Savage Travel: Sadism and Masochism in Kafka’s Penal Colony

  • John Zilcosky


Early readers of Kafka’s “In the Penal Colony” (“In der Strafkolonie”) decried its shocking, perverse explicitness. As Hans Beilhack wrote in the Münchner Zeitung in 1916, Kafka’s story was sadistic; its author was a “libertine of horror.”1 Otto Erich Hesse, writing in 1921 in the Zeitschrift für Bücherfreunde, took Beilhack one step further, claiming that Kafka and his readers were “repulsive” sexual miscreants: “the vileness of the human animal that turns itself on and goes into heat because of such tortures—reported as a matter of course—can only produce disgust.”2


Green Book Penal Colony Torture Face German Colonist Sexual Excess 
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  1. 7.
    Margot Norris, “Sadism and Masochism in Two Kafka Stories: ‘In der Strafkolonie’ and ‘Ein Hungerkünstler,’” MLN 93 (1978): 430–47CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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© John Zilcosky 2003

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  • John Zilcosky

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