Illustrated Masterpiece of Pastiche

 
 

Kafka’s Soup is a literary pastiche in the form of a cookbook. It contains 14 recipes each written in the style of a famous author from history. As of 2007 it had been translated into 18 languages and published in 27 countries. Excerpts from the book have appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald and the New York Times. Theatrical performances of the recipes have taken place in France and Canada. Kafka’s Soup is Mark Crick‘s first book. He has subsequently written two other books with similar themes; Sartre’s Sink and Machiavelli’s Lawn which are literary pastiches in the form of a DIY handbook and a gardening book respectively. Anybody who prefers their recipes to be a simple list of foolproof instructions should stay away.

Recipes include: tiramisu as made by Marcel Proust, cheese on toast by Harold Pinter, clafoutis grandmere by Virginia Woolf, chocolate cake prepared by Irvine Welsh, lamb with dill sauce by Raymond Chandler, onion tart by Geoffrey Chaucer, fenkata (rabbit stew) by Homer, boned stuffed poussins by the Marquis de Sade, mushroom risotto by John Steinbeck, tarragon eggs by Jane Austen, Vietnamese chicken by Graham Greene and Franz Kafka‘s Miso soup. Also included are recipes in the style of Jorge Luis Borges and Gabriel García Márquez.

Among the recipes that did not make the original edition of the book was “plum pudding à la Charles Dickens” which was written but rejected by Mark Crick for being “too long-winded”. It was, however, included in a subsequent paperback edition of the book along with two recipes, Rösti à la Thomas Mann and moules marinieres à la Italo Calvino, originally created for the German and Italian translations respectively.

Kafka’s Soup has become a cult hit. Andy Miller of The Telegraph called the recipes “note-perfect parodies of literary greats”. Emily Stokes of The Observer called it an “illustrated masterpiece of pastiche” citing the lamb with dill sauce as “particularly good”. C J Schüler wrote that Virginia Woolf’s clafoutis grandmere is the “pièce de resistance” and called the collection “irresistibly moreish”. He later called the book “a little gem of literary impersonation”. Schüler believes that “part of the book’s appeal lies in the fact that the recipes…actually work.”

 
 

 
 

Kafka’s Soup is illustrated with paintings by the author in the style of a number of famous artists including Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, William Hogarth, Giorgio De Chirico, Henry Moore, Egon Schiele and Andy Warhol.

The idea for Kafka’s Soup arose during a conversation between Crick and a publisher. Crick noted his dislike for cookbooks saying that he enjoyed looking at the pictures but found the accompanying text dull. When asked what would it take for him to read beyond the ingredients list he replied “if [the text] was written by the world’s greatest authors.” The publisher liked the idea and, in Crick’s words, “she said that if I wrote it she’d publish it.”

Most of the recipes in the book are Crick’s own, although some, such as the chocolate cake, came from his friends. Crick notes the implausibility of some of his authors cooking their stated dishes (for example he states that John Steinbeck “would never have eaten [mushroom risotto]” and “I certainly accept any challenge that Kafka would not have eaten miso soup”). He says that he selected the recipes based on the ability of each dish to allow him to use the language he wished to use. Chocolate cake was selected for Irvine Welsh because “people become terribly selfish when there’s chocolate cake around, just as they do with drugs. It’s the closest many get to taking heroin.”

Crick says that he found Virginia Woolf the most difficult of the authors to write while Raymond Chandler was the easiest.

Advertisements

A True Adaptation

 
 

Chris Swanton was a student of German at King’s College London, where he subsequently completed a PhD. After teaching for three years at London University he moved to what was then West Germany to take up a post at the University of Wuerzburg in Bavaria. During this time he spent a fascinating summer with the Berliner Ensemble at their “Theater am Schiffbauerdamm”, studying the production techniques of Bertolt Brecht, who had introduced the concept of “das epische Theater” (the epic theatre) with its technique of “Vefremdungseffekt” (objectivisation). The legendary playwright had died some two decades earlier, but Chris was fortunate enough to meet his daughter, the actress Barbara Berg, and his son-in-law, the actor Ekkehard Schall, both members of the Berliner Ensemble.

After returning to the UK, Chris taught at a local comprehensive school, but then had a complete change of direction when he joined the the Film Department of the BBC at the legendary Ealing Studios. He remained with the BBC for 16 years, winning a BAFTA for his contribution to the acclaimed series “Edge of Darkness” and being nominated in the following year for the Falklands drama, Tumbledown. He went on to add many more screen credits to his name.

Having long been a fan of Franz Kafka and The Metamorphosis, Chris Swanton has finally succeeded in fulfilling his ambition of making a film adaptation of the iconic novella, the first full-length English-language feature film based on Kafka’s existentialist classic.

Die VerwandlungThe Metamorphosis has captured imaginations and inspired the arts since it was written in 1912 and then published in 1915, yet the novella has evaded a true adaptation until now.

 
 

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

“Say what you like, but The Trial is my greatest work, even greater than Citizen Kane

Orson Welles

 
 

 
 

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.”

 

To watch the movie trailer, please check out The Genealogy of Style‘s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Genealogy-of-Style/597542157001228