Kafkaesque Fourteen stories

Peter Kuper, 1958-

Book - 2018

Long fascinated with the work of Franz Kafka, Peter 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. Kuper's 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. Working from new translations of the classic texts, 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.

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Location Call Number   Status
2nd Floor Comics GRAPHIC NOVEL/Kafka Checked In
Comics (Graphic works)
Graphic novels
New York : W. W. Norton & Company [2018]
First edition
Physical Description
159 pages : chiefly illustrations ; 24 cm
Main Author
Peter Kuper, 1958- (author)
  • Introduction : Kuperesque
  • Trip into the mountains
  • A little fable
  • The helmsman
  • The spinning top
  • The burrow
  • Give it up!
  • Coal-bucket rider
  • A hunger artist
  • A fratricide
  • The trees
  • Before the law
  • The bridge
  • In the penal colony
  • The vulture.
Review by New York Times Review

KAFKAESQUE By Peter Kuper and Franz Kafka. (Norton, $19.95.) Kuper has been adapting Kafka's stories in graphic novel form since 1988. This book gathers 14 of them, including "In the Penal Colony" and "A Hunger Artist," placing the work in a contemporary setting so that Kafka, that master critic of the modern world, can comment on issues like civil rights and homelessness. stan smith By Stan Smith, foreword by Pharrell Williams. (Rizzoli, $55.) The Stan Smith tennis sneaker, named after the former world No. 1 tennis player Stan Smith, has maintained cult status since it was first introduced over four decades ago. This book celebrates the sneaker's reach, from mentions in rap lyrics to its appearance in Bollywood movies, the white horse By Mary McCartney. (Rizzoli, $55.) McCartney, a photographer who grew up in the Sussex countryside, focuses here on one white stallion, Alejandro, and the intimate relationship between horse and rider, writers under surveillance Edited by JPat Brown, B. C. D. Lipton and Michael Morisy. (MIT Press, paper, $24.95.) Obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, the F.B.I. files in this collection monitor writers considered by the government to have been subversives. Many of the intellectual heavyweights are here, from Hannah Arendt to Susan Sontag to James Baldwin. Amy wiNEHOusE Photographs by Blake Wood, text by Nancy Jo Sales. (Taschen, $40.) Wood's images of the singer, especially of her relaxing on the beach at St. Fucia, show a human, private side to contrast the self-destructive public persona. "Alice Schertle and Jill McElmurry's LITTLE BLUE truck begins, as so many of the great thrillers do, on a quiet country road, far from any sign of danger or menace, ft is fall. The truck is stopped at a stop sign, but no one is behind the wheel. And the truck has eyes. Suddenly there are toads. So many toads. One is winking at you. Or is it winking at the truck, which is moving now? It doesn't matter. There's no turning back now. Ominous signs abound. The wind picks up. A cow appears, and a pig and sheep. Is that a raccoon in the tree? Now it's starting to rain. The stage is set for a villain unlike any other in the canon of epic poems for children: a surly dump truck. Things get messy. There's comeuppance for the evil dump truck. An important lesson is learned. The 3-year-old, for whom the book was intended, demands to know, for the 700th time, the difference between a toad and a frog. And he wants you to read it again, for the 701st time." - JASON STALLMAN, EDITOR OF "THE WEEKLY," ON WHAT HE'S READING.

Copyright (c) The New York Times Company [August 23, 2019] Review by Booklist Review

Eisner-winning Kuper's career of "translating Kafka into comics" began in 1995, when his initial collection of nine shorts hit shelves, with Give It Up! He adds another five here, scrambles the previous order, and includes his "Kuperesque" foreword, emphasizing how, since Kafka's death at 40, in 1924, "our world increasingly reflects the adjective 'Kafkaesque'" nightmarish, oppressive, surreal. Kuper employs "scratch board, a chalk-covered paper that can be inked and scratched to approximate woodcuts" to evoke the German expressionism of Kafka's time; the effect of etching images out of black background undoubtedly heightens a sense of surreal entrapment. Using Kafka's texts "as an anchor," Kuper alchemizes "Before the Law" (originally from The Trial) into a contemporary parable on racism; "The Burrow" becomes a warning against paranoid consumerism; police brutality literally looms in "Give It Up!" and "The Trees"; unchecked power rules in "The Helmsman." In distilling Kafka's timeless themes, Kuper creates stark panels of disturbing truth and powerful warning. While Kafka aficionados will savor enhanced perception, readers without prior knowledge will nevertheless appreciate Kuper's unflinching interpretations.--Terry Hong Copyright 2018 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission. Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Eisner-winner Kuper (Ruins) brilliantly accentuates both the absurd and menacing qualities of Kafka's short stories in this graphic collection. Using a scratchboard technique to mimic the woodcut style of German expressionism, Kuper emphasizes the ways Kafka addressed social injustices rather than simply his trademark existential paranoia. In "Give It Up," he draws a policeman with a gun barrel instead of a nose, playing up the arbitrary whims of authority. "Coal Bucket Rider" and "The Trees" speak to the life-and-death struggle of poverty and to those who pretend that it doesn't exist. He turns "Before The Law" into commentary about racism by drawing the supplicant character as a black man. Kuper shines in the farcical pieces, such as his drawing of a mouse voluntarily walking to its doom in "A Little Fable" and the bug-eyed philosopher desperate for certainty in "The Spinning Top." The jewel of this collection is "The Burrow," where Kuper draws Kafka's paranoid character, who hid in his underground network of rooms, into a mole man. Kuper's heavy use of chiaroscuro creates an atmosphere of dread, while his playful character design and innovative page layouts keenly evince Kafka's dark sense of humor. Kafka's timeless work has never hit so hard, nor more artfully. Agent: Judy Hansen, Hansen Literary Agency (Sept.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved Review by Library Journal Review

Eisner Award-winning author/illustrator Kuper (Ruins) has been adapting the work of Czech novelist Franz Kafka (1883-1924) since 1988-his vision of The Metamorphosis is a classic-but the 14 stories collected in this new edition might be better described as interpretations. Instead of hewing to strict depictions of Kafka's fiction, Kuper reimagines many of the tales here through a lens equally respectful of the source material and aware of modern concerns. Thus, "Before the Law," which finds a man tormented by a complicated and oppressive legal system, becomes a commentary on civil rights, and "The Trees" tackles the often callous dis-regard with which homeless people are treated in large cities. Some of the more straightforward adaptations, such as "In the Penal Colony" and "The Hunger Artist," are enlivened by Kuper's method of working from chalk-covered paper inked and scratched to approximate woodcuts, resulting in stark fields of white and haunting blacks that evoke a wild array of emotions, ranging from a sort of nauseous anxiety to terror to.well, this is Kafka. There's a lot of nauseating anxiety and terror. VERDICT A gorgeously illustrated collection that makes tales written nearly a century ago feel vibrant and vital. [Previewed in Jody Osicki's "Graphically Speaking," LJ 6/15/18.]-TB © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. Review by Kirkus Book Review

After tackling Franz Kafka's best-known work in the 2004 graphic novel The Metamorphosis, Kuper (Fight Fascism!, 2017, etc.) returns to the literary master to adapt 14 more of his short stories.This adaptation's source material runs from several dozen pages ("The Penal Colony") to just a handful of lines ("A Little Fable"), and Kuper proves adept at using the synergy between text and image to both expand Kafka's ideas and trim his word counts. In "The Trees," Kuper lays the sparse text over a tableau of homelessness, giving additional poignancy to the story's suggestion of life's impermanence, and his depiction of the frustrated supplicant in "Before the Law" brings the story into a modern, racial context. For "The Burrow," Kuper uses a small fraction of the original text and mostly expresses the story's mania with subterranean cross-sectional views of the titular burrow as well as visual echoes between the burrow's labyrinthine tunnels and the wrinkles of the narrator's troubled brain. Kafka's prose often inhabits a mental space more so than a physical one, with monologues from surreal characters (a person stretched across a chasm, acting as a bridge; a destitute person riding an empty coal bucket through winter streets and then high above them), giving Kuper wide leeway for his visual depictions, which he creatively indulges, as when he imagines the ironic camaraderie of "nobodies" in "Trip into the Mountains" as being shared among a Paleolithic tribe. Kuper's chosen mediumdrawings on scratchboardgives the work the angular, crosshatched chiaroscuro of woodcuts, which keenly evokes the text's early-20th-century origins, while his style imbues the characters with a garish cartoon quality that unequivocally expresses emotions while also underscoring the nightmarish conditions of the worlds presented.A richly innovative interpretation that honors the source while expanding the material. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.