How difficult is Kafka in German?


As a language learning platform with a particular focus on German reading & learning the language through curious content, one question that we get quite a lot is how difficult it is to read German classics.

And one name that comes up particularly often is that of Franz Kafka.

But how difficult or easy is Kafka really?

How difficult is Kafka in German?

A lot of learners would like to at some point read their first German novel that's not a children's book, so they'll start looking for beginner books or easy novels that might fit the bill.

In this context, Kafka seems to be recommended surprisingly often. And indeed, the very first sentence of Kafkas metamorphosis seems easy enough:

Als Gregor Samsa eines Morgens aus unruhigen Träumen erwachte, fand er sich in seinem Bett zu einem ungeheuren Ungeziefer verwandelt.

When Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.

Sure, this is not an easy sentence. But there is also nothing incredibly difficult about it. The sentence structure is very straightforward and the most difficult vocabulary item in the sentence is probably the word Ungeziefer.

Easy right?

But Wait A Second...

But wait!

Before we stop here and conclude that reading Kafka is a walk in the park, let's at least have a look at the second sentence.

Er lag auf seinem panzerartig harten Rücken und sah, wenn er den Kopf ein wenig hob, seinen gewölbten, braunen, von bogenförmigen Versteifungen geteilten Bauch, auf dessen Höhe sich die Bettdecke, zum gänzlichen Niedergleiten bereit, kaum noch erhalten konnte.

He was lying on his hard, as it were armor-plated, back and when he lifted his head a little he could see his domelike brown belly divided into stiff arched segments on top of which the bed quilt could hardly stay in place and was about to slide off completely.

Easy? Well, no.

This sentence is by no means beginner-friendly.

I think the reason why people recommend Kafka to beginners comes down to what exactly is being recommended.

If you ask me what German classics are the most accessible for beginners, my answer will be very different to my answer to the question about the easiest German crime novels.

Of the classics, Kafka is probably on the easier side. But the easiest German classic is probably still going to be more difficult than then easiest German detective novel.

Now, I am not saying that you shouldn't try to read Kafka. Compared to other German classics, Kafka really is one of the easier German writers out there.

I am just saying that it doesn't make a great first novel for beginners who want to start reading and get some comprehensible input (for this, we recommend our simple German stories or our online German lessons). This is why we haven't included Kafka's metamorphosis in our blog post on German beginner books (but he did make it into our list of intermediate German books).

But even for intermediate learners, Kafka won't be a walk in the park. There will be sentences that will confuse you.

Easy Kafka Quotes (in German)

Well after just talking about how difficult Kafka is and how you shouldn't read the metamorphosis as your first novel, let's end this blog post on a more positive and opimistic note, with some Kafka quotes that are actually rather easy to understand.

Let's have a look now at some Kafka quotes that beginners can understand.

Questions & Answers

Here are a few more questions and answers about reading Kafka in German. If you have any more questions, send us an email.

How difficult is Kafka in German (for German learners)?
Can I read Kafka as a beginner?
What German level do you need to read Kafka?
How long does it take to read Metamorphosis Kafka for German learners?
Is Metamorphosis easy to read for German learners?
How do I best start reading Kafka in the original German?
What grade level is Kafka's Metamorphosis?
What Kafka book should I start with?
Did Kafka write in antiquated / old German?