Franz Kafka has been dead for nearly a century, but for literature-loving Gen Zers, the Czech novelist may as well be Harry Styles.
The 20th-century writer, best known for his novella ‘The Metamorphosis,’ has become an unlikely heartthrob on TikTok, where young fans are agonizing over his good looks, insecurities, and beautiful prose.
Kafka seemed doomed to relative obscurity when he died of tuberculosis at age 40 in 1924, but he quickly rose to fame after the bulk of his work was published posthumously — against his wishes.
The tortured artist, who wrote in German, has no shortage of critical acclaim or literary devotees, and his writing has been shared across social media since its inception, but who could have predicted his rock star treatment on TikTok?
Kafka has inspired a number of fancam-style videos featuring his photos, letters, and books that have users — particularly young women — swooning over him and swearing no other man can compare.
Czech novelist Franz Kafka has become an unlikely heartthrob on TikTok, where Gen Z fans are agonizing over his good looks, insecurities, and beautiful prose
Margarita Mouka, who uses the handle @aquariuscat444, went viral in November when she quoted one of Kafka’s letters to Milena Jesenská in a clip that has been viewed 1.7 million times
Margarita has also shared her thoughts on Kafka’s masterpiece ‘The Metamorphosis’ and his posthumous rise to literary fame
His love letters to Czech journalist Milena Jesenská have provided plenty of material for his angsty fangirls, and the hashtag #kafka now has more than 139 million views on the platform.
Margarita Mouka, who uses the handle @aquariuscat444, regularly posts tributes to the writer and his work, which pair well with her love of Lana Del Rey, Rory Gilmore, and journaling.
She went viral when she quoted one of Kafka’s letters to Jesenská, whom he had an intense epistolary love affair with despite only spending a total of four days together.
‘You are out here being excited over a stinky, ugly, uneducated man texting you back when Kafka wrote, “I can’t hold enough of you in my hands” to Milena,’ Margarita wrote in the on-screen text.
‘If the guy you like isn’t WORSHIPPING you then [please] don’t waste your time,’ she added in the caption.
The video has been viewed more than 1.7 million times and has received hundreds of comments since it was posted on November 3.
‘Kafka is my bare minimum and I won’t date a man until he is Kafka,’ one person responded, while another agreed, ‘If he doesn’t take notes from “Letters to Milena” I’m leaving.’
However, others couldn’t resist pointing out to his fans that he was a notorious womanizer who broke off multiple engagements and frequented brothels — not exactly boyfriend material.
Many TikTok users have romanticized Kafka in their videos, but some commenters have been quick to point out he was a notorious womanizer who broke off multiple engagements
Ashling, who is known as @trashling, created a playful video of herself reacting to pictures of Kafka while lip-syncing ‘Montero (Call Me By Your Name)’ by Lil Nas X
Artist Gala Dragot also quoted one of Kafka’s love letters in her viral video
She filmed herself tossing one of Kafka’s books before throwing her head into her hands in despair over his beautiful words
In another video, Margarita shared her thoughts on Kafka’s masterpiece ‘The Metamorphosis,’ which tells the story of Gregor Samsa, a salesman who wakes up one morning to find himself transformed into a giant insect.
‘I know I’ve made 293,949 videos about Kafka’s Metamorphosis but am I the only one who cried so much?’ she asked. ‘I love Gregor so much I wanna hug him, and I understand him so much. I truly didn’t expect to love this book so much.’
Margarita also touched upon how Kafka entrusted his manuscripts and works to his friend Max Brod and instructed him to burn them after his passing. Brod ignored his late friend’s request and published them instead.
‘Knowing that Kafka died thinking he was a failure, wanting for all of his work to be burned, hurts me more than anything,’ she shared in another clip. ‘I wish we could tell him how many lives he has changed with his work, and how remarkable he was and always will be.’
Artist Gala Dragot, who is known as @galadragot on social media, shared a video of herself reading one of Kafka’s books before throwing her head into her hands in despair.
‘When he calls you pretty, but Kafka said: “In a way, you’re poetry material; you are full of cloudy subtleties I am willing to spend a lifetime figuring out,”‘ she wrote in the on-screen text, quoting another one of his letters to Jesenská.
The clip has been viewed 1.1 million times.
TikTok user @sc2rpio created her own fangirl video set to ‘OMG’ by the South Korean girl group NewJeans
TikTok user @25cells joked that Kafka is ‘a 10 but he never finished any of his novels’
Luell, who is known as @bookpain, also portrayed Kafka as a man worth pining over
Kafka’s love letters to Jesenská have provided plenty of material for his angsty young fans, including TikTok user @shecouldbesatan
Luell, a self-described ‘hopeless romantic,’ also portrayed Kafka as a man worth pining over.
The TikTok user, known as @bookpain, shared a black and white photo of the artist, writing, ‘”You have to get over him. He couldn’t be that interesting.”‘
The footage then cut to more pictures of Kavka, as well as illustrations and images of his most famous works with the caption, ‘You have no idea…’
Meanwhile, Ashling, or @trashling, created a playful video of herself reacting to pictures of Kafka while lip-syncing ‘Montero (Call Me By Your Name)’ by Lil Nas X.
‘Franz Kafka writing that he was super ugly and that he avoided mirrors so he didn’t have to at himself, she wrote. ‘Everyone who ever met him: [Call me when you want, call me when you need, call me in the morning.]’
TikTok user @sc2rpio took a similar approach with her fangirl video set to ‘OMG’ by the South Korean girl group NewJeans.