The Blue Octavo Notebooks
The Blue Octavo Notebooks (sometimes referred to as The Eight Octavo Notebooks) is a series of eight notebooks written by Franz Kafka from late 1917 until June 1919. The name was given to them by Max Brod, Kafka's literary executor, to differentiate them from the regular quarto-sized notebooks Kafka used as diaries. Along with the octavo notebooks, Brod also found a series of extracts copied out and numbered by Kafka. Brod named this brief selection "Reflections on Sin, Suffering, Hope, and the True Way" and included it in The Great Wall of China.
When Brod published Kafka's diaries in 1948 he decided to omit the octavo notebooks as he considered their contents more philosophical and literary than the regular diaries Kafka kept. The Octavo notebooks were later included in a volume of fragments and uncollected writings published in 1953, along with the numbered extracts. The notebooks first appeared in English in Dearest Father. Stories and Other Writings (Schocken Books, 1954). Some English printings removed the extracts from their original place in the notebooks to avoid repetition.
The Blue Octavo Notebooks were published in English in a single volume edition by Exact Change (1991, ISBN 1-878972-04-9). This edition includes the complete notebooks, the numbered extracts, and Max Brod's original notes.
Scholars have noted that from late 1917 until June 1919, Kafka stopped writing entries in his diaries, and instead wrote in these notebooks, the bulk of which were aphorisms. The notebooks contain fragments, but like much of Kafka's writings they allude to important themes about the human condition. The notebooks are recognized for expressing some of Kafka's interest in Judaic studies, though he continued to live a secular lifestyle. Kafka was reading Kierkegaard's Fear and Trembling during the time he wrote in these notebooks.
- The Zürau aphorisms of Franz Kafka. F Kafka, R Calasso, G Brock, M Hofmann - Random House, Inc., 2006
- Kafka, Nahman of Bratslav, and the Judaic Literary Imagination. JA Kanofsky - Symposium, 1999. Heldref Publications.
- Bound and Undetermined: Kafka, Abraham and the Meaning of Suffering. ST Shafer - Making Sense of Suffering - inter-disciplinary.net