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Biography: Franz Kafka was born into a German- speaking Jewish family in Austria/ Czech Republic in 1883. With his father being a merchant and successful authority figure, Kafka struggled at home to convince his parents to take his writing aspirations seriously. He began college studying law, German literature, and art history. He graduated with a law degree and began his career in an Italian insurance company. A year later he began working at the Workers' Accident Insurance Institute where he could balance his work with writing and socializing. Because he did not practice Judaism and lived in a city with a Czech majority, Kafka felt estranged from each social group. He became involved in many serious relationships, was engaged three times, but never married. Resulting from troubles in his childhood, he spent much of his time in the hospital to treat a tubercular condition. Many of his works were not published during his lifetime partially because ofd his on insecurities about their worth. When he was dying, he left instructions with his literary executor to burn all of his writings. However, those instructions were ignored and after his death, some of his best works were published.

Summary: "First Sorrow" is a story about an extremely talented, but reserved trapeze artist. He is determined to prefect his art on the tight rope, so much so that he does not wish to come down for anything. His manager accommodates his needs as he feels that it will make him better at his work. When the trapeze artist travels, he also gets his own accommodations. He sits in his own cabinet on top of his luggage, he is taken to in-town shows in race cars, and as soon as the circus arrives at the show, the artist climbs back up onto his trapeze. One day he tries to capture the manager's attention with a very quiet question. The manager does not ignore this as he believes he would not talk otherwise. The trapeze artist asks for another trapeze. The manager agrees, but suddenly the artist bursts into tears. His manager reassures him, and he climbs back happily atop his luggage and sleeps. The manager, however, questions the artist as to whether he will be all right because it is the first time he has questioned the nature of his art that is his profession.

"First Sorrow" by Franz Kafka can be related to modernism. Modernism focuses on the realities of life and themes such as uncertainty, ambiguity, and isolation. In this story, the trapeze artist isolates himself from the modern world. The trapeze artist portrays the mundane nature of an isolated modern life. During the time period of this story, the Existentialist movement was in effect. An existentialism was a philosophy that regards the belief that life has no meaning other than what the person living it gives to their own life. The trapeze artist can relate because he can either spend the rest of his life in his trapeze and make a successful career out of it, all the while staying in isolation, or he can associate with people while making his art successful.