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Kafka and the Doll Traveller

Date of Post:
November 14, 2018

A wonderful adaptation of the story Kafka and the Doll Traveler written by the Spanish writer Jordi Sierra i Fabra. 

One year before his death, Franz Kafka saw in one of Berlin's park, Steglitz City Park,a girl who was crying because she had lost her doll by Caitríona Ní Mhurchú


Franz Kafka was born into a middle-class, German-speaking Jewish family on July 3, 1883 in Prague, Bohemia, now the Czech Republic. He was an outsider from the start. Prague's Jews were doubly outsiders because they spoke German—the official language of the Hapsburg Empire—in a Czech city, yet they were considered neither Germans nor Czechs. Moreover, as an "assimilated" non-believer, Kafka was an outsider even in the Jewish community. Later in life he would learn Hebrew and dream of going to Palestine, but he never fully accepted Judaism, and though he seemed to remain religious, his beliefs lay clearly outside any charted tradition.

Franz Kafka. Reproduced by permission of AP/Wide World Photos.

Franz Kafka at the age of 5
Franz at the age of 5

His father, Hermann Kafka (1852–1931), was described as a large man, ill-tempered domestic tyrant, who on many occasions directed his anger towards his son and was disrespectful towards his escape into literature. All his life Kafka struggled to come to terms with his domineering father.

Kafka's mother, Julie (1856—1934), was the daughter of a prosperous brewer and was better educated than her husband.
In 1901 Franz graduated from the Altstädter Gymnasium, the rigorous classics-oriented secondary school with eight grade levels. He did well in school, taking classes like Latin, Greek and history.

Kafka's ambivalent take on authority—his ability to respect it, rebel against it, and blame himself for everything—seems to come mainly from his relationship with his father. Kafka never managed to emerge out of his father's shadow and escape his self-hatred. Later in life he undertook a variety of health regimens and diets in an attempt to boost his physique.

Franz Kafka at the age of 23
Dr. of Law, age 23

Kafka obtained the degree of Doctor of Law on June 18, 1906 and performed an obligatory year of unpaid service as law clerk for the civil and criminal courts. Partly under his father's influence and partly because he did not believe in making a profession out of writing, Kafka took a law degree and became a clerk for an accident insurance office.He worked there until July 1922 when he retired for reasons of ill health. He often referred to his job as insurance officer as a "bread job", a job done only to pay the bills.  In parallel, Kafka was also committed to his literary work. It is generally agreed that Kafka suffered from clinical depression and social anxiety throughout his entire life.

His works:


  • The Trial (1925)
  • The Castle (1926)
  • America (1927)

Novellas/Short Stories

  • The Judgement (1913)
  • Meditation (1913)
  • In the Penal Colony (1914)
  • The Metamorphosis (1915)
  • A Country Doctor (1916)
  • A Report to an Academy (1919)
  • Letters to His Father (1919)
  • The Burrow(1923)
  • Josepine the Singer, or the Mouse Folk (1924)
  • A Hunger Artist (1924)
  • The Giant Mole (1931)
  • The Great Wall of China (1933)
  • Investigations of a Dog (1933)
  • Before the Law (1933)
  • Blumfield, an Elderly Bachelor (1933)
  • Description of a Struggle (1936)
  • The Diaries of Franz Kafka 1910-23 (1951)
  • Letters to Milena (1952)
  • Letters 1902-24 (1958) (ed. by M. Brod)
  • Letters to Felice (1967)
  • Letters to Ottla and the Family (1974)
  • Letters to Friends, Family and Editors (1977)

His works:

Kafka and the Doll Traveler written by the Spanish writer Jordi Sierra i Fabra. One year before his death, Franz Kafka saw in one of Berlin's park, Steglitz City Park,a girl who was crying because she had lost her doll.

The writer calms her down by telling her that her doll had gone on a trip and that he, a doll postman, would take her a letter the next day. Based on a real life experience of  Franz Kafka, Jordi Sierra reconstructs the event, albeit surrounding it in fantasy and magic.

This description comes from the memoirs of Dora Diamant, who Kafka lived with in Berlin for half a year:

Over 13 days, he brought a letter to the park every day in which the doll tells of her adventures, which he himself had written the night before.

‘Your doll has gone off on a trip,’ he says. ‘How do you know that?’ the girl asks. ‘Because she’s written me a letter,’ Kafka says. The girl seems suspicious. ‘Do you have it on you?’ she asks. ‘No, I’m sorry,’ he says. ‘I left it at home by mistake, but I’ll bring it with me tomorrow.’ He’s so convincing, the girl doesn’t know what to think anymore. Can it be possible that this mysterious man is telling the truth?’

Kafka goes straight home to write the letter. If he can come up with a beautiful and persuasive lie, it will supplant the girl’s loss with a different reality—a false one, maybe, but something true and believable according to the laws of fiction.

The next day Kafka rushes back to the park with the letter. The little girl is waiting for him, and since she hasn’t learned how to read yet, he reads the letter out loud to her. The doll is very sorry, but she’s grown tired of living with the same people all the time. She needs to get out and see the world, to make new friends. It’s not that she doesn’t love the little girl, but she longs for a change of scenery, and therefore they must separate for a while. The doll then promises to write to the girl every day and keep her abreast of her activities.

‘Please do not mourn me, I have gone on a trip to see the world. I will write you of my adventures.


After a few days, the girl had forgotten about the real toy that she’d lost, and she was only thinking about the fiction that she’d been offered as a replacement. Franz wrote every sentence of this story in such detail, and with such humorous precision, that it made the doll’s situation completely understandable: the doll had grown up, gone to school, met other people. She always reassured the child of her love, but made reference to the complications of her life, her other obligations and interests that prevented her from returning to their shared life right now. She asked the little girl to think about this, and in doing so she prepared her for the inevitable, for doing without her.

By that point of course, the girl no longer misses the doll. Kafka has given her something else instead, and by the time those three weeks are up, the letters have cured her of her unhappiness. She has the story, and when a person is lucky enough to live inside a story, to live inside an imaginary world, the pains of this world disappear. For as long as the story goes on, reality no longer exists.

One day the girl got her doll back. It was a different doll of course, bought by Kafka as a last gift for her. An attached letter explained ‘My travels have changed me.’

Many years later, the now grown girl found a letter stuffed into an unnoticed crevice in the cherished replacement doll.

In summary it said:
Every thing that you love, you will eventually lose, but in the end, love will return in a different form.’

A wonderful adaptation of the story by Caitríona Ní Mhurchú