How difficult is Kafka in German?Is Kafka easy for beginners?

How difficult is reading Kafka in German? Can a beginner read Kafka as their first novel? We'll answer these questions (and have a look at some text passages) in this blog post.

Reading Kafka in German
01.06.2022

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As a language learning platform with a particular focus on reading & learning through interesting 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.

There is nothing incredibly difficult about this sentence. The sentence structure is very straightforward and the most difficult word in the sentence is probably Ungeziefer.

Easy right?

... also not so easy

But let's have a look at the second sentence now:

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.

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 list on German childrens books). 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?
Can I read Kafka as a beginner?
What level do you need to read Kafka?
Which of Kafka's books is the easiest?
What's the best Kafka novel?
Did Kafka write in old German?
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