The Ax For The Frozen Sea

“Altogether, I think we ought to read only books that bite and sting us. If the book we are reading doesn’t shake us awake like a blow to the skull, why bother reading it in the first place? So that it can make us happy, as you put it? Good God, we’d be just as happy if we had no books at all; books that make us happy we could, in a pinch, also write ourselves. What we need are books that hit us like a most painful misfortune, like the death of someone we loved more than we love ourselves, that make us feel as though we had been banished to the woods, far from any human presence, like suicide. A book must be the ax for the frozen sea within us. That is what I believe.”

—Franz Kafka, from a letter to Oskar Pollak dated January 27, 1904.

I can’t stop thinking about this quote.

What are books you’ve read that come to mind with this quote? Which ones have broken the frozen sea inside of you?

70 thoughts on “The Ax For The Frozen Sea”

  1. C.S. Lewis has done this many times for me. The space trilogy in general opened me up to reading again. I am amazed at how much his fiction works has affected the way I look at real life. Also The Celebration of Discipline and a Fundamental Protestants vs. Roman Catholicism both have challenged my approach of  faith. I am sure there are many others but that is what comes to mind. 

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