Kafka and Arabs

University of Chicago Press, Chicago

In October 1917 Martin Buber published an animal story by Franz Kafka in his monthly review Der Jude. Kafka's friend and literary executor, Max Brod, recommended it, assuring Buber that Kafka's work was among the most Jewish documents of our time. Kafka wrote “Jackals and Arabs” during the war-induced hiatus in Jewish immigration to Palestine, only half a year before the Balfour Declaration of 2 November 1917 committed the British government to support a Jewish national home in Palestine. The polyvalent story and its multilayered context crystallize Kafka's relationship to Zionism and Palestine as well as his German, Jewish, and Arab scholarly reception. The current revolutionary moment in the Arab world allows us to rethink Kafka and Arabs and, at the same time, the Palestine conflict. As such, this essay contains an intellectual affinity with the revision of Kafka scholarship offered in Critical Inquiry following the fall of the Berlin Wall, as well as Achmat Dangor's haunting postapartheid novel Kafka's Curse.

Interview with Jens Hanssen about this article


Publication Type

Journal Name

Critical Inquiry

Volume Number


Issue Number

1, pp. 167-197