If you want to see the blueprints for later classics the Trial and the Castle then look no further. This is a collection of Kafka’s musings, scribblings and snippets that were collected and written around the same time as his fuller, more important works. Not that this should be considered as a mere scrapbook, there’s some amazing stuff here. This a compendium of modern horror filled with the author’s central preoccupations. Isolation, alienation, guilt and paranoia are the order of the day... but there is also wit, poetry and more surprisingly, elements of black comedy. Kafka’s world is dark and foreboding, and that extends to his sense of humour. His greatness was in his ideas, the juxtaposition of normality against the backdrop of absurdity. But his writing is as, if not more impressive than many of his contemporaries. The use of prose, the contrasting styles of narration, the personal reflections of his own disintegrating life... yes much of it is downbeat, but the majority is completely beautiful. The author’s understanding of the worlds that he creates demonstrates a degree of intimacy that few writers can equate. This is truly magnificent. If you have already purchased the complete novels then I urge you to buy this as the most perfect companion piece. Many of the stories may be nothing more than more page-long scribbles, some even shorter than that... but as others have already stated; Kafka is able to do more in a few lines than some authors can do with three-hundred pages. This is easy to digest too, so if you’re looking for an easy way into Kafka (really, he’s one of the best) then this is it. Seriously, you won’t regret it.