Assicurazioni Generali

Kafka found a position in the Prague branch of Assicurazioni Generali on Wenceslas Square thanks to indirect influence. He was recommended by former U.S. vice-consul Arnold Weissberger, who was born in Kolín and returned to Bohemia as the chief clerk at a leading Prague bank. His son managed a branch of the Assicurazioni Generali in Madrid where Kafka’s uncle Alfred Löwy lived. Trusting that the position would be the fulfilment of his exotic dreams, Kafka assumed that his first posting would be in Trieste where the Assicurazioni Generali had its head office and he started to study Italian. The record of his formal induction into the company bears out his expectations. It states that Kafka comes from a respected Prague family and that the plan is eventually to send him on foreign assignment. In practice things turned out differently, though. Only employees of the transport insurance section were sent abroad, while Kafka was appointed to the life insurance department, whose operations were run by local employees in each country.
© Museum of Czech Literature, Prague
A further reason for Kafka’s disenchantment were the arduous working conditions in the institute and its shabby treatment of employees. What he disliked most of all was the so-called ‘double-shift’ system whereby employees worked from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. with a two-hour midday break (noon – 2 p.m.). Employees had the right to apply for fourteen days’ leave once every two years. They were not allowed to take any outside employment without a written permission of the institute, nor accept any honorary office. The probationary period was one year. The institute had the right to demand unpaid overtime.
Kafka was soon dissatisfied with the job, which was also badly paid. He found the work-load and lack of free time exhausting, at a period of his life when he wanted to make the most of his evenings. This consideration, combined with his inability to make full use of his legal knowledge and the institute’s cavalier treatment of its employees, soon led him to seek alternative employment. He remained with the Assicurazioni Generali for just under one year, from 1 October 1907 to 31 July 1908. Thanks once more to outside influence, he transferred to the Workers’ Accident Insurance Institute for the Kingdom of Bohemia where he was to remain indefinitely. All he retained of the Assicurazioni Generali were bad memories and a friendly contact with its educated director Ernst Eisner who shared an interest in literature.