A superb new translation by Michael Hofmann of some of Kafka's most frightening and visionary short fiction
Strange beasts, night terrors, absurd bureaucrats and sinister places abound in this collection of stories by Franz Kafka. Some are less than a page long, others more substantial; all were unpublished in his lifetime. These matchless short works range from the gleeful miniature horror 'Little Fable' to the off-kilter humour of 'Investigations of a Dog', and from the elaborate waking nightmare of 'Building the Great Wall of China' to the creeping unease of 'The Burrow', where a nameless creature's labyrinthine hiding place turns into a trap of fear and paranoia.
'I cannot make you understand. I cannot make anyone understand what is happening inside me. I cannot even explain it to myself.'
Featuring an ordinary man who wakes up to find himself turned into a giant cockroach, Kafka's masterpiece of unease and black humour, Metamorphosis, is brought together here with the best of his short stories.
A new series of twenty distinctive, unforgettable Penguin Classics in a beautiful new design and pocket-sized format, with coloured jackets echoing Penguin's original covers.
Karl Rossman has been banished by his parents to America, following a family scandal. There, with unquenchable optimism, he throws himself into the strange experiences that lie before him as he slowly makes his way into the interior of the great continent.
Kafka's first novel (begun in 1911 and never finished) is infused with a quite un-Kafkaesque blitheness and sunniness, brought to life in this lyrical translation that returns to the original manuscript of the book.
Franz Kafka spent eight months at his sister's house in Zürau between September 1917 and April 1918, enduring the onset of tuberculosis. Illness paradoxically set him free to write, in a series of philosophical fragments, his settling of accounts with life, marriage, his family, guilt and man's condition. These aphorisms have appeared with minor revisions in various posthumous works since his death in 1924. By chance, Roberto Calasso rediscovered Kafka's two original notebooks in Oxford's Bodleian Library.
The notebooks, freshly translated and laid out as Kafka intended, are a distillation of Kafka at his most powerful and enigmatic. This lost jewel provides the reader with a fresh perspective on the work of a genius.
'The condemned man looked so doggishly submissive, it really seemed as if one might allow him to roam the slopes freely, and only needed to whistle when it was time for the execution, and he would come.'
Kafka transformed the possibilities of the short story, his unique imagination giving his dark tales a sense of dream-like logic and unreality, in which their horrors are humorous and unease pervades. In these two stories, a traveller is shown the workings of an elaborate machine with a bloody purpose, and a son awakens unimagined resentments in his father.
This book includes In the Penal Colony and The Judgement.
In America Karl Rossmann is 'packed off to America by his parents' to experience Oedipal and cultural isolation. Here, ordinary immigrants are also strange, and 'America' is never quite as real as it should be. Kafka, a Czech writing in German, never acutally visited America; so, as Max Brod commented, 'the innocence of his fantasy gives this book if advanture its peculiar colour.'
Both Joseph K in The Trial and K in The Castle are victims of anonymous governing forces beyond their control. Both are atomised, estranged and rootless citizens decieved by authoritarian power. Whereas Joseph K is relentlessly hunted down for a crime that remains nameless, K ceaselessly attempts to enter the castle and so belong somewhere. Together these novels may be read as powerful allegories of totalitarian government in whatever guise it appears today.
Kafka first made the acquaintance of Milena Jesenska in 1920 when she was translating his early short prose into Czech, and their relationship quickly developed into a deep attachment. Such was his feeling for her that Kafka showed her his diaries and, in doing so, laid bare his heart and his conscience.
Milena, for her part, was passionate and intrepid, cool and intelligent in her decisions but reckless when her emotions were involved. Kafka once described her as living her life 'so intensely down to such depths'. If she did suffer through him, it was part of her great appetite for life.
However while at times Milena's 'genius for living' gave Kafka new life, it ultimately exhausted him, and their relationship was to last little over two years. Kafka died in 1944 at the hands of the Nazis - these letters are a moving record of their relationship.
WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY ADAM THIRLWELL
One morning, Gregor Samsa wakes up to find himself transformed into a giant insect. His family is understandably perturbed and he finds himself an outsider in his own home. In 'Metamorphosis' and the other famous stories included here, Kafka explores the confusing nature of human experience with sly wit and compelling originality.