Plenty of Hope; Infinite Hope; Just Not for Us

Franz Kafka? Max Brod? Jonathan Franzen? Josef Paul Hodin? Georg Lukács? Harold Bloom? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: In 2019 acclaimed author Jonathan Franzen wrote an essay in “The New Yorker” that began with the following remark of despair attributed to the influential Prague-born writer Franz Kafka.

There is infinite hope; only not for us.

Here are two longer versions I have seen:

(1) Oh, hope enough, infinite hope, — just not for us.
(2) Plenty of hope—for God—no end of hope—only not for us.

Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: Max Brod was a friend and a biographer of Franz Kafka. In 1921 he published a piece titled “Der Dichter Franz Kafka” (“The Poet Franz Kafka”) in the literary journal “Die Neue Rundschau”. Brod described a conversation he held with his friend in 1920. Below is an excerpt in German followed by one possible translation into English. Boldface added by QI: 1

„Wir sind,“ so sagte er, „nihilistische Gedanken, Selbstmordgedanken, die in Gottes Kopf aufsteigen“. Mich erinnerte das zuerst an das Weltbild der Gnosis: Gott als böser Demiurg, die Welt sein Sündenfall. „O nein,“ meinte er, „unsere Welt ist nur eine schlechte Laune Gottes, ein schlechter Tag.“ — „So gäbe es außerhalb dieser Erscheinungsform Welt, die wir kennen, Hoffnung?“ — Er lächelte: „Oh Hoffnung genug, unendlich viel Hoffnung, — nur nicht für uns.“

“We are,” he said, “nihilistic thoughts, suicidal thoughts that rise up in God’s head”. This reminded me of the worldview of the Gnostics: God is an evil demiurge; the world reflects his fall into sin. “Oh no,” he said, “our world is just a bad mood of God, a bad day.” — “So outside of this world manifestation, which we know, would there be a world that knows hope?” — He smiled: “Oh, hope enough, infinite hope, — just not for us.”

The correctness of this quotation is dependent upon the veracity of Max Brod. In addition, the precise phrasing in English varies because of the inherent imprecision of translations.

Below are additional selected citations.

Continue reading Plenty of Hope; Infinite Hope; Just Not for Us

Notes:

  1. 1921 November, Die Neue Rundschau (The New Rundschau), Der Dichter Franz Kafka (The Poet Franz Kafka) by Max Brod, Start Page 1210, Quote Page 1213, Fischer Verlag, Berlin, Germany. (HathiTrust Full View) link