Tag Archives: Franz Kafka

A trio of great new releases from W.W. Norton & Company

Kafkaesque: Fourteen Stories ($19.95, on sale now)is a mesmerizing interpretation of fourteen iconic Kafka stories. Long fascinated with the work of Franz Kafka, Kuper began illustrating his stories in 1988. Initially drawn to the master’s dark humor, Kuper adapted the stories over the years to plumb their deeper truths. His style deliberately evokes Lynd Ward and Frans Masereel, contemporaries of Kafka whose wordless novels captured much of the same claustrophobia and mania as Kafka’s tales.

Kafkaesque: Fourteen Stories

Kuper has reimagined these iconic stories for the twenty-first century, using setting and perspective to comment on contemporary issues like civil rights and homelessness. Longtime lovers of Kafka will appreciate Kuper’s innovative interpretations, while Kafka novices will discover a haunting introduction to some of the great writer’s most beguiling stories, including “A Hunger Artist,” “In The Penal Colony,” and “The Burrow.” Kafkaesque stands somewhere between adaptation and wholly original creation, going beyond a simple illustration of Kafka’s words to become a stunning work of art.

In End of the Megafauna: The Fate of the World’s Hugest, Fiercest, and Strangest Animals ($35, on sale November 13) paleomammologistRoss D.E. MacPhee a look into the fascinating lives and puzzling demise of some of the largest animals on earth. Until a few thousand years ago, creatures that could have been from a sci-fi thriller roamed the earth. These great beasts, or “megafauna,” lived on every habitable continent and on many islands. With a handful of exceptions, all are now gone. What caused the disappearance of these prehistoric behemoths?

End of the Megafauna: The Fate of the World's Hugest, Fiercest, and Strangest Animals

MacPhee explores that question, examining the leading extinction theories, weighing the evidence, and presenting his own conclusions. He shows how theories of human overhunting and catastrophic climate change fail to explain critical features of these extinctions, and how new thinking is needed to elucidate these mysterious losses. Gorgeous four-color illustrations by Peter Schouten bring these megabeasts back to life in vivid detail.

Silicon City: San Francisco in the Long Shadow of the Valley($26.95, on sale November 13) is an intimate, eye-opening portrait of San Francisco transformed by the tech boom that asks: Can a city lose its soul? The tech boom of our time is changing San Francisco at warp speed. Famously home to artists and activists, and known as the birthplace of the Beats, the Black Panthers and the LGBTQ movement, the Bay Area has been transformed by Silicon Valley. But the richer the region gets, the more unequal and less diverse it becomes, and the cracks in the city’s facade begin to show. Writer and filmmaker Cary McClelland has spent several years interviewing people at the epicenter of the Bay Area’s rapid change: tech innovators, venture capitalists, coders, homeless advocates, pawn brokers, prosecutors and public defenders, tattoo artists, and tour guides.
Silicon City: San Francisco in the Long Shadow of the Valley
Silicon City masterfully weaves together their voices and unforgettable stories to create a dynamic portrait of a beloved city and a cautionary tale for the entire country.

Provocative and compelling, “Kafka’s Last Trial” is a riveting read, a brilliant meditation on cultural ownership and national identity

When Franz Kafka died from tuberculosis at 40 in 1924, he left one last instruction to his closest friend and confidant, the celebrated author Max Brod: Burn [my] remaining manuscripts, diaries, and letters unread.

Brod did not follow the request.

Instead of destroying Kafka’s manuscripts, Brod devoted the rest of his life to canonizing Kafka as the most prescient writer of the twentieth century.

In Kafka Last Trial: The Case of a Literary Legacy (W. W. Norton & Company, $26.95 hardcover) Benjamin Balint, one of our most perceptive and engaging scholars of Jewish literature, tells the tale of the fate of Kafka’s works—from Max Brod’s harrowing escape to Palestine with the manuscripts as Nazi invaders closed in  on Czechoslovakia in 1939, to a gripping account of the contentious international legal battle over the ownership of Kafka’s oeuvre, which reached its climax in Israel’s high court in 2016.

In addition to the gripping legal drama, the book doubles as a first-rate biography of both Kafka and Brod. Balint details the course of their heady friendship, marked by Kafka’s introversion and self-scrutiny and Brod’s exuberance. Brod was a critic, novelist, translator, and a seminal figure in the group of intellectuals known in the early years of the twentieth century as the “Prague Circle,” and Balint illuminates how the literary debates and disputes in taste between Kafka and Brod animated much of Kafka’s own writing. Despite the lackluster reception of Kafka’s early works, Brod worshipped Kafka and was the first to recognize his literary genius. This recognition led Brod to betray his friend’s dying wish and preserve for the world such foundational works of literary modernism at The Castle, The Trial, Kafka’s diaries, and the harrowing Letter to His Father.

With compassion, wit, and erudition, Balint unpacks the complicated trial—dense with dilemmas legal, ethical and political, and filled with surreal ironies worthy of the term “Kafkaesque.” The case pitted three powers in the struggle for the legacy: the National Library
of Israel, which asserted that Kafka’s work belonged in the Jewish homeland; the deep-pocketed German Literature Archive in Marbach, which had been negotiating to purchase the estate of
Max Brod—and therefore the materials left behind by Kafka; and the elusive Eva Hoffe, who had inherited Kafka’s estate from her mother, Esther Hoffe, Brod’s secretary and erstwhile
lover. When the dust of the case settled, only one of these parties would be granted the literary legacy of this cryptic genius.
Balint also reveals Kafka as a man inhabiting a borderland between cultures—steeped in German literature and culture, but also fascinated by Zionism, by the Hebrew language, and by Yiddish theatre. Balint situates Kafka’s life and cultural heritage within the larger strains of the cultural diaspora, revealing the motives behind Israel’s insistence on laying claim to Kafka’s manuscripts.

Provocative and compelling, Kafka’s Last Trial is the definitive account of this captivating and tortuous case, as well as a brilliant meditation on cultural ownership and national identity.