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June 3: Franz Kafka Checks Out

On this day in 1924, celebrated writer Franz Kafka died of tuberculosis at the age of 40. Which naturally poses the question: Did the reputably high-strung author of The Metamorphosis and The Trial drink? Surprisingly, he did. Not surprisingly, he rarely drank enough to metamorph him into a different creature. Says eminent Kafka scholar Reiner Stach: “Kafka was not a heavy drinker, but, as he ironically said, a ‘passionate drinker.’ That is, he could drink beer and wine with intensive pleasure, like a gourmet, and for that he did not need large quantities. Losing self-control made him feel extremely uncomfortable. However, he had a very strong social empathy, so it was a pleasure to him just to observe other people while drinking.” True story: The only time Kafka felt close to his distant yet domineering father was when they drank beer together. Their appreciation of Czech beer was one of the very few things they had in common.