Franz Kafka, sainted by literati, is the single most overrated writer of the twentieth century.
1. Franz Kafka's novels and stories are in fact not novels and stories at all; they are sketches, incidents, dream-records. We cannot call Kafka a novelist unless we stretch these terms to include incidents without meaning and random dream-records. Granted, we can include as a experimental novel such as "Tristram Shandy", but that book has the virtue of being both a good book and completed, virtues Kafka lacks.
2. All Kafka's major works are incomplete. We can only judge the start and middle of a piece of writing accurately if we have the ending, because the ending is what gives the middle and start their meanings. But we do not have the ending because Kafka did not write the pieces. Therefore, we cannot judge Kafka's major work accurately, because we do not have a complete major work.
3. We can however, judge Kafka's workmanship. Kafka is self-evidently a terrible craftsman. If a man makes chairs, and he is considered the best chair maker of his time, we would need to sit on his chairs when he is done. And if a woman knits woollen hats, we would need to have a hat which sits on the head, instead of falling off. And if a group of people make a ship, we would need to have a complete hull or else the ship would sink. Likewise, Kafka's craftsmanship is a failure: Kafka's "novels" are chairs that cannot be sat on, hats that do not stay on, and ships that sink. By contrast, "Anna Karenina" is a novel which can be tested from any direction and provide satisfaction and interest.
4. Kafka is also not a good host to his readers. He subjects his readers to mean, vicious, negative, manipulative, unkind, and distorted views. He tries to make his readers suffer. He misleads his readers to suppose they are reading a novel when in fact it is a record of ideas and incidents. It seems sure that Kafka never intend to have a readership, since he asked for his work to be destroyed and destroyed much of it himself. By contrast, the best writers treat their readers with respect and consideration.
5. Kafka is a terrible philosopher. He has no clear view of life, cannot define or explain any central view or doctrine, and uses negative emotions in place of reason or logic. He makes no attempt to suggest a happy, wise, or healthy way to live. He does not love wisdom. He demonstrates a love of violence, instead. The Philosopher in his dialogs consistently uses Socrates to dismantle pretentions to wisdom such as Kafka uses, from small dialog about courage like Charmides, about friendship like Laches, and about wisdom like Alcibiades.
6. Kakfa is glamorized by his adoring readers as absurd and existential. But these fancy word choices, when the projected glamor is taken away, change meanings. "Absurd" in Kafka's writing really means the same thing as "nonsense". And "existential" in Kafka's writing really comes down to "meaningless and depressing". And a mood does not make a thing meaningful: just because Kafka's writing is depressing nonsense, doesn't mean that it is philosophy. The fact that Kafka's writing is depressing nonsense simply means that it is depressing nonsense, and nothing else.
7. Kafka uses language which says that a thing is so, then that it is not so. Then he uses images which suggest that a person is kind then unkind, or good then evil, or powerful then weak. In other words, Kafka uses language badly. We can dress this up as "paradox", "metaphor", "insight into the human condition", but the fact remains that in talking about a thing, we must agree on the meanings of it before we can have actual communication. When Kafka not only fails to clearly use a term, image, or character to have a fixed significance, he is also failing to communicate. Therefore, Kafka is a poor communicator. See William Empsom's famous study, Seven Kinds of Ambiguity, for an exploration of how to provide clear and unconfusing poetic ambiguity.
8. At all the basic elements of the novelists art, Kafka's "novels" are a signal failure. These elements are: characterisation, dialog, story, plot, and theme. The characters do not grow. The dialog (which does feature good naturalistic diction), does not advance the plot or reveal character. The story has no beginning, middle, nor end, because we know these novels are unfinished. The plot has no tension because nothing is at stake (we already know K. in the Trial will die, and that K. in the Castle never get a solution). Finally, there is no theme, because the nothing in it has meaning. So in all the basic elements of the novelist's art, Kafka is a conclusive failure.
9. Kafka focuses on expressing negative emotions of guilt, fear, confusion, negativity, meaninglessness, and apathy. Kafka therefore is a bad moral and poor emotional example.
10. Kafka focuses on criticising society. He criticises the law, bureaucracy, government, and nations. He never praises or appreciates or builds up, but only tears down. He has no solutions or even answers to the things he has criticised. He has expertise in the law and bureaucracy, but expresses no positive aspects. Therefore, for anyone wanting a positive role in the world, he is unhelpful at best and dangerous at worst.
11. Kakfa enables his readers to indulge in negative over-intellectualization and feel justified and righteous. Kafka empowers readers to become resentful and bitter against authority instead of seeking the good and working through the bad. Kafka empowers readers to project their own notions onto his work, and thereby enables people to have a good mental masturbate using his work. Therefore, Kafka's emotionally negative and morally negative words are a pornography of the spirit.
12. Finally, the "novels" need not exist. Hamlet cannot kill his step father for many reasons: perhaps he desires his mother as Freud suspected, or perhaps he secretly believes that his step father is in fact his real paternal father, or perhaps he has mental illness. But K. in the Trial can move home, change jobs, or leave town if he does not like the legal treatment, and K. in the Castle can simply go home and not worry about the crazy foreigners if he likes. Unlike Hamlet, these "novels" can be called off at any moment by their main characters! So the lack of succifient motive for the characters' actions in Kafka leads us to question their possibility. The "novels" need not exist because the mainspring of the characters, their motives, are insufficient to establish their reality.
There we have it. To summarise, Kafka's incomplete, poorly-crafted, nonsensical, depressing, morally and emotionally misleading, poorly communicated, unnecessary, and spiritually pornographic major works can now be ignored and thrown away.
The "novels" of Franz Kafka have been in the world for almost a century and can now be relegated to the library stacks and trashcans of people's personal libraries. His work showed some small promise, and this promise is not only not delivered on, but the existing works deliver downsides in spades.
I hope after reading this, many others will feel happy to avoid having anything to do with these bad books.
I do recommend a few of Kafka's most famous short stories, one of the which, Metamorphosis, provides the world with the word "kafkaesque" and is a wonderful riff on Ovid's Metamorphoses.