Kafka’s American Novel

Cover designed by Alvin Lustig in 1946

 

Amerika is the incomplete first novel of author Franz Kafka (1883–1924), written between 1911 and 1914 and published posthumously in 1927. The novel originally began as a short story titled The Stoker. The novel incorporates many details of the experiences of his relatives who had emigrated to the United States. In the story, the Statue of Liberty is holding a sword, and some scholars have interpreted this as a “might makes right” philosophy Kafka may have believed the United States holds.

In conversations Kafka used to refer to this book as his “American novel,” later he called it simply The Stoker, after the title of the first chapter, which appeared separately in 1913. Kafka’s working title was Der Verschollene (The Man Who Disappeared or The Missing Person) . The title Amerika was chosen by Kafka’s literary executor, Max Brod, who assembled the uncompleted manuscript and published it after his death. Brod donated the manuscript to the University of Oxford.

Kafka was fond of reading travel books and memoirs. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin was one of his favorite books, from which he liked reading passages aloud. Although he always had a longing for free space and distant lands, it is said that he never travelled farther than France and Upper Italy. Despite this, a rare photo shows Kafka with an unknown man at Marielyst beach, in Denmark.

Kafka, at the time, was also reading, or rereading, several novels by Charles Dickens and made the following remarks in his diary: “My intention was, as I now see, to write a Dickens novel, enriched by the sharper lights which I took from our modern times, and by the pallid ones I would have found in my own interior.”

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A Combination of High Thinking and Vegeterianism

“Though we have hundreds of photographs of [Charles] Dickens and [Richard] Wagner, we see nothing of them except the suits of clothes with their heads sticking out; and what is the use of that?”

“I’ve posed nude for a photographer in the manner of Rodin’s Thinker, but I merely looked constipated.”

George Bernard Shaw

 

Alvin Langdon Coburn’s photograph of George Bernard Shaw posing as The Thinker

 

When the photograph was exhibited in the London Salon in 1906, newspaper articles questioned: “The face, the beard, the neck, and the hands are undoubtedly the sole property of Mr. George Bernard Shaw, but we have no authentic knowledge of the rest of the Shavian frame, and the study of the anatomy shows more muscular development than some people would expect of a combination of high thinking and vegetarianism.”

References to Franz Kafka and Popular Culture

 
 

Haruki Murakami makes numerous literary, musical and film references throughout the novel Kakfa on the Shore, particularly to (who else?) Franz Kafka. Several of the characters in the book have a relationship with Kafka or “Kafkaesque” themes, the most obvious being the name the protagonist gives to himself, Kafka Tamura. While the reader never finds out his real name, he explains why he chooses the name Kafka to represent his identity. But why Kafka? It is possible that Murakami used Franz Kafka to emphasize themes of isolation and alienation, as well as to critique forms of Japanese bureaucracy and the police force investigating his father’s murder in particular.

 
 

“Nobody’s going to help me. At least no one has up till now. So I have to make it on my own. I have to get stronger–like a stray crow. That’s why I gave myself the name Kafka. That’s what Kafka means in Czech, you know–crow.”

 
 

Franz Kafka is also a figure that draws many of the characters together. Kafka Tamura is only allowed to stay in the library after revealing his name, which has an profound effect on the library staff. The tragedy of the death of Miss Saeki’s lover is shown in a song she writes for him, named Kafka on the Shore, which also becomes the title of the book. There is a consistently a switching of identities concerning the protagonist which all seem linked in some way or another to Franz Kafka. He switches from 15 year-old runaway, to “Crow”, his alter-ego, to Miss Saeki’s 15-year old boyfriend (who is also named Kafka by Miss Saeki) when he enters his old quarters. In this way, Murakami ties together some of the surreal events in the book by using Franz Kafka as a continuous reference.

With the majority of the novel being set in a library, it is abundant with literary and musical references. Much like the Franz Kafka reference, Murakami uses these references a moments in the plot that draw characters together. In their isolation, the main characters are absorbed in literature, music, and art, providing a starting point for much of their conversations and relationships. In addition to the obvious Oedipial reference throughout the novel, as Kafka searches desperately for his mother and sister, however at the same time, Murakami brings references from popular culture to life, adding a surreal and oddly comical overlay to the events in the novel. In a parallel storyline, Kafka Tamura’s father, brilliant sculptor and crazed cat murderer, takes on the pseudonym of Johnnie Walker. Colonel Sanders, the KFC icon, becomes a character in the novel, a pimp that guides Nakata and Hoshino to Takamatsu and the library, merging both storylines. Truck driver Hoshino, throws away his job and uproots himself after listening to Beethoven’s Archduke Trio, while Kafka Tamura calms himself in an isolated cabin, listening to Prince on his walkman. Murakami cultivates these references similarly to the way he develops architecture in the novel; both historical and contemporary, they blur the passing of time and are devices for the character’s self exploration and identity.

 
 

LITERARY REFERENCES:

The Book of Thousand Nights and a Night, Translated by Sir Richard Francis Burton

The Banquet, by Plato

The Castle, by Franz Kafka

The Trial, by Franz Kafka

The Metamorphosis, by Franz Kafka

In The Penal Colony, by Franz Kafka

• Complete Works of Natsume Sōseki

The Tale Of Genji, by Lady Murasaki Shikibu, translated by Jun’ichirō Tanizaki

Trial of Adolf Eichmann, (Unknown)

Macbeth, by William Shakespeare

Hamlet, by William Shakespeare

Romeo and Juliet, by William Shakespeare

Agamemnon, by Aeschylus

The Trojan Women, by Euripides

Rhetoric, by Aristotle

Poetics, by Aristotle

Electra, by Sophocles

Oedipus Rex, by Sophocles

The Hollow Men (poem), by T. S. Eliot

Tales of Moonlight and Rain, by Ueda Akinari

Matter and Memory, by Henri Bergson

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

Aladdin, Added by Antoine Galland to French translation of The Book of Thousand Nights and a Night

The Frog Prince, The Brothers Grimm

Hansel and Gretel, by The Brothers Grimm

Uncle Vanya, by Anton Chekhov

A Discourse on the Origin of Inequality, by Jean Jacques Rousseau

 
 

AUTHORIAL REFERENCES:

Leo Tolstoy

Federico García Lorca

Ernest Hemingway

Charles Dickens

 
 

MUSIC REFERENCES:

Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, by The Beatles

The White Album, by The Beatles

As Time Goes By, from the movie Casablanca (Michael Curtiz, 1942)

Blonde on Blonde, by Bob Dylan

Mi chiamano Mimi, from La Bohème, by Giacomo Puccini

Sonata in D Major (known as the Gasteiner), by Franz Schubert

Crossroads, by Cream

Little Red Corvette, by Prince

Greatest Hits, by Prince

Sittin’ On The Dock of the Bay, by Otis Redding

Archduke Trio, (by Rubinstein, Heifetz and Feuermann) by Ludwig van Beethoven

First cello concerto, (solo by Pierre Fournier) by Franz Joseph Haydn

Posthorn Serenade, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Kid A, by Radiohead

My Favourite Things, by John Coltrane

Getz/Gilberto, by Stan Getz

 
 

ARTIST/COMPOSER REFERENCES:

Duke Ellington

Led Zeppelin

Schumann

Alfred Brendel

Rolling Stones

Beach Boys

Simon & Garfunkel

Stevie Wonder

Johann Sebastian Bach

Hector Berlioz

Richard Wagner

Franz Liszt

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.

Butterflies Are Free

Butterflies Are Free is a 1972 film based on the play by Leonard Gershe. Goldie Hawn and Edward Albert starred. Eileen Heckart received an Academy Award for her performance.

 
 

While the original play was set in Manhattan, New York, the screenplay written for the 1972 film was set in an unknown location in San Francisco. The 1972 film was produced by M.J. Frankovich, released by Columbia Pictures, directed by Milton Katselas and adapted for the screen by Gershe. It was released on 6 July 1972 in the USA.

In the San Francisco of the 1970s, Don Baker (Edward Albert), who was born blind, has lived all his life with his mother (Eileen Heckart). When the Fletcher family moves near his home, he meets their daughter Linda Fletcher. Linda takes Don out to parties and fills him with confidence. She talks him into moving out of his mother’s house and having his own apartment. She even finds an apartment for him. She encourages Don to become a musician. But after Don moves into his new apartment, Linda meets a guy from a party and goes to live with him in Mexico.

Don finds himself all alone. He has made a contract that his mother will not come to see him for at least two months. One month has passed. This is when Jill Tanner (Goldie Hawn) moves in an apartment next door to Don. She listens to Don talking to his mother over the phone and turns on the radio. When Don asks her to turn the volume down, she invites herself over for a cup of coffee. They start talking and find each other friendly. Jill does not realize that Don is blind, until she sees him dropping his cigarette ash on the table.

Jill has never met a blind man before, so she asks all sorts of question about how Don manages everyday chores. She tells Don that her favorite quote is from Mark Twain: “I only ask to be free. The butterflies are free. Mankind will surely not deny to Harold Skimpole what it concedes to the butterflies.” Don corrects her that actually this is a quote from Bleak House by Charles Dickens. Don makes up a song and starts to sing Butterflies are free on his guitar. Jill takes Don out for shopping to find better-fitting clothes for an aspiring musician. They have dinner together and later spend the night together in Don’s bed.

In the morning Don’s mother, Mrs. Baker (Eileen Heckart), surprises Don with a visit. Mrs. Baker sees that Don has attached himself to Jill (they are in their underwear). She fears that Jill will break Don’s heart just like Linda did. She takes Jill out for a lunch and tries to talk her out of Don’s life. Jill has strong feelings for Don and tells Mrs. Baker that if there is someone who should get out of Don’s life, it is she. However, Jill herself has problems making a commitment, and when she starts to fall for Don, she begins to look for ways to end the growing relationship. She makes a dinner date with Don, but she appears over three hours late with another man, Ralph (Paul Michael Glaser). She announces that she is moving in with Ralph, who is director of a play in which she’ll be acting (in the nude). This breaks Don’s heart and he gets ready to go home with his mother. Mrs. Baker, who had been telling Don to come back home, makes an about-face and starts telling him not to come home and to face life’s challenges. Mrs. Baker leaves. Soon after, Jill departs. Don is shattered and trips over the sofa. Sitting on the floor, he puts his head down on the table in despair. This is when he hears someone opening the door of the apartment. Jill walks in and asks Don what he’s doing on the floor. Don says, “I was just about to have a picnic.” Jill asks, “Without me?” Don answers, “I didn’t know I had a choice.” The picture ends with the two embracing.

Primness and Feminine Outlook

Title page of the 1909 edition of Emma, illustrated by C. E. Brock.

 
 

“I planned the match from that hour” ~ Volume I, Chapter I

 
 

“As she was so fond of it, it should be called her cow” ~ Volume I, Chapter IV

 
 

Frequently coming to look ~ Volume I, Chapter VI

 
 

He was very sure there must be a lady in the case ~ Volume I, Chapter VIII

 
 

“You and I will have a nice basin of gruel together” ~ Volume I, Chapter XII

 
 

She left the sofa ~ Volume I, Chapter XV

 
 

“Ma’am…do you hear what Miss Woodhouse is so obliging to say about Jane’s handwriting?” ~ Volume II, Chapter I

 
 

“He thought I had much better go round by Mr. Cole’s stables” ~ Volume II, Chapter III

 
 

He stopt…to look in ~ Volume II, Chapter VI

 
 

Very busy over parish business ~ Volume II, Chapter VIII

 
 

“I have the pleasure, madam, (to Mrs. Bates,) of restoring your spectacles, healed for the present.” ~ Volume II, Chapter X

 
 

“Ah! he is off. He never can bear to be thanked” ~ Volume II, Chapter X

 
 

What was to be done? ~ Volume II, Chapter XI

 
 

“Half an hour shut up with my housekeeper” ~ Volume II, Chapter XIV

 
 

“I see very few pearls in the room except mine” ~ Volume III, Chapter II

 
 

The terror…was then their own portion ~ Volume III, Chapter III

 
 

“I shall be sure to say three dull things as soon as ever I open my mouth, shan’t I?” ~ Volume III, Chapter VII

 
 

“Jane Fairfax!–Good God! You are not serious?” ~ Volume III, Chapter X

 
 

Mr. Perry…with a disengaged hour to give her father ~ Volume III, Chapter XIII

 
 

“my dearest, most beloved Emma–tell me at once” ~ Volume III, Chapter XIII

 
 

“She absolutely refused to allow me” ~ Volume III, Chapter XIV

 
 

“He did not know what was come to his master lately” ~ Volume III, Chapter XVI

 
 

There was no longer a want of subject ~ Volume III, Chapter XVIII

 
 

Charles Edmund Brock (5 February 1870 – 28 February 1938) was a widely published English line artist and book illustrator, who signed his work C. E. Brock. He was the eldest of four artist brothers, including Henry Matthew Brock, also an illustrator. He studied art briefly under sculptor Henry Wiles.

He received his first book commission at the age of 20 in 1890. He became very successful, and illustrated books for authors such as Jonathan Swift, William Thackeray, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, and George Eliot. Brock also contributed pieces to several magazines such as The Quiver, The Strand, and Pearsons. He used the Cambridge college libraries for his “picture research.” Brock is best known for his line work, initially working in the tradition of Hugh Thomson, but he was also a skilled colourist.

He and his brothers maintained a Cambridge studio filled with various curios, antiques, furniture, and a costume collection. They owned a large collection of Regency-era costume prints and fashion plates, and had clothes specially made as examples for certain costumes.Using these, family members would model for each other.

Brock did not publish any more work after 1910.

The approach of C.E. Brock’s work varied with the sort of story he was illustrating. Some was refined and described as “sensitive to the delicate, teacup-and-saucer primness and feminine outlook of the early Victorian novelists,” while other work was “appreciative of the healthy, boisterous, thoroughly English characters” – soldiers, rustics, and “horsey types.” Other illustrations were grotesqueries drawn to amuse children looking at or reading storybooks.

The Kids Are Alright (Still)

“I’ve always considered myself an illustrator, a literate photographer interested in producing images that reflect the essence of an idea…I wanted to interpret the human scene rather than simply record it.”

Art Kane

 
 

 
 

“They were great. They made me think of Dickens’ Oliver Twist, Fagin’s gang. Irreverant, lovable. The first to wear clothes made from the British flag. I had the flag made from 2 Union Jacks. I was influenced by a Cartier-Bresson photograph of a vagrant asleep under a statue in Trafalgar Square.”

 
 

Trafalgar Square on the Day of the Coronation of George VI, 1937Trafalgar Square on the Day of the Coronation of George VI. Henri Cartier-Bresson, 1937

 
 

Photo session and sleeve design by Art Kane

 
 

The Kids Are Alright is a soundtrack album by British rock band The Who, as a companion to the band’s rockumentary film of the same name directed by Jeff Stein. It was originally released as a double album in June 1979 on Polydor Records in the UK and MCA Records in the US.

 
 

 
 

Pepe Jeans advertisement, circa 2002.

A Particular Group of Writers

Homer

 
 

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

 
 

Jonathan Swift

 
 

Herman Melville

 
 

Franz Kafka

 
 

Kurt Vonnegut

 
 

Joseph Conrad

 
 

Charles Dickens

 
 

William Faulkner

 
 

Leo Tolstoy

 
 

Alice Walker

 
 

William Butler Yeats

 
 

Jules Verne

 
 

Louisa May Alcott

 
 

Ann Rice

 
 

Marcel Proust

 
 

Edgar Allan Poe

 
 

summersfrost591a8f029af251061ea181ae372a2c90Robert Frost

 
 

Walt Whitman

 
 

Virginia Woolf

 
 

Illustrations by Mark Summers