Word of the Day: Kafkaesque
Kafkaesque (adjective) kahf-kuh-ESK
: of, relating to, or suggestive of Franz Kafka or his writings; especially : having a nightmarishly complex, bizarre, or illogical quality
“Dealing with the Kafkaesque health system, for example, would be enough to make anyone ‘agitated, aggressive, irritable or temperamental.'” — Logan Jenkins, The San Diego Union Tribune, 27 July 2016
“I think the ultimate nightmare is for you to get into a Kafkaesque situation where you know you haven’t done anything wrong . . . but for some reason you are not listened to and you are not being believed.” — Lee Child, quoted in The Philadelphia Inquirer, 19 Oct. 2016
Did You Know?
Franz Kafka (1883-1924) was a Czech-born German-language writer whose surreal fiction vividly expressed the anxiety, alienation, and powerlessness of the individual in the 20th century. Kafka’s work is characterized by nightmarish settings in which characters are crushed by nonsensical, blind authority. Thus, the word Kafkaesque is often applied to bizarre and impersonal administrative situations where the individual feels powerless to understand or control what is happening.
When I first saw the Word of the Day by Merriam-Webster, I said to myself, WTF? I mean, why create a word associated with a person. Granted, Kafka is not just any person. He was a gifted communicator of the bizarre and complex.
Then I went about and searched for images. I found a plethora of them, thousands. Some I recognized, most I did not. Once again, I found products using the word in either their marketing efforts or the company name. I found lots of artwork and books on the subject. And let’s not forget the numerous cartoons.
You know what? I like bizarre. I like complex. I like to make logical appear illogical as well as the reverse. My stories tend to border on the bizarre but nothing on the order of Kafka.
When you boil it all down, I don’t know what to make of the word. I doubt I’ll use it in conversation or in my stories, but at least I am aware of the word and the meaning behind it. What do you think?
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Have a great day.