Today, Google’s logo celebrates the 130th birthday of one of the most influential authors of the 20th century, Franz Kafka. Born into a German-speaking family in Prague on July 3, 1883, Franz Kafka’s publishing career began with a number of short stories published in German literary magazines such as Hyperion and Bohemia.
Kafka’s frequently referenced novella The Metamorphosis and the inspiration for today’s Google logo was originally published in 1915 in the German literary magazine Die Weißen Blätter. The Metamorphosis tells the story of traveling salesman Gregor Samsa who wakes one morning to find that he has transformed into a giant insect. The underlying existential themes of The Metamorphosis and surrealism of the story are an extension of Kafka’s full body of work.
According to Kafka biographer Frederick R. Karl, Franz Kafka is the only 20th century author whose name has become part of the English speaking lexicon, “…in a way no other writer’s has,” with the term “Kafkaesque” often used to define surreal or unexplainable complexities and hardships, not only literature, but in life.
Like much of his work, Kafka’s first novel The Trial was published posthumously in 1925, followed by The Castle published in 1926, and Amerika (or, The Man Who Disappeared) published in 1927.
Kafka’s literary style is said to have influenced many well known 20th century authors, including Albert Camus, J.M. Coetzee and Jean-Paul Sartre, and his work continues to be studied around the world. Kafka died from starvation a month before his 41st birthday on June 3, 1924 when his laryngeal tuberculosis caused his throat to become too painful for him to eat. At the time, Kafka was working on edits to his previously published short story, A Hunger Artist.