"The other day I wrote down the following wish: 'When passing a house, to be pulled in through the ground-floor window by a rope tied around one's neck and to be hauled up, bloody and ragged, through all the ceilings, furniture, walls, and attics, without consideration, as if by a person who is paying no attention, until the empty noose, dropping the last shreds of me when breaking through the roof tiles, appears on the roof."
—letter, September 2, 1915
"Only our concept of time makes it possible for us to speak of the Day of Judgment by that name; in reality it is a summary court in perpetual session."
—Reflections on Sin, Pain, Hope and the True Way, 1917-1920
"It's often safer to be in chains than to be free."
—The Trial, 1925
"In theory there is a possibility of perfect happiness: To believe in the indestructible element within one, and not to strive towards it."
"My guiding principle is this: Guilt is never to be doubted."
—In The Penal Settlement
"Anyone who cannot come to terms with his life while he is alive needs one hand to ward off a little his despair over his fate . . . but with his other hand he can note down what he sees among the ruins."
–diary entry, October 19, 1921
"The true way is along a rope that is not spanned high in the air, but only just above the ground. It seems intended more to cause stumbling than to be walked upon."
"Don't despair, not even over the fact that you don't despair. Just when everything seems over with, new forces come marching up, and precisely that means that you are alive. And if they don't, then everything is over with here, once and for all."
—diary entry, July 21, 1913
"I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound and stab us. If the book we are reading doesn't wake us up with a blow on the head, what are we reading it for? . . . [W]e need the books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us."
—letter to Oskar Pollak, January 27, 1904
"Life's splendor forever lies in wait about each one of us in all its fullness, but veiled from view, deep down, invisible, far off. It is there, though, not hostile, not reluctant, not deaf. If you summon it by the right word, by its right name, it will come."
—diary entry, October 18, 1921