Around 1910 trick films by Edwin S. Porter, Émile Cohl, and others fascinated writers and critics by bringing objects to life and upending the dominant roles of human actors found in drama and literature. The animated objects and thing-like humans in Franz Kafka’s writings represent a unique response to this little-known history of early cinema. Focusing on “Blumfeld, an Elderly Bachelor,” “The Bucket Rider,” and “The Cares of a Family Man,” this article shows how Kafka’s stories draw, reflect, and expand on the possibilities of contemporaneous trick films by introducing animated objects into their narrative worlds. Inspired by cinema, these literary animations trace out complex social relations among humans and things and challenge the powers of reification that Theodor W. Adorno and others more typically identify with Odradek and related figures in Kafka’s writings.

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