Franz Kafka was a German-language writer of novels and short stories, regarded by critics as one of the most influential authors of the 20th century. Most of his works, such as "Die Verwandlung" ("The Metamorphosis"), Der Prozess (The Trial), and Das Schloss (The Castle), are filled with the themes and archetypes of alienation, physical and psychological brutality, parent–child conflict, characters on a terrifying quest, labyrinths of bureaucracy, and mystical transformations. "In the Penal Colony" is a short story by Franz Kafka. The story is set in an unnamed penal colony. It describes the last use of an elaborate torture and execution device that carves the sentence of the condemned prisoner on his skin in a script before letting him die, all in the course of twelve hours. As the plot unfolds, the reader learns more and more about the machine, including its origin, and original justification.