[...] Kafka's brilliantly ambiguous rendering of Josef K., who is at once a sympathetic and unjustly persecuted Everyman and a self-pitying and guilt-denying criminal, was my portal to the possibilities of fiction as a vehicle of self-investigation: as a method of engagement with the difficulties and paradoxes of my own life. Kafka teaches us how to love ourselves even as we're being merciless toward ourselves; how to remain humane in the face of the most awful truths about ourselves. It's not enough to love your characters, and it's not enough to be hard on your characters: you always have to try to be doing both at the same time. The stories that recognize people as they really are--the books whose characters are at once sympathetic subjects and dubious objects--are the ones capable of reaching across cultures and generations. This is why we still read Kafka.