Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Introducing Kafka - A Graphic Guide

Introducing Kafka - A Graphic Guide
By David Zane Mairowitz
Illustrated by Robert Crumb

Review by Ramona Wadi

“I write differently from what I speak, I speak differently from what I think, I think differently from the way I ought to think, and so it all proceeds into deepest darkness.” Franz Kafka

Introducing Kafka - A Graphic Guide, immerses the reader immediately into a world where alienation provides magnificent insight into the immediate environment and its consequences. Kafka's literature is a realm of darkness in which abasement, grotesque detail, detachment and hibernation merge to create a narrative of fragmented truths and disgust.

From a childhood heavily influenced by his father's maltreatment and bullying, Kafka's writing resonated with self-deprecation. As he once stated, "Writing is a deeper sleep than death. Just as one wouldn't pull a corpse from its grave, I can't be dragged from my desk at night.” Writing became a necessity through which he was able to discern and absorb humiliation, while constructing narratives of submission, power and guilt.

Mairowitz's text shifts brilliantly from biography to overview of Kafka's stories, seamlessly portraying the family and history influences which caused Kafka to retreat and observe, instead of progressing to rebellion. Indeed, Kafka's precise observation, as well as debasing and humiliating descriptions stem from perceiving his characters through the lens of the oppressor.  The Metamorphosis, In The Penal Colony, The Trial and A Hunger Artist pull the victim into the limelight by propelling the aberrant, oppressive characters to the fore. In this way, just as the victim in Kafka's stories seems to crave a withdrawal, the experienced humiliation is prolonged beyond the immediate torture.

Kafka's work was published posthumously by Max Brod, who ignored Kafka's specific instructions that his writings should be burned. His books were banned following World War II, having been promoted by Czech dissidents as realist literature.

Introducing Kafka - A Graphic Guide is an elaborate overview of an author who absorbed his environment through self-imposed detachment is an excellent prologue to anyone interested in delving further into Kafka's bizarre, magnificent literature.

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