Born in Prague in 1883, the son of a self-made Jewish merchant, Franz Kafka trained as a lawyer and worked in insurance. He published little during his lifetime and lived his life in relative obscurity. He was forced to retire from work in 1917 after being diagnosed with tuberculosis, a debilitating illness which dogged his final years. When he died in 1924 he bequeathed the - mainly unfinished - manuscripts of his novels, stories, letters and diaries to his friend the writer Max Brod with the strict instruction that they should be destroyed. Brod ignored Kafka's wishes and organized the publication of his work, including The Trial, which appeared in 1925. It is through Brod's efforts that Kafka is now regarded as one of the greatest novelists of the twentieth century.
No other voice has borne truer witness to the dark of our times -- George Steiner The Dante of the twentieth century -- W. H. Auden