Laís Maria de Oliveira

Supervisor: Professor Anne Fuchs

School: Languages, Literatures and Cultures

Franz Kafka's diaries or in quarto notebooks: lived experience and writing experiment (provisional title)

My object of study is the twelve in-quarto notebooks by Franz Kafka, written between 1909 and 1923. Until now, the most specialized critics refer to these notebooks as intimate diaries. The writer himself called them diaries. They have been seen by other critics as Kafka's writing laboratory.

Initially, the research project was done to think of these notebooks as self-fiction or literary autobiography. But after carefully reading the notebooks and other works by the writer, it was impossible not to notice the similarities between them. I realized that Kafka was extremely concerned about the writing style used in these diaries, from punctuation and syntax to the content therein. There is a huge connection between the diaries and the author's other works, since there is the intention to write literature and, in addition, there is the creation of a Kafka character, whose actions go towards showing the dilemmas of the Kafka subject in relation to writing, the problems faced by this subject in the creation of his work.

However, even though there are few texts specifically discussing the relationship between the in-quarto notebooks and other works, famous authors had already noticed this relationship. Walter Benjamin, Theodor Adorno, Hannah Arendt and Günter Anders, when discussing Kafka's literature, refer to diaries, novels and parables (small prose – kleine prose in German) as a large aesthetic set. So do important Brazilian critics such as Anatol Rosenfeld, Roberto Schwarz and Modesto Carone, Kafka's main translator in Brazil. That's why all these authors are important references in my research. All of them study Kafka's literature from a negative point of view, that is, realizing in the writer's literature a profound relationship of distrust in relation to his time (the first World War, the industrialization of Europe, the relationship between metropolis and colony, the acceleration of the means of correspondence, the situation of women, black people, Jewish people, indigenous people and, in a way, all minorities in this context). The dissertation by German researcher Andrea Rother has also helped me to think about these notebooks as literature.

Thus, one of my goals has been to discuss the writing procedures in these notebooks, comparing them with excerpts from other works, to demonstrate my hypothesis that the so-called diaries are not just a writing laboratory, but literary works, an integral part of Kafka's literature project.

Reading these in-quarto notebooks and other works has caused me a lot to think not only about Kafka's historical context, but also about ours. From the observation of themes that are repeated in several notes in the notebooks, such as work, women, the discussion of languages and minor literatures, patriarchy, family, Judaism, the literature of other writers, illness, the relationship with writing and the impotence of the subject in relation to the world, I have relied mainly on the authors of the Frankfurt school and Roswitha Scholz to think about our society, demonstrating the tension between Kafka's literature and social totality.


PhD Candidate, 2019 - present - Universidade Federal de Juiz de Fora - Brazil

Visiting PhD Student at Humanities Institute  - University College Dublin (Sept 2021 - June 2022)

Professor at the Instituto Federal de Minas Gerais/Ouro Preto - Brazil

M.A. Literary Theory and Cultural Criticism, 2014 - Universidade Federal de São João del Rei - Brazil

B.A. Brazilian Language and Literature 2011 - Universidade Federal de São João del Rei - Brazil