Franz Kafka on Marcus Aurelius

An extract from Kafka's Letters to Friends, Family and Editors
Bust of Marcus Aurelius
From a letter by Franz Kafka to his schoolmate Oskar Pollak, 10 January 1904 (translated by Richard and Clara Winston): 'I am putting Marcus Aurelius aside, putting him reluctantly aside. I think I could not live without him now, for reading two or three maxims in Marcus Aurelius makes me more composed and more disciplined, although the book as a whole only shows a man who with prudent speech and a hard hammer and sweeping view would like to make himself into a controlled, steely, upright person. But we can't help but become skeptical when we hear a person continually urging himself: "Be calm, be indifferent, cast passion to the wind, be steadfast, be a good emperor." It's fine if we can use words to cover ourselves up from ourselves, but even better if we can adorn and drape ourselves with words until we have become the kind of person that in our hearts we wish to be.'

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