A fratricide

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A fratricide is a short story by Franz Kafka , which was written in a slightly different form as early as 1917 under the provisional title Der Mord and which was published in 1920 in an improved and authorized form in the volume Ein Landarzt . It is a striking crime story between a murderer Schmar and his victim Wese, in which the strong representation effects of early cinema are included.


Schmar, the murderer, lies in wait for his victim named Wese on the short stretch between his office and home. Schmar speaks to him, he obviously knows him well, then he stabs him with a knife. The murderer is in a high, feverish mood both during and after the crime. The murder really gives him wings. The corpse's physicality does not cause him any dismay at the moment of the murder.

A third person named Pallas has observed everything and confronts Schmar with this fact.

The Wese's wife rushes into the street to meet her murdered husband. She throws herself over him and thus prevents the crowd from seeing the corpse. Schmar, who is now struggling with nausea, allows himself to be led away by a policeman without resistance.


Optical elements

Kafka was a keen movie-goer and as early as 1913 postulated capturing movie pictures as a literary exercise. In the present narrative everything is an optical-cinematographic representation: the flashing, sparkling knife, the violin bow-like stroke, the dark blue and the golden (night sky and stars), the three targeted stabs of the knife in the neck and chest, the lightly clad woman's body with the one thrown over it Fur. Again and again the text depicts gestures that correspond to the body language of silent film actors. The brief oral speech and the explanations are reminiscent of the panels with short texts in silent films.

Language, content

Dramatic things are depicted, but the style of speech does not express serious emotion. It makes you think of vaudeville speakers or bank singers. Bloodthirsty, pathetic and profane, great theater and smear tragedy stand side by side. In contrast, the figures and the course of action are shown without human depth.

The text does not make an ethical assessment of the murder; he describes the euphoric effect of murder on the murderer. The negatively judged figure, on the other hand, is the voyeur Pallas, who is described as choking poison and who looks at everything but does not prevent the murder. With woman Wese dressed in a nightdress in fur, there is a sexual moment.

The title, which is reminiscent of the biblical story of Cain and Abel, suggests the question of whether and to what extent Schmar and Wese are brothers. Schmar describes his victim as a "friend and fellow beer bank". Details on their relationship are not given. Likewise, the reader learns no motive for the murder.


  • All the stories. Paul Raabe , Fischer-Taschenbuch-Verlag, 1970, ISBN 3-596-21078-X .
  • The stories. Original version, edited by Roger Herms, Fischer Verlag, 1997, ISBN 3-596-13270-3 .
  • Prints in lifetime. Edited by Wolf Kittler, Hans-Gerd Koch and Gerhard Neumann . Fischer Verlag, Frankfurt / Main 1996, pp. 292-295.

Secondary literature

Web links

Wikisource: A Fratricide  - Sources and Full Texts

Individual evidence

  1. Stach p. 202
  2. Alt Kafka / Film p. 129