave Sedaris or something. Kafka's stories are smart, often funny, quick to read, and as modern and relevant as ever.

In the bathroom you'll probably bypass the larger works (including The
MJ Nicholls
I first bought this in 2009, in an edition where Vintage had removed the full stops from the text in error, or to lure me into some Kakfaesque trap. Thanks, Vintage! I complained and received a freebie of Bulgakov’s The Heart of a Dog instead. I parked the stories for a long time, until this moment in time, when I revisited the most terrifying story in the universe, ‘The Metamorphosis’, the most horrific and significant story in the universe ‘Inside the Penal Colony’, the breathtaking debut ‘ ...more
Aug 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: readers who want to know the world in its noisy entirety
Recommended to John by: first, probably a teacher
The recent so-called scandalous revelations about Kafka's personal library (as if -- turns out he read a slightly edgy quarterly of arts & literature) prompt me to say something about his work. For my Goodreads list, I suppose it must be this book, an inevitable choice but nonetheless indispensable (I should add, too, that I can't really specify when I read the COLLECTED STORIES; I began doing so in the 1960's & never stopped). To read Kafka is to be carried away by the imagination of ...more
Kafka placed his own stories in a specific canon, included in the previous book I reviewed, called “The Metamorphosis and Other Stories.” I agree with Kafka. Those stories stand out among the rest. However, reading all of his shorts gave me no less pleasure. I liked his shorter stories most, as they packed meaning and depth into a small speck, like the small matter scientists say blew up into the Universe. I love the way Kafka describes settings. I love the way he makes me feel. Two stories I ...more
Jul 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Probably most readable, rhythmic and rounded among these tales, so much so that I forced my brother to listen to me reading it aloud to him, is The Great Wall of China, which contains the immortal parable of the messenger.

Kafka's tales are oblique, frequently, I think, resisting reading in terms of established philosophical or ideological positions. Their psychological resonance is immense, even when it's difficult to pin a definitive meaning to the action, to divine the motivations of the
Zachary F.
“At the very corner dividing the two streets Wese paused, only his walking stick came around into the other street to support him. A sudden whim. The night sky invited him, with its dark blue and its gold. Unknowing, he gazed up at it, unknowing he lifted his hat and stroked his hair; nothing up there drew together in a pattern to interpret the immediate future for him; everything stayed in its senseless, inscrutable place. In itself it was a highly reasonable action that Wese should walk on, ...more
Jan 23, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There is something about Kafka's writing that just pulls you in, ties you to the chair and makes you experience it - in all of its frustration, humor and sadness. When observed objectively, it is almost insane that we still read an author that only published a few completed short stories. Kafka ordered all of his work to be burned upon his early death at 41 - his executor and friend, Max Brod, sensed the unfulfilled genius in Kafka's work, and refused his friend's dying wish.

So I asked myself
Every story is different, but each one takes you to a different world, or an alternative view of one we are in (and perhaps wish we weren't). Some are funny, some sad and many are both. Some are so short they are more like prose poems. Great for dipping into and getting a taste of Kafka before (and during and after) tackling his larger works.

See my Kafka-related bookshelf for other works by and about Kafka (
Apr 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reference, cba
Some, I would assume, early, over-long stories here. My issue with Kafka, which I don't have with The Castle, is that everything comes across as a minimalistic intellectual exercise, the themes repeated endlessly, the characters mere vehicles.
Jan 16, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: infinite-books
I can't believe I haven't rated this one yet. This is where you go to find Kafka, even more so than his unfinished novels. Though the Trial is magnificent, the short stories are where his genius is most evident. Depths and depths to plumb here. Leagues beyond most other writers.
Oct 20, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, tales
3.75 stars

I found reading this book time-consuming, tedious and tiresome due to its stories' unpredictable lengths as well as many of his lengthy narrations in which I wondered if he has applied a literary technique called 'stream of consciousness'. The technique, I think, is fine with appropriate indented paragraphs but it was sheer challenging and discouraging beyond words at the same time in terms of readability and encouragement. For example, "Investigations of a Dog" covering 38 pages has
May 29, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone born after 1880
Shelves: classic-fiction
Most people's exposure to Kafka consists entirely of "The Metamorphosis", which is a shame, for while that story is indeed a classic, it has led to a somewhat unfair pigeonholing of Kafka as a lonely, disillusioned Oedipal case with a penchant for bleak imagery (hence the adjective Kafkaesque). But while Kafka certainly is all of those things, he is also much more, and this collection is a brilliant portrait of that.

Some of the best moments in the collection come from Kafka letting out his
Eldonfoil TH*E Whatever Champion
Kafka's Complete Stories is the rare book to which I could give two stars or five. Beyond his writing, I love him for his humanity, his authenticity, and his painful incompatibility with the modern world. His attempts, however, to put all this in writing are unfortunately inconsistent, ranging from mesmerizing to incomplete "scribbling" as he referred to his own writing. As a reader I am repeatedly wishing beyond wishing that he had expanded, developed, and completed more of the stories and ...more
Gabriel Vugon
Someone: What's your religion?
Mary Slowik
Dec 20, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Do you like Radiohead? This is the literary equivalent
A couple things:

I can't think of any other writer who had as much antipathy toward his own work as Kafka. As he was dying, he repeatedly and emphatically asked his friend Max Brod to destroy all of his stories. The knowledge of this naturally creates a kind of tragic grandeur to the work, the thought that he was never really satisfied or proud of what he'd produced, and that they all could have been lost. I wouldn't say that this destructive impulse was due to an excess of perfectionism, but
May 05, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was given this book months ago, but took a while to get back in the short-story groove :) Since I read these stories at various points, I'm only going to highlight my two personal favorites in this collection: METAMORPHOSIS, and THE PENAL COLONY. The first was one of those stories where you find yourself looking for an outcome that even YOU can't predict. As far as "staying power", this is one story that I don't think I'll ever forget. The second one, THE PENAL COLONY was a completely ...more

I read as much of it as I could comprehend/ connect with in high school and it mattered a great deal to me.

Years pass, and I still go back to it in difficult times for wisdom, perspective, and nourishment.

Shaimaa Ali
Oct 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've entered Kafka's world & got lost in time & space .. Never wanted to get back to real life!
That's my true feeling after finishing this magnificent book. Started by two introductory parables & followed by his famous longer stories. It was my 3rd time reading "The Metamorphosis", admired: ( In the Penal Colony, a Country Doctor, A Report to an Academy, A Hunger Artist, Investigations of a Dog & The Burrow).

From the shorter stories: "The knock at the Manor Gate" reminded me of
Nov 12, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: made-ups
I have been overwhelmed with dread once or twice in my day, so for me this book works great.
Complete incomplete stories--

Most of Kafka's stories are incomplete. That's not to say his works are bad or unsatisfactory--though there are many that simply tease and baffle--but just that: incomplete.

One thing I do need to own up is that most of his stories are not much fun to read. "Metamorphosis" is definitely really good; "In the Penal Colony" is fascinating; "A Hunger Artist" is poignant and superbly told; "The Judgment," though this was Kafka's personal favorite, is "all right" at best;
Apr 02, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Is it possible that the complete works of anybody ever are going to be amazing? That every product they have assembled - finished or not - when compiled, will be wall-to-wall (and without exaggeration) amazing? It's improbable enough to write one item of good material, but the entirety of one's life work to be impeccable and flawless and great? That's a notion of which I am highly skeptical, and it takes a lot of retroactive glorification, and a lot of assuming it is great beforehand, or ...more
May 17, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In the worlds that Kafka creates, cause and effect tend to have been tossed out the window. Actions and reactions don’t link together as neatly as we think they should, and when a connection does become apparent it’s often only in retrospect. In many of Kafka’s works the rules aren’t clear, and often are made even more opaque by the end of the story. By furthermore keeping references to the real world to a minimum in his work, Kafka severs our tether to reality and sets us adrift in what is ...more
Aaron Wolfson
The key to reading Kafka is, of course, suspension of disbelief. You’re likely familiar with the central conceit of his masterpiece, “The Metamorphosis,” one of the greatest stories ever written. A hapless traveling salesman, poor fellow, wakes up as an insect. This happens in the first sentence, and it just is. There’s no disputing it.

It’s a thread that winds through all his work -- Kafka’s incomparable ingenuity relentlessly drives his subjects into regions of the universe heretofore
UPDATE 2/13/14: I have been thinking about Kafka and the way I reviewed this book a lot- his works definitely make you think- and have decided to change my rating. I want to say that Albert Camus' quote that the thing about Kafka is that he causes you to reread him is extremely true. As disappointed as I was by the writing of many of the stories, others, such as Metamorphosis, I really enjoyed, and even those I did not caused me to really think. I believe I have been bitten by the Kafka bug ...more
May 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Kafka has fallen out of favour in the modern age.

The German-speaking Bohemian author, Franz Kafka (1883–1924), I mean.

In contrast, the software, Apache Kafka, is prominently favoured in nine out of the first ten Google results for the search string Kafka.

Perhaps rightly so. After all, software is designed to aid not to befuddle, and to disperse existential angst not to replicate it on paper. Although, it’s a toss-up which of computer-esque or Kafkaesque better describes the alienation of man
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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), Austria–Hungary. His unique body of writing—much of which is incomplete and which was mainly published posthumously—is considered to be among the most influential in Western literature.

His stories include "The
“Just think how many thoughts a blanket smothers while one lies alone in bed, and how many unhappy dreams it keeps warm.” 255 likes
“I stand on the end platform of the tram and am completely unsure of my footing in this world, in this town, in my family. Not even casually could I indicate any claims that I might rightly advance in any direction. I have not even any defense to offer for standing on this platform, holding on to this strap, letting myself be carried along by this tram, nor for the people who give way to the tram or walk quietly along or stand gazing into shop windows. Nobody asks me to put up a defense, indeed, but that is irrelevant.” 57 likes
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