Kafka. K. The letter is his alone.

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/07/books/review/kafka-the-years-of-insight-by-reiner-stach.html?_r=0

Will you help me with understanding this simple sentence from the article on Kafka. I am not able to figure out what the author of the article means by the phrase "The letter is his alone".

  • 1
    The full names of the protagonists of Kafka's two major novels The Castle and The Trial are never given: the hero of The Trial is Josef K., referred to almost exclusively as K., and the hero of The Castle is known only as K. Essentially, Kafka takes his own initial to designate the modern Everyman. Sep 3, 2015 at 19:27
  • @StoneyB - Would you call this a fair paraphrase? No author will ever be as inexorably linked to the letter K as much as Kafka.
    – J.R.
    Sep 3, 2015 at 19:32
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    Yes, I know the facts about Kafka's work as well as I am aware that the mentioned "the letter" is related to K but I am not able to translate the phrase meaningfully to my native language.
    – bart-leby
    Sep 3, 2015 at 19:35
  • Crazy Eyes' answer is excellent. Yes, I'm stupid; of course you know Kafka's work: he's your countryman. Sep 3, 2015 at 19:54

1 Answer 1


If you're learning English, keep in mind that columnists and other journalists will often use very unconventional flourishes in their writing, sometimes with no precedent set by other writers. English is a language with a lot of options to express one's self in the same or similar ways, and most writers take advantage of that. This one is not that unconventional in particular, but it's important to know in general.

Getting to the point, the columnist here is expressing reverence for the author. His statement is literal in a sense -- he is saying that the letter "K" belongs to the author Kafka -- but we, as readers, know that is not possible. It is a sort of hyperbole or big exaggeration. The letter "K" is very closely associated with the author, and often English speakers say that something "belongs" to someone when they are very well known for using it. The author expresses his admiration by essentially stating that Kafka is influential enough to own the letter "K" in the English language.

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