To Gain Entry Into the Law

“Before the law sits a gatekeeper. To this gatekeeper comes a man from the country who asks to gain entry into the law. But the gatekeeper says that he cannot grant him entry at the moment. The man thinks about it and then asks if he will be allowed to come in later on. “It is possible,” says the gatekeeper, “but not now.” At the moment the gate to the law stands open, as always, and the gatekeeper walks to the side, so the man bends over in order to see through the gate into the inside. When the gatekeeper notices that, he laughs and says: “If it tempts you so much, try it in spite of my prohibition. But take note: I am powerful. And I am only the most lowly gatekeeper. But from room to room stand gatekeepers, each more powerful than the other. I can’t endure even one glimpse of the third.” The man from the country has not expected such difficulties: the law should always be accessible for everyone, he thinks, but as he now looks more closely at the gatekeeper in his fur coat, at his large pointed nose and his long, thin, black Tartar’s beard, he decides that it would be better to wait until he gets permission to go inside. The gatekeeper gives him a stool and allows him to sit down at the side in front of the gate. There he sits for days and years. He makes many attempts to be let in, and he wears the gatekeeper out with his requests. The gatekeeper often interrogates him briefly, questioning him about his homeland and many other things, but they are indifferent questions, the kind great men put, and at the end he always tells him once more that he cannot let him inside yet. The man, who has equipped himself with many things for his journey, spends everything, no matter how valuable, to win over the gatekeeper. The latter takes it all but, as he does so, says, “I am taking this only so that you do not think you have failed to do anything.” During the many years the man observes the gatekeeper almost continuously. He forgets the other gatekeepers, and this one seems to him the only obstacle for entry into the law. He curses the unlucky circumstance, in the first years thoughtlessly and out loud, later, as he grows old, he still mumbles to himself. He becomes childish and, since in the long years studying the gatekeeper he has come to know the fleas in his fur collar, he even asks the fleas to help him persuade the gatekeeper. Finally his eyesight grows weak, and he does not know whether things are really darker around him or whether his eyes are merely deceiving him. But he recognizes now in the darkness an illumination which breaks inextinguishably out of the gateway to the law. Now he no longer has much time to live. Before his death he gathers in his head all his experiences of the entire time up into one question which he has not yet put to the gatekeeper. He waves to him, since he can no longer lift up his stiffening body. The gatekeeper has to bend way down to him, for the great difference has changed things to the disadvantage of the man. “What do you still want to know, then?” asks the gatekeeper. “You are insatiable.” “Everyone strives after the law,” says the man, “so how is that in these many years no one except me has requested entry?” The gatekeeper sees that the man is already dying and, in order to reach his diminishing sense of hearing, he shouts at him, “Here no one else can gain entry, since this entrance was assigned only to you. I’m going now to close it.”

Franz Kafka

 
 

Anthony Perkins in The Trial (Orson Welles, 1962)
 

 
 

The fable is referenced and reworked in the penultimate chapter of J.M. Coetzee‘s novel Elizabeth Costello. Jacques Derrida‘s essay of the same name examines the meta-fictional aspects within the structure and content of Kafka’s fable (for instance the situation of the title before the body of the text and also within the first line of the text itself). Derrida’s essay incorporates Immanuel Kant‘s notion of the categorical imperative as well as Freudian psychoanalysis in its reading of Kafka’s fable. The section clearly demonstrates the concept of existentialism, as the man from the country can only enter the gate using his own, individual path.

Before the Trial

 
 

In 1960, Orson Welles was approached by producer Alexander Salkind and his brother Michael Salkind to make a film from a public domain literary choice. Salkind promised that Welles would have total artistic freedom and he would not interfere with Welles’ creation. Welles and Salkind agreed to create a film based on the Franz Kafka novel The Trial, only to discover later the text was not in the public domain and that they needed to obtain the rights to the property. Earlier that year Welles’s son, Michael Lindsay-Hogg, had casually mentioned an idea to Welles about adapting The Trial as a stage play, prompting Welles to state that The Trial was an important book and that he should re-read it.

 
 

 
 

Welles took six months to write the screenplay. In adapting the work, he rearranged the order of Kafka’s chapters. In this version, the chapter line-up read 1, 4, 2, 5, 6, 3, 8, 7, 9, 10. However, the order of Kafka’s chapters was arranged by his literary executor, Max Brod, after the writer’s death, and this order is not definitive. Welles also modernized several aspects of the story, introducing computer technology and changing Miss Burstner’s profession from a typist to a cabaret performer. The film begins with Welles narrating Kafka’s parable Before the Law. To illustrate this allegory, he used the pin screen animation of Alexandre Alexeieff, who created animated prints using thousands of pins.

The cast included Anthony Perkins as Josef K, Jeanne Moreau, Romy Schneider, Paola Mori and Akim Tamiroff. Welles initially hoped to cast U.S. comic actor Jackie Gleason as Hastler, but he took the role himself when Gleason rejected the part.

While filming exteriors in Zagreb, Welles was informed that the Salkinds had run out of money, meaning that there could be no set construction. No stranger to shooting on found locations, Welles soon filmed the interiors in the Gare d’Orsay, at that time an abandoned railway station in Paris. Welles thought the location possessed a “Jules Verne modernism” and a melancholy sense of “waiting”, both suitable for Kafka. The film failed at the box-office. Peter Bogdanovich would later observe that Welles found the film riotously funny. During the filming, Welles met Oja Kodar, who would later become his muse, star and mistress for the last twenty years of his life. Welles also stated in an interview with the BBC that it was his best film.

 
 

Always in Question

 
 

Kafka (Steven Soderbergh, 1991) is ostensibly a biopic, based on the life of Franz Kafka, the film blurs the lines between fact and Kafka’s fiction (most notably The Castle and The Trial), creating a Kafkaesque atmosphere. It was written by Lem Dobbs, and stars Jeremy Irons in the title role (actually is a fictionalized composite of many of Franz Kafka’s literary protagonists), with Theresa Russell, Ian Holm, Jeroen Krabbé, Joel Grey, Armin Mueller-Stahl, and Alec Guinness.

Released after Soderbergh’s critically acclaimed debut Sex, Lies, and Videotape it was the first of what would be a series of low-budget box-office disappointments. It has since become a cult film, being compared to Terry Gilliam‘s Brazil and David Cronenberg‘s Naked Lunch.

In a 2013 interview with Vulture, Soderbergh stated that the rights to the film had reverted to him and executive producer Paul Rassam, and that work had begun on a “completely different” version of the movie. Soderbergh reported that he and Lem Dobbs did some rewriting, inserts were shot during the making of Side Effects, and he plans to dub the film into German and release both the original and new version together.

 
 

 
 

Cinematographer Walt Lloyd films the majority of Kafka in low-key black and white photography, and the amazing blocking and cutting by Soderbergh is reminiscent of such films as Orson Wells 1958 film, Touch of Evil. No joke, this film’s style is a thing of throwback beauty.

When Kafka switches to color photography for its tension-filled climax, there is a single slice of dialogue that perfectly sums up the film’s theme for me. A doctor (played by Ian Holm) insists, “A crowd is easier to control than an individual. A crowd has a common purpose. The purpose of the individual is always in question.”

 

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The Music that Kakfa Liked

Text by by Gustavo Artiles

 

Franz Kafka was not a music lover. But his old school friend and literary executor, Max Brod was, and he wanted to convert Franz to the glories of great music, high brow or classical music. But Franz says to him “I am not able to perceive the complexities of a large scale work”, and when Max takes him to hear the première of Gustav Mahler´s seventh symphony, which the composer himself conducted in Prague, where both friends live, on September 19th, 1908, Franz (then 35) still can not capture the secret threads of symphonic structures.

Brod tells us that Kafka was “an exception within the realm of genius… that he strained to vanish the last dissonance engendered by geniality”. But he kept that handicap, perhaps something insurmountable in spite of his intellectual efforts. It is equally possible that Kafka wanted to approach Mahler, the major symphonist of the period — “the greatest since Brahms and Bruckner”, a contemporary critic called him – because he knew him to be another Jew, as Max was too, and he might expect to find some affinities in him. But his reluctance towards the harmonic and structural complexities would hold him back, and they are especially acute in Mahler´s case!

Franz also says: ´I like American marches very much´. Which ones, he does not specify, perhaps he was not interested in registering their title or the name of the composer, but all points out to the marches already enjoyed and played in all open air concerts of military bands of Europe and, of course, the United States, i.e. those by John Philip Sousa, still enormously popular.

 
 

Sousa directed the Marine Corps Band for several years, then formed his own band which he led most of the rest of his life

 
 

The reason why Kafka felt attracted to Sousa is easy to understand, and I believe it has a connection with his work. One can detect a reflection of it specifically in his unfinished novel America, where we meet Karl, a young immigrant (i.e. the same young dreamer, K) who, at the end of the 19th century, arrives in the US searching for new horizons. An uncle of his, Jacob, is already there, but he does not know his address. After a series of events, Karl discovers one day a poster announcing a fantastic circus, the Great Natural Theatre of Oklahoma, also one of Kafka´s greatest inventions. What can a Great Natural Theatre be? It is Kafka´s conception of what that nation is like. The metaphor fits perfectly with a somewhat remote and diffuse perception of that country that was already becoming the proverbial melting pot, where boats from many parts of Europe and Asia, loaded with thousands of hopefuls to find a better life, far away from the oppressions and persecutions that perhaps they always had known in their own lands. And such assorted mixture of people come to meet in the same place, America. The poster says that ´All are welcome´, that ´Everyone can work in the Great Natural Theatre of Oklahoma´, no experience necessary. This is a second allusion to the prospects that, from the European point of view, one could expect to find on the other side of the Atlantic: ´great´ theatre. ´everyone can´. That is how America was, and still is, seen in general: countless opportunities for everyone. If everybody can work in the Great Theatre, it is not illogical for Karl to gradually meet, in the course of the rehearsals, persons he has already encountered during his long journey and later stay in the new land, including his lost uncle, Jacob.

The vastness of the American continent is another element in his mind. His vision of that Amerika is that of open horizons, infinite prairies, as well as towns that begin to be populous and puzzling.

Austrian, German and French marches of the period, generally pompous and imperialist, seem to shout ´Here we come, we, the unconquered, the most powerful, the greatest, our step says so, our mounts say so, our glorious colours say so; surrender and give us your respect and admiration, we expect no less´. Sousa´s marches say nothing of the sort: they speak about things like The Liberty Bell, The Washington Post, Hail to the Spirit of Freedom, The Belle of Chicago, Manhattan Beach, The Harmonica Wizard, La Flor de Sevilla, Hands Across the Ocean… even if a certain militarism or governmental quality seeps in too, something difficult to eradicate in what, after all, was the most famous band in history and that the American government did enthusiastically support. Thus The Man Behind the Gun, The Legionnaires, Globe and Eagle, Stars and Stripes Forever… But the fact is that all that music depicts the vigour and optimism of a nation in its early youth, and it abounds in joy and the celebration of a certain fraternity based on nationality, exempt from aristocracies and discriminations, more or less achieved thanks to equalitarian democracy. This is Sousa’s model. The model may appear a little rosy today, but that was the ´American Dream´. On the other hand, let us not forget that Sousa also wrote operettas (15), songs (70) and instrumental suites (11), a popular composer in the best sense of the word who knew the homage of the masses as no other before him. Sousa does not evoke scenic immensities or crowded towns, bur rather the essential spirit of optimism and confidence with which that nation faced the future. Sousa´s marches are the perfect circus marches for the Great Theatre.

Kafka saw the connection.

Conjoined in Eternal Bond

Detail of the set created by the Quay Brothers for Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis

 
 

The short film was commissioned by Mikhail Rudy, a French pianist and versatile artist born in Uzbekistan. The inspiration came from Franz Kafka’s short story The Metamorphosis. The soundtrack performed live at the film’s premiere on March 21st 2012 in Cité de la musique in Paris was based on music written by Leoš Janáček. Both artists – Kafka and Janáček – lived at the same time in Prague, although they never met. “We conjoined them in eternal bond in their afterlife” – the Brothers say.

Spanning multiple disciplines including stop-motion animation, live-action pantomime, puppetry, graphic design, illustration and film, the Quays work has a surreal, dreamlike quality.

A seemingly perfect fit with the rich symbolism and existential theme of Kafka’s tale chronicling the transformation of salesman Gregor Samsa.

Unsurprisingly, the Quays long standing interest in Kafka traces back to their early days as design students. They originally conceived the notion of adapting Kafka’s best known story to film in the mid-1970s, in a series of drawings.

 

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Kafka for Kids

Sylvia Plath believed it was never too early to dip children’s toes in the vast body of literature. But to plunge straight into Franz Kafka? Why not, which is precisely what Brooklyn-based writer and videogame designer Matthue Roth has done in My First Kafka: Runaways, Rodents, and Giant Bugs (public library) — a magnificent adaptation of Kafka for kids. With stunning black-and-white illustrations by London-based fine artist Rohan Daniel Eason, this gem falls — rises, rather — somewhere between Edward Gorey, Maurice Sendak, and the Graphic Canon series.

 
 

 
 

The idea came to Roth after he accidentally started reading Kafka to his two little girls, who grew enchanted with the stories. As for the choice to adapt Kafka’s characteristically dark sensibility for children, Roth clearly subscribes to the Sendakian belief that grown-ups project their own fears onto kids, who welcome rather than dread the dark. Indeed, it’s hard not to see Sendak’s fatherly echo in Eason’s beautifully haunting black-and-white drawings.

 
 


 
 

Much likeJonathan Safran Foer used Street of Crocodiles to create his brilliant Tree of Codes literary remix and Charles Darwin’s great-granddaughter adapted the legendary naturalist’s biography into verse, Roth scoured public domain texts and various translations of Kafka to find the perfect works for his singsong transformations: the short prose poem Excursion into the Mountains, the novella The Metamorphosis, which endures as Kafka’s best-known masterpiece, and Josefine the Singer, his final story.

 
 

“I don’t know!”
I cried without being heard.

“I do not know.”

If nobody comes,
then nobody comes.

I’ve done nobody any harm.
Nobody’s done me any harm.
But nobody will help me.

A pack of nobodies
would be rather fine,
on the other hand.

I’d love to go on a trip — why not? —
with a pack of nobodies.

Into the mountains, of course.
Where else?

 
 

In a way, the book — like most of Kafka’s writing — also bears the odd mesmerism of literary history’s letters and diaries, the semi-forbidden pleasure of which swells under the awareness that their writers never meant for us to read the very words we’re reading, never sought to invite us into their private worlds. Kafka wished for his entire world to remain private — he never finished any of his novels and burned the majority of his manuscripts; the rest he left with his closest friend and literary executor, Max Brod, whom he instructed to burn the remaining diaries, sketches, manuscripts, and letters. It was out of love that Brod chose not to, possibly displeasing his friend but eternally pleasing the literary public.

 
 

 
 

Though Kafka never wrote for children (in fact, one might argue, he never wrote for anyone but himself), My First Kafka transforms his surviving work into a fine addition to other notable children’s book by famous authors of “adult” literature, including Mark Twain, Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou, James Joyce, Sylvia Plath, William Faulkner, Gertrude Stein, Anne Sexton, T. S. Eliot, and John Updike.

Venus in Furs and Gregor Samsa

Illustration by Rohan Daniel Eason

 
 

The name “Gregor Samsa” appears to derive partly from literary works Franz Kafka had read. The hero of The Story of Young Renate Fuchs, by German-Jewish novelist Jakob Wassermann (1873–1934), is a certain Gregor Samsa. The Viennese author Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, whose sexual imagination gave rise to the idea of masochism, is also an influence. Sacher-Masoch (note the letters Sa-Mas) wrote Venus in Furs (1870), a novel whose hero assumes the name Gregor at one point. A “Venus in furs” literally recurs in The Metamorphosis in the picture that Gregor Samsa has hung on his bedroom wall. The name Samsa is similar to “Kafka” in its play of vowels and consonants: “Five letters in each word. The S in the word Samsa has the same position as the K in the word Kafka. The A is in the second and fifth positions in both words.”

It might make sense since Gregor Samsa appears to be based upon Kafka himself. As when Kafka suffered from insomnia, he feared he was repulsive and a burden to his family, during which time his sister was his caretaker.

Double Meaning

Masturbation and Eros respectively, both by Egon Schiele, 1911

 
 

Another example of translations problem to English: Kafka’s use of the German noun Verkehr in the final sentence of Das Urteil (The Judgment). Literally, Verkehr means intercourse and, as in English, can have either a sexual or non-sexual meaning; in addition, it is used to mean transport or traffic. The sentence can be translated as: “At that moment an unending stream of traffic crossed over the bridge”. The double meaning of Verkehr is given added weight by Kafka’s confession to Max Brod that when he wrote that final line, he was thinking of “a violent ejaculation”.

Not to Be Drawn

As previously stated in the post Changed Into a Beetle (http://thegenealogyofstyle.wordpress.com/2014/09/06/changed-into-a-beetle/) Vladimir Nabokov, who was a lepidopterist as well as writer and literary critic, insisted that Gregor was not a cockroach, but a beetle with wings under his shell, and capable of flight. Nabokov left a sketch annotated, “just over three feet long”, on the opening page of his (heavily corrected) English teaching copy. In his accompanying lecture notes, Nabokov discusses the type of insect Gregor has been transformed into, concluding that Gregor “is not, technically, a dung beetle. He is merely a big beetle”.

English and Spanish translators have often sought to render the word Ungeziefer as “insect”, but this is not strictly accurate. In Middle High German, Ungeziefer literally means “unclean animal” and is sometimes used colloquially to mean “bug” – a very general term, unlike the scientific sounding “insect”. Kafka had no intention of labeling Gregor as any specific thing, but instead wanted to convey Gregor’s disgust at his transformation. The phrasing used by Joachim Neugroschel is: “Gregor Samsa found himself, in his bed, transformed into a monstrous vermin”, whereas David Wyllie says” “transformed in his bed into a horrible vermin”.

However, in Franz Kafka‘s letter to his publisher of 25 October 1915, in which he discusses his concern about the cover illustration for the first edition, he uses the term Insekt, saying: “The insect itself is not to be drawn. It is not even to be seen from a distance.”

The first edition cover, is not a definitive statement on the story either. Is it the afflicted Gregor Samsa we see or his unnerved father fleeing from the sight of the creature in his son’s room? As it was written in German, Kafka never definitively stated what Gregor had become. The term he used, in what has now become one of the more famous opening lines in literature, to describe Gregor’s transformation was “ungeheueres Ungeziefer,” which literally means “unclean animal not suitable for sacrifice.” This has been translated (and mistranslated) as “gigantic insect” in some cases, but in later years, more translators have settled on “monstrous vermin,” as this seems to suit Kafka’s vague intent much better.

 
 

Die Verwandlung, first edition cover
 

Raggedy Andy and the Cockroach

“Andy Warhol was reasonably well-known by the time he came to see me, although he was still being called Raggedy Andy, not because his work was sloppy, but because of his appearance. He’d had success with book-jacket designs for such publishers as New Directions and with his drawings and paintings for I. Miller shoe ads – and I knew I. Miller – but stories about his mishaps were making the rounds. When he’d zipped open his portfolio to show his work to the art director at Harper’s Bazaar, a cockroach had crawled out. Poor boy, that Raggedy Andy. But Harper’s had given him assignments. He won awards for his work, for his ‘commercial’ art, and he never pretended a difference between what he did to survive and what he called his art. To his credit, I think it was all the same to him. He was a very busy young man. I used Warhol’s art in several of my perfume windows at Bonwit’s. In July 1955, just before my work began at Tiffany’s, I made some wooden fences, and he covered them with graffiti for a series of windows. They were fun, full of a childish playfulness.”

Gene Moore

 
 

Photo by Leila Davies Singelis, 1950

 
 

In the summer of 1955 Andy Warhol‘s career as a commercial artist took a new turn when Gene Moore hired him to provide artwork for the windows of the Bonwit Teller department store. Moore had arrived in New York in 1935, hoping to become a fine artist, and had ended up a window dresser. One of the jobs Moore took to support himself in New York was making paper mache flowers for the Bob Smith Display Company. When one of Smith’s customers, Jim Buckley, was made the display director of I. Miller Shoes in approximately 1937, he hired Moore to be his assistant. By the following year, Moore was also doing window dressing for Bergdorf Goodman’s and Delman’s department stores. In 1945 he was appointed the display director for Bonwit Teller. Moore often modeled his mannequins on Hollywood stars like Vivien Leigh and Audrey Hepburn, and was responsible for introducing the belly button on mannequins.

The cockroach story became part of Warhol’s legend. It was repeated in The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again). However, according to the painter Philip Pearlstein, the incident had actually happened to him, not to Warhol.

Warhol wasn’t the only artist working for Moore. He was also using Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns, who were window dressing under the combined pseudonym, Matson Jones. According to Moore, James Rosenquist, Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns all worked with him during the same period. Rauschenberg and Johns continued to do windows for him when, in July 1956, Moore also started doing windows for Tiffany’s in addition to his continued involvement with Bonwit Teller.

Portrait of One of the Jewish Geniuses

Franz Kafka, from Ten Portraits of Jews of the Twentieth Century, Andy Warhol, 1980

 
 

In October 1980, an exhibit featuring portraits of “famous Jews” opened at the Jewish Museum in New York; in June of the following year, a scaled-down version of the show had its “West Coast Premiere” at the Judah Magnes Museum in Berkeley, California. Entitled Andy Warhol: Ten Portraits of Jews of the 20th Century, the exhibit featured silk-screen prints and acrylic paintings — the Berkeley museum showed only the serigraphs — based largely on known photographs of a variety of Jewish figures no longer alive. In 1979, reviewers disliked his exhibits of portraits of 1970s personalities and celebrities, calling them superficial, facile and commercial, with no depth or indication of the significance of the subjects. They also criticized his 1980 exhibit of 10 portraits at the Jewish Museum in New York, which Warhol —who was uninterested in Judaism and Jews— had described in his diary as “They’re going to sell.” In hindsight, however, some critics have come to view Warhol’s superficiality and commerciality as “the most brilliant mirror of our times,” contending that “Warhol had captured something irresistible about the zeitgeist of American culture in the 1970s.”

Andy Warhol became fascinated with a group of influential Jewish figures – a pantheon of great thinkers, politicians, performers, musicians and writers including French actress Sarah Bernhardt (1844-1923); the first Jewish judge of the United States Supreme Court, Louis Brandeis (1856-1941); renowned philosopher and educator Martin Buber (1878-1965); the theoretical physicist, Albert Einstein (1897-1955), widely regarded as the greatest scientist of the twentieth century; the hugely influential founder of the psychoanalytic school of psychology, Sigmund Freud (1856-1939); vaudeville, stage and film comedians, the Marx Brothers: Chico (1887-1961), Groucho (1890-1977), and Harpo (1888-1964); Israel fourth Prime Minister and one of the founders of the State of Israel, Golda Meir (1898-1978); distinguished American composer George Gershwin (1898-1937); the eminent novelist, Franz Kafka (1883-1924); and avant-garde American writer, poet and playwright Gertrude Stein (1874-1946). The collective achievements of this group changed the course of the twentieth century and may be said to have influenced every aspect of human experience.

For the most part, Warhol’s standard techniques of cropping photographs, outlining faces and figures, and overlaying collage-like blocks of color onto them seem to have little specific connection with the particular character or significance of either the portraits or the represented figures. The multicolored, fragmented surfaces Warhol applied in the 1960s and 1970s to portraits of celebrities in the world of entertainment and politics usually complemented or enhanced the poses and public images of those represented — think of his portraits of Marilyn Monroe, Mick Jagger, Mao Tse-tung, or Richard Nixon.

With the possible exception of the Marx Brothers, the “famous Jews” display none of the star quality of many of Warhol’s other portraits; yet the cliché seems to rule in a similarly superficial, commercialized effort to lend the portraits a veneer of flamboyance or “modern” hip. In a rather quirky review of the New York exhibit, Carrie Rickey found in the paintings of Jews “an unexpected mix of cultural anthropology, portraiture, celebration of celebrity, and study of intelligentsia,” but she also observes that “Warhol had recast their visages to make them fit his pop iconology.” Roberta Bernstein, who has a fine critical appreciation of Warhol’s artistic abilities, notes in a discussion of his printmaking that, though his talent as portraitist functioned primarily to reveal only the surface and therefore was “entirely suitable for his portraits of glamorous celebrities and socialites, its appropriateness for historical figures of the type in this portfolio [of the ten twentieth-century Jews] is questionable,” and, she adds, his “unique ability to make insightful selections is not as apparent here as it is in other works.”

Musical Metamorphosis

The album’s cover art alludes to Franz Kafka‘s The Metamorphosis. Illustration by Linda Guymon. Artwork concept by Glenn Ross

 
 

Metamorphosis is the third compilation album of The Rolling Stones music released by former manager Allen Klein‘s ABKCO Records (who usurped control of the band’s Decca/London material in 1970) after the band’s departure from Decca and Klein. Released in 1975, Metamorphosis centres on outtakes and alternate versions of well-known songs recorded from 1964 to 1970.

In 1974, to give it an air of authority, Bill Wyman involved himself in compiling an album he entitled Black Box. However, Allen Klein wanted more Mick Jagger/Keith Richards songs in the project for monetary reasons, and Wyman’s version remained unreleased. Metamorphosis was issued in its place.

While the critical reaction was lukewarm (many felt some of the songs were best left unreleased), Metamorphosis still managed to reach No. 8 in the US, though it only made No. 45 in the UK. Two singles, Out of Time (featuring Jagger singing over the same backing track used for Chris Farlowe‘s 1966 version) and a cover of Stevie Wonder‘s I Don’t Know Why briefly made the singles charts.

Crumb and Mairowitz Introducing Kafka

Introducing Kafka, also known as R. Crumb’s Kafka, is an illustrated biography of Franz Kafka by David Zane Mairowitz and Robert Crumb. The book includes comic adaptations of some of Kafka’s most famous works including The Metamorphosis, A Hunger Artist, In the Penal Colony, and The Judgment, as well as brief sketches of his three novels The Trial, The Castle, and Amerika. The book also details Kafka’s biography in a format that is part illustrated essay, part sequential comic panels. The book was released as part of the Introducing… series by Totem Books; the popularity of Crumb’s renditions of Kafka’s works led to additional printings under the title R. Crumb’s Kafka,and its most recent edition by Fantagraphics Books (2007) is simply titled Kafka.

R. Crumb’s Kafka goes far beyond being explication or popularization or survey. It’s a work of art in its own right, a very rare example of what happens when one very idiosyncratic artist absorbs another into his worldview without obliterating the individuality of the absorbed one. Crumb’s art is filled with Kafka’s insurmountable neuroses. They are all there: Gregor Samsa’s sister, the luscious Milena Jesenska, the Advacate’s “nurse” Leni, Olda and Frieda, and the ravishing Dora Diamant-drawn in that mixture of self-command, tantalizing knowingness, and sly sexuality, that amazonian randines and thick-limbed physicality that is Crumb. . . Crumb’s idiosyncratic illustrations add a new dimension to the already idiosyncratic world of Kafka.

 
 

 
 

The Czech author once wrote: “What do I have in common with the Jews? I don’t even have anything in common with myself.” Nothing could better express the essence of Franz Kafka, a man described by his friends as living behind a “glass wall.” Kafka wrote in the tradition of the great Yiddish storytellers, whose stock-in-trade was bizarre fantasy tainted with hilarity and self-abasement. What he added to this tradition was an almost unbearably expanded consciousness. Alienated from his roots, his family, his surroundings, and primarily from his own body, Kafka created a unique literary language in which to hide away, transforming himself into a cockroach, an ape, a dog, a mole or a circus artiste who starves himself to death in front of admiring crowds.

 
 

David Zane Mairowitz and Robert Crumb

 
 

David Zane Mairowitz’s brilliant text and the illustrations and comic panels of the world’s greatest cartoonist, Robert Crumb (himself no stranger to self-loathing and alienation), help us to understand the essence of Kafka and provide insight beyond the cliche “Kafkaesque,” peering through Kafka’s glass wall like no other book before it. The book is a wonderful educational tool for those unfamiliar with Kafka, including a brief but inclusive biography as well as the plots of many of his works, all illustrated by Crumb, making this newly designed edition a must-have for admirers of both Kafka and Crumb.