Franz Kafka, born on July 3, 1883, was only four years old in the photo above — but already bore the markings of the great writer he became. (I’m imaging that he isn’t holding a baton or riding crop, but a giant pen with its writing end obscured by leaves.) The main sign of his impending genius is that he appears detached, looking at himself and his surroundings with a clear eye. There’s irony, a sense of the absurd, a vibrant inner life.
Here, Franz is dressed as society’s little dandy — bows on his shoes, hat in hand, double-breasted jacket, embroidered blouse, dramatic collar, perfect cuffs — but his eyes, oh, his eyes. They see. They see.
I’ve always considered Kafka a master of the opening line. He packs everything into that first sentence: Who, What, Where, When…and the question that remains is: WHY? (That, of course, is the heart of the book or story.)
Let’s take the opening line of The Trial:
Someone must have been telling lies about Josef K.; he knew he had done nothing wrong but, one morning, he was arrested.
When/Where: One morning (at home)
Who: Josef K.
What: Was arrested but had done nothing wrong
Why: Read the book! (Available for free at Project Gutenberg)