What was Franz Kafka dreaming about in his youth when working at Assicurazioni Generali in Prague? What did he write between 1907 and 1908? Handwritten documents conserved in the personnel files of the Assicurazioni Generali Historical Archive tell the unknown story of a special clerk: from his signature to his curriculum, to discover the famous writer.
The file for Franz Kafka – hired on October 1, 1907 as “Aushilfskraft”, auxiliary clerk in the life insurance department of the general agency in Prague, and who resigned for health reasons on July 15, 1908 – plays a special role in reconstruction of the youthful years of the writer, as testified to by the biography written by Klaus Wagenbach (Franz Kafka. A Biography of his Youth) and the articles published in the Company’s “Bollettino” in the 1950s: Franz Kafka impiegato delle Generali (Franz Kafka, a Clerk at Generali) in 1952 and Una lettera di Franz Kafka al suo capoufficio presso le Assicurazioni Generali (A letter from Franz Kafka to his Supervisor at Assicurazioni Generali) in 1954.
His dossier contains the job application with data relating to studies and skills, his acceptance and his handwritten curriculum vitae, but to find out what he was thinking and what he dreamed of during the period with Generali it is necessary to start with his autobiographical writings and with Letter to his Father:
“Now my life is in complete disorder. It is true, I have a job with a tiny salary of 80 crowns and 8-9 interminable hours of work, but I devour the hours outside the office like a fierce beast” (in Kafka’s letter to Hedwig Weiler, October 8, 1907); “In the office. I am at Assicurazioni Generali, but I nourish the hope of sitting one day on chairs in far-flung countries, looking out of the office windows onto sugar cane fields or Muslim cemeteries, and the insurance branch interests me greatly, even though for the moment my work is sad” (in Kafka’s letter to Hedwig Weiler, October 8, 1907).
The following is the curriculum vitae written by Kafka in the job application, now kept at the Generali Historical Archive: “I was born on July 3, 1883 in Prague; I attended Altstädter Volksschule until fourth year; I then went to the Altstädter deutsches Staatsgymnasium; at the age of 18, I started studying at the deutsche Karl-Ferdinands Universität in Prague. After sitting the final state exam, on April 1, 1906, I entered the firm of lawyer Richard Löwy, on the Altstädter Ring, as a trainee. In June, I sat the historical “Rigorosum” exam [state exam] and in the same month I obtained my degree in law. As I immediately made clear to the lawyer, I joined his firm only for the purpose of spending my time, because already from the outset it was not my intention to remain in advocacy. On October 1st, 1906, I began the judicial practice, which ended on October 1st, 1907″ [transl.]