Introducing Kafka Paperback – 3 May 2007
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About the Author
David Zane Mairowitz's plays for radio are produced in over twenty countries, and his radiophonic opera, 'The Voluptuous Tango', won the Prix Italia Special Prize and the Sony Prize in 1997. Robert Crumb is the creator of Fritz the Cat, Mr Natural and other legendary cartoon figures. He is one of the pioneers of American underground comics and his work has been celebrated at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
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Top Customer Reviews
Kafka has always interested me, but I'm not a great one for biographies so this seemed a good way of learning more about this favorite writer than I would glean from a Wikipedia article or some-such. In any case I was on my way home after a visit to the Tate Gallery, so was in the mood for more visuals rather than immediately descending down into pages of text.
I think the first thing to say is that the book is a work of art in its own right. The design of the volume is immediately attractive, and when you open it up, the eye is drawn into a fascinating and complex set of images, showing the complexity of Crumb's interpretation of life in 19th century Prague. I am not saying that words could not provide a more accurate "picture" of the realities of the situation, but for a quick impression, Crumb and writer David Zane Mairowitz do a pretty good job.
In some ways, the book is a little like seeing a film of Kafka's life, but far more than that in some ways, because Crumb adds his own unique and definitely eccentric perspective. I'm not saying that this book is more accurate than a conventional biography, but there are a whole set of people who would baulk at a full-scale written account of Kafka's life who might glean quite a lot from the graphic novel format.
Perhaps the book should just be seen as entertainment in its own right, but at least its entertainment which very successfully communicates a lot of information.I enjoyed this book and wouldn't hesitate to try some more titles from this excellent series.
Crumb's graphics are a motive to purchase, other than that it's not really worth it, there's nothing different from what you'd get off Wiki.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Only one quibble. I would not want a person to look at it first, before reading Kafka. It is much more suitable as a summing up, a personal vision and inspired collaboration of two mad devotees of Kafka. Read Kafka first, a lot of Kafka, then buy this book to sharpen your vision. It's a work of art, comparable to the Expressionism of Kafka's time.
This book is a great introduction - as titled - and a perfect blend in at least two ways: 1) The juxtaposition of Kafka's life and work presents the depth of his stories as well as some of the possible inspirations from his real life - like the role his overbearing father played in his creation of authoritative characters. And 2) as already mentioned, the at-times-terrifying-but-always-amusing art of Robert Crumb with the similarly dark-comedic styling of Kafka himself. (Kafka is said to have been inclined to laugh when reading his own work)
This is the only book of this introductory series I've read so far, but I would take this as an indication of a set of worthwhile books.
They are all there: Gregor Samsa's sister, the luscious Milena Jesenska, the Advocate's "nurse" Leni, Olga and Frieda from THE CASTLE, and the ravishing Dora Diamant. These women are all more durable than both Kafka and Crumb, who are wispy and likely to blow away in the next puff of wind. (I recommend that you see the excellent film documentary of the cartoonist's life, called, appropriately, CRUMB.)
When one concentrates on the women in Kafka's life and work, the result is curiously enlightening. "None of his female characters seems to have her own existence," writes David Zane Mairowitz, "but is spawned in his imagination in order to distract 'K' or 'Joseph K,' to tempt and ensnare him. Kafka's sexual terror is put to the test time after time, yet these same women provide something more.... The outcome of these relationships is rarely 'intimate' (Leni being an exception) and has more to do with power than personal feelings. Kafka's talent would mostly SUGGEST erotic encounter, rather than indulging his characters in that act which he found 'repellent and perfectly useless.'"
Perhaps Mairowitz and Crumb do not provide a measured and scholarly study of the writer, but within a mere 175 pages they have done more to rekindle my interest in Kafka than anything else I have ever read about him. This book is a perfect gem and a work of art in its own right.