Of course, this popular inclination to overlook the creations of the artist encompasses even the field of literature. For the curious case of Franz Kafka, he was not only shunned by the public but also by his father. Kafka, being a German-speaking Jewish Bohemian born to a middle-class family in 1883, expressed from a young age his desire to pursue a career in writing. Unfortunately, his father forced him to study law so he could undertake an office as a lawyer and subsequently, a post in an insurance company.
His abusive relationship to his father, Hermann Kafka, would generate the term “Kafkaesque”, a word that has entered English language to describe the state of the isolated protagonists of his stories, usually faced with horrific arbitrary judgment or an oppressive state apparatus with guards, lawyers, and bureaucratic procedures. In Metamorphosis, one of his most famous works, the traveling salesman Gregor Samsa wakes up one day transformed into an insect akin to a beetle or a bed bug. When he crawls on the floor, he is in danger of being stamped on by his own father. Eventually, his family decides that he has to die. After his death, they feel slightly ashamed of their behavior, but only slightly. His reputation did not begin until few years after his death of Tuberculosis. After the Second World War, he was recognized as one of the greatest writers of the age. Frantz Kafka once wrote that the task of literature is to reconnect us with feelings that might be otherwise unbearable to study, but which need our attention.
“A book must”, he wrote, “be the frozen axe of the sea within us”. Through the example of these two great literary and artistic figures in western history, we inquired into the irony of the history of the dissemination and reception of artistic works only when the artist is long dead and gone. No doubt there are numerous instances in which the artist is sidelined and shunned from the affairs of society. It might appear rather ungrateful to study the work of an artist today while in their time there was little to no appreciation of their work. It invites one to consider whether there are similar cases somewhere in the world, begging for encouragement or appreciation away from prying eyes. Nevertheless, the literary or artistic critic can only show his admiration by being dedicated to studying their works of art, for their didactic and aesthetic value.