Franz Kafka (1883-1924) was born near Prague to Yiddish-speaking parents, the grandson of a shochet (kosher meat slaughterer). His Jewish education culminated with his bar mitzvah, after which he went to the prestigious Altstädter Deutsches Gymnasium. He enrolled to study chemistry in university, but quickly switched to law. After graduating, he worked for various insurance companies – a job that he despised, but which allowed him to make a living. The little time that he had off work he would spend writing. Kafka composed dozens of stories, novels (most of them unfinished), essays, letters and diaries. Ninety percent of these he burned. In his will, he instructed his friend Max Brod to destroy the remainder of his writings. Brod ignored the request, and published them instead. Thus, Kafka was virtually unknown in his own lifetime, but became hugely famous after his death. It is believed that there are still thousands of unpublished Kafka works. He is considered by many to be the greatest writer of the 20th century, and some of his writings have been ranked among the most influential of that century. He has inspired the adjective “kafkaesque”, and has an asteroid named after him. Besides writing, Kafka was an avid swimmer, hiker, and rower, studied alternative medicine, and was a vegetarian. After once seeing a Yiddish play, he immersed himself in Jewish study. In addition to Yiddish, Kafka spoke German, Czech, French, and studied both Hebrew and classical Greek. Towards the end of his life he intended to immigrate to Israel. This wish did not come to be, as Kafka succumbed to tuberculosis at a young age. His three sisters perished in the Holocaust. For what would be his 130th birthday today, he is honoured with a Google Doodle.
Words of the Week
Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old. – Franz Kafka
Saul Bass (1920-1996) was born in the Bronx to Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. Blessed with a talent for art, he made his way to Hollywood as a young man and worked in film advertising. In 1954 he designed his first poster for a major motion picture. Impressed by its ingenuity, the filmmaker asked Bass to put together the opening credits sequence as well. Bass realized he can make the opening and closing credits more than just boring scrawls of peoples’ names. And so, Bass single-handedly invented creative film title sequences that are now standard with all movies. His elaborate and creative sequences quickly became hugely popular. Over a 40-year career, he designed the opening sequences and movie posters for countless blockbusters. Bass also produced short films of his own, one of which won an Oscar (and two more were nominated), as well as a full length science-fiction movie. He served as a director and cameraman, too, most famously for the “shower-murder” scene in Hitchcock’s Psycho. Aside from film-making, Bass designed the logos for dozens of big companies, including AT&T and Quaker. All in all, Bass is considered to be one of the greatest graphic designers of all time, and a major force in the development of film. Of his work, he said: “Design is thinking made visible.” Today’s ‘Google Doodle’ is a tribute to Saul Bass, in honour of his birthday.
Words of the Week
This is the meaning of “Love your fellow as yourself”: Just like you are blind to your own failings, since your self-love covers them up, so, too, should your fellow’s failings be swallowed up and concealed by your love for him. – Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Lubavitch (1789-1866)