The cycle of Kafka-Fragmente is the longest of the many vocal cycles by György Kurtág. It is based on prose texts from Franz Kafka's diaries and from posthumously published letters and stories. The work was begun in 1985 without a preconceived plan, completed in 1987, and premiered that same year at Witten by Adrienne Csengery and András Keller.
The texts, which range from quick jottings to sketches for stories, permit a large variety of musical settings. For the most part they possess a philosophical dimension that touches on Kafka's existential questioning, which the composer has made his own.
The work consists of forty songs organized into four parts of unequal length, although it is not possible to discern any specific purpose behind the order, which was decided after many hesitations and attempts.
As in the Lieder cycles of Schubert and Schumann, the nature of the work is that of movement rather than of architecture: the journey of a man who questions and seeks to find himself, of a life that reflects upon itself.