Kafka, Franz


Short Story


Franz Kafka, a Jewish Czechoslovakian who wrote in German, was one of the most acclaimed writers of the twentieth century. Contrary (or conducive) to his literary success was his hectic, miserable life--after a youth of self-loathing, estrangement by his family, and over-indulgence, his health declined. He was soon forced to recover in a sanatorium, to which he returned many times throughout the rest of his life, overwhelmed with anxiety and what would today be termed clinical depression. During his lifetime, Kafka wrote many stories about oppression, failure, alienation, and despair in his own unclassifiable style--a mixture of the surreal, fanatic, and darkly humorous. His one-paragraph story "Fellowship", published in 1909, depicts a group of five friends responding to an "annoying" man who would join them as a sixth. This short story raises questions about why these five men stand together, why this latecomer wants to join them, and why they resist accepting him as their sixth, bringing up questions of shared identity and what it takes to create a community.

For a possible pairing with this text, see German artist Elke Rehder's pen-and-ink drawing inspired by it, Franz Kafka - fellowship.

Full Text*

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"Fellowship," by Franz Kafka, translated by Tania and James Stern, from Franz Kafka: The Complete Stories, edited by Nahum N. Glazer.  Random House, 1946.


Reading - Short Enough to Read Aloud.


Diversity and DifferenceExclusion and BelongingIdentity and Community

Big Questions

How do we connect with those who are different from us?Why is difference sometimes threatening?What do people gain from joining a group? What do they lose?What does it mean to be a stranger or an outsider? What does it feel like?Who gets left out and why?


Civically Engaged Reader

Sample Discussion Questions

  1. Why does the narrator say that he and the other four are “friends”? What is the reason that they continue to associate with one another?
  2. How is the sixth one annoying to the first five? Why don't they “want to be six”?
  3. Is there anything that the first five would need to know about the sixth for him to join them?
  4. Why is the narrator skeptical about “long explanations”?
  5. Why does the sixth keep coming back?
  6. Why do you think Kafka titled this piece “Fellowship”?
  7. Have you ever been “the sixth”?
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