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Introducing Kafka Paperback – 3 May 2007

4.5 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Paperback, 3 May 2007
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Product details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Icon Books Ltd (3 May 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1840467878
  • ISBN-13: 978-1840467871
  • Product Dimensions: 14.3 x 1.2 x 21.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 876,125 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

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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By Thomas Cunliffe TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 18 May 2009
Format: Paperback
I've seen Icon Books Introducing series in the bookshops but it was only when confronted by a long train journey with my current novel finished that I finally dived in and bought one. I don't think I've read a graphic book before and I was suprised by how much I enjoyed reading Introducing Kafka with illustrations by Robert Crumb (who will be well known to readers of The Guardian).

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.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Robert Crumb and Kafka, a fantastic combination, this book is a curiosity sure, but it is also a gem. Crumb gets under the skin of the characters, and brings out the truly macabre quality of the stories as well as the psychological pain. I bought this for my sixteen year old, but I want one for myself now. Brilliant.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
a masterpiece
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Format: Paperback
Just ok.
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.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.6 out of 5 stars 15 reviews
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Kafka's World: The Visualization 25 Jun. 2002
By Gary Kern - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As a longtime reader of Kafka, I found this book to be an unqualified delight, for it not only reviews his life and work with pinpoint concision, but also portrays it in evocative visual detail. The narrative by Mairowitz is sharp and insightful, with a zesty peppering of invective against pedants and philistines, while Crumb's gloomy pen drawings take the reader's eye into the heart of Prague and into the mind and imagination of its most anxious and self-conscious denizen. It is especially delightful to track down the original photographs that Crumb used for his models, for example in the book Franz Kafka: Pictures of a Life by Klaus Wagenbach, and then to see how he animates the figure of Kafka, presenting him now as an ordinary person in ordinary life (such as exercising by the window or chewing each bite of food more than ten times), now as a cartoon caricature in his own nightmares (zapped out and fleeing a succubus), now as an idealized figure in his fantasies (the healthy workman, the contented farmer). He also contrives to make the characters of Kafka's fiction resemble the author, but only slightly and appropriately. The loves of Kafka's life, especially Milena, emerge from their photographs as sexy, desirable women, then their images echo through his works. Crumb's portrayals of the stories and novels are not mere impressions, but careful and useful illustrations, since some scenes and particulars in Kafka are not easy to visualize, for example the machine in the story "In the Penal Colony." And, of course, Crumb is absolutely fastidious in basing his drawings on historical materials, so that we can see streets, buildings and dress, including uniforms, just as they were at the time. The presentation of Kafka's works necessarily reduce them to their storyline or plot and cannot do justice to his elaborate narratives, yet even here Mairowitz fixes on a crucial scene or a characteristic twist, which Crumb then illustrates in all its demonic glory. All in all, the book is a total pleasure, as perfect as it could be.
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.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Perfect Blend 22 Nov. 2005
By Dr. Lotto Budweiser - Published on
Format: Paperback
There's an irreplaceable feeling attached to reading Kafka directly. Furthermore, Kafka himself probably would have hated the idea of images being made of his stories. That being said, I can't think of any better artist than Crumb to illustrate that over-used term "Kafkaesque."

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.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Ideal Match: Crumb and Kafka 22 Jun. 2000
By R. W. Rasband - Published on
Format: Paperback
Mairowitz writes a lucid intorduction to the work of the great writer but the real treasure here is the copious artwork by R. Crumb. It's almost like he was born to illustrate Kafka. This is a fully satisfying three-dimensional consideration of the author, his times, and his postumous fame. *Not* just a comic book. Highly recommended, and not just for Kafka or Crumb fans, but anyone who loves writing and comedy.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Kafka's Women 27 April 2003
By James Paris - Published on
Format: Paperback
As I read through this delightful summary of Franz Kafka's life and work, I was struck by the fact that both the Czech writer and the cartoonist R. Crumb have the same anguished yearning for determined young women. Curiously, these all have the strong legs, broad beams, and statuesque torsos of Crumb's fantasy women from Zap Comix to today. Perhaps, Crumb and Kafka have more in common than meets the eye.
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.
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting collaboration. 7 Jun. 2012
By E. Allen - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a good introduction to Kafka, and should be useful for students who haven't read him before. The drawings, of course, are great, and the coverage of his work is more complete than you would get by just reading one or two stories. Of course it's no substitute for the real work, and so shouldn't be treated as a version of Spark Notes.
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