DOI: 10.1515/naha-2022-0013 ISSN: 1862-9148

Between a Dream and Its Realization: Locating Utopia and Zionism in Kafka’s American Story

Joshua David Shelly
  • Applied Mathematics
  • General Mathematics


This article analyzes Franz Kafka’s first novel, Der Verschollene, as an extended meditation on the immigrant’s experience of frustration when he relies on old national, social, and familial constellations grounded in another, far-off place; it thereby demonstrates how the novel depicts immigration as primarily a tale of loss, rather than gain. The article then pivots to situate Der Verschollene, and especially the novel’s final fragment, in light of Kafka’s passionate consumption of both American travelogues and Zionist periodicals and literature. In light of this literary-historical backdrop and the Kafka short story, Wunsch, Indianer zu werden, it argues that the departure of the novel’s main character for “Oklahama” at the end of the work is an implicit celebration of literary travel narratives for their ability to achieve something real-life migration never can: a utopian moment suspended between a dream and its fulfillment.

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