It's not just silly exaggeration to call Franz Kafka a sad bastard: he was clinically depressed and didn't like people. And if you've read his work, I'm sure you're just SHOCKED. Maybe there's a reason he is considered one of the great masters of twentieth century literature, but we don't read him in high school. There would be rioting and gnashing of teeth. Kafka is one of those more obscure DWGs that everyone knows was a genius and changed the course of literature and blah blah blah, but here are a few concrete facts to have under your belt of truth:
1. All his sisters died in concentration camps, including the one that nursed him through tuberculosis. Kafka's Judaism may or may not be the driving force behind most of his works, depending on which self-important literary critic you ask. Some people believe he wrote for an areligious standpoint, while others (Bloom included) believe his writing is nothing if not the pinnacle of Jewish thought. Some say The Trial is all about the guiltless guilt felt by the Jewish people. Kafka never mentioned it- he was too busy crying most of the time. But not over his sisters, he was already dead by then.
2. He was a big fan of Flaubert, and it shows. Kafka took Flaubert's realism and made it a little absurd. Some consider him an original existentialist, which is, of course, synonymous with really freakin' depressing and weird.
3. The translation is paramount when reading him. He was a fan of using ambiguous words with double meanings that don't translate well into English. He also wrote page long sentences in German, ending with the verb in order to place the full force of the words at the end of the thought. This is a purely German construct. Translators have to recreate the same effect in English, and it can come off convoluted.
4. Like many DWGs, Kafka was unappreciated in his time. He was not read often, and not successful literarily. He never actually finished a novel during his lifetime, and asked a friend to burn all his papers upon his death. His friend was a cheeky little monkey, and did the exact opposite of burning them- he published them for all the world to see. Take THAT, dying wishes!
5. He died of starvation. No, really. Crazy kid. His tuberculosis worsened, making his throat hurt so much that he couldn't eat. He died in 1924, unmarried and probably unhappy because no happy person would write The Metamorphoses.