Franz Kafka was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia, of middle-class Jewish parents. He apparently suffered a great deal of psychological pain at a young age at the hands of his domineering father. He took a law degree at the German University of Prague, then obtained a position in the workman's compensation division of the Austrian government. Always neurotic, insecure, and filled with a sense of inadequacy, Kafka's writing is a search for personal fulfillment and understanding. He wrote very slowly and deliberately, publishing very little in his lifetime. At his death he asked a close friend to burn his remaining manuscripts , but the friend refused the request. Instead the friend arranged for publication Kafka's longer stories, which have since brought him worldwide fame and have influenced many contemporary writers. Kafka's stories are nightmarish tales in which a helpless central character's every move is controlled by heartless, impersonal forces. An example is his 1938 psychological thriller, "The Metamorphosis." The story centers around a salesman named Gregor, who wakes up one morning and finds he is no longer a man but a giant insect. In today's increasingly complex, technological, and bureaucratic societies, Kafka has found a growing audience of sympathetic readers who understand the feeling of powerlessness Kafka's heroes experienced.
Anthea Bell was born in Suffolk, was educated at Somerville College, Oxford, and has worked as a translator for a number of years, primarily from German and French. Her translations include works of non-fiction, literary and popular fiction, and books for young people including classic German works by the Brothers Grimm, Clemens Brentano, Wilhelm Hauff and Christian Morgenstern. Bell has also served on the committee of the Translators` Association and the jury panel of the Schlegel-Tieck German translation prize in Great Britain. She has been the recipient of a number of translation prizes and awards, among them the 1987 Schlegel-Tieck Award for Hans Bermans The Stone and the Flute (Viking) and the first Marsh Award for Childrens Literature in Translation for Christine Nstlingers A Dogs Life (Andersen Press). Bell was selected by a five-member jury as the recipient of the 2002 Helen and Kurt Wolff Translators Prize for her exceptional translation of W.G. Sebalds novel Austerlitz, published Random House.