book review: r. crumb’s kafka

R. Crumb’s Kafka (also known as Introducing Kafka) is an introduction to Franz Kafka’s life and work written by David Zane Mairowitz and illustrated by Robert Crumb. It focuses more on the writer’s Jewishness than I’ve seen in any of the rest of my reading on Kafka, and how life was in the ghetto of Prague where he lived almost all of his days. There were sections on, of course, Kafka’s domineering father, Franz’s love-life (mostly epistolary) and his extreme self-abnegation.

Parts of Kafka’s stories are illustrated and lettered by Crumb (most complete is In the Penal Colony), but more of the book is illustrating the deep neuroses that fuelled the writer. Mairowitz has a bit of the air of an angry crank, with his ALLCAPS EMPHASIS and raging against people who use Kafkaesque as an adjective. It works very well with Crumb’s illustrations, though I wish some of the text that was more integrated with the illustrations could have been lettered by Crumb or used a font that didn’t jar so horribly.

Mairowitz recommends other books on Kafka, including The Nightmare of Reason by Ernst Pawel, Kafka’s Other Trial by Elias Canetti, Kafka by Pietro Citati and Kafka: Judaism, Politics and Literature by Ritchie Robertson.

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