The penal colony : stories and short pieces

by Franz Kafka

Book, 1961



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New York : Schocken Books, c1961, 1975 printing.

Original publication date


Physical description

317 p.; 21 cm

Local notes

"In the Penal Colony" ("In der Strafkolonie") (also translated as "In the Penal Settlement") is a short story by Franz Kafka written in German in October 1914, revised in November 1918, and first published in October 1919. The story is set in an unnamed penal colony. Internal clues and the setting on an island suggest Octave Mirbeau's The Torture Garden as an influence. As in some of Kafka's other writings, the narrator in this story seems detached from, or perhaps numbed by, events that one would normally expect to be registered with horror. "In the Penal Colony" describes the last use of an elaborate torture and execution device that carves the sentence of the condemned prisoner on his skin before letting him die, all in the course of twelve hours. As the plot unfolds, the reader learns more and more about the machine, including its origin and original justification.

User reviews

LibraryThing member heidilove
stop before you get through all of these. most folks get this volumen because of the oft-lauded and popularized-by-high-school Metomorphosis. Certainly don't read them all in a row, and not all in a row in one weekend. [i might never be the same, and i can't say it's for the better, but my teenage angst just ate it up.]
LibraryThing member la2bkk
In true Kafka style, this is a compelling work subject to many different interpretations. Is it an allegory about the demise of religious belief, or a totalitarian government, etc? Your guess is as good as mine. A fascinating and grisly short story about a 19th century penal colony and various persons response to a horrific execution device.… (more)
LibraryThing member AliceAnna
The novella is standard Kafka although not quite as depressing as some, but definitely as absurd. The condemnation of a man to execution without benefit of trial or defense is the kind of thing that is taken matter-of-factly in Kafka's world. And the delight shown in describing the execution device by the executioner is downright chilling.… (more)
LibraryThing member mahallett
why is kafka revered? he's so boring, so structured.
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