Remembering the finance guy

Yesterday marked almost 100 years since Franz Kafka‘s passing. Most of his writings were published subsequently, and have been broadly understood to represent the struggle with the system, with bureaucracy, with control. The term Kafkaesque in popular culture signifies a dark and oppressive quality, rooted in this conventional interpretation.

If that’s what popular culture believes, who are we to argue? But it’s worth point out, I think, that the author considered his writings to be more comical than that in nature, reading from his notes out loud to friends and others in bohemian cafés, joining in the laughter that ensued.

According to Google and Wikipedia, the author was a novelist, which is another misconception on two counts. To begin with, almost everything he wrote was short, and even the three so-called novels were more or less collections of such shorter pieces posthumously assembled by his publishers, or otherwise unfinished in the author’s lifetime.

Secondly, and I think more importantly, Kafka was by profession a finance executive… and quite successful and respected at the large insurance firm where he plied his trade.

As for his writing on the side, he specifically left instruction for these to be destroyed after his death, wishes that were summarily ignored, and worse, proactively disregarded. Frankly, as a practiced finance guy, he should have anticipated that, and very likely did.

Here is a sample from his private journal, now obviously public, which captures the Kafkaesque spirit best, in my professional opinion.

Many people assume that besides the great primal deception there is also in every individual case a little special deception provided for their benefit, in other words that when a drama of love is performed on the stage, the actress has, apart from the hypocritical smile for her lover, also an especially insidious smile for the quite particular spectator in the top balcony. This is going too far.

Clearly, the man was not a stranger to markets.