The Blue Octavo Notebooks

(Diaries; Exact Change, 2004)

In 1917 at the age of thirty-four, Franz Kafka was diagnosed with tuberculosis. He spent most of the following year away from Prague, taking in the clean air on a farm in the Czech village Zürau (Siřem). Faced with his own mortality, Kafka started grappling with difficult religious questions: Why is there suffering in the world? What awaits us when we die? In two years, he had filled eight notebooks with short stories, parables, and aphorisms.

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