Kafkaesque: Stories Inspired by Franz Kafka

Kafkaesque: Stories Inspired by Franz Kafka

John Kessel, James Patrick Kelly

Language: English

Pages: 283

ISBN: 1616960493

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

The tourist shops of Prague sell dozens of items commemorating Franz Kafka. You can drink a latte in the Café Kafka, add sugar to it from a packet with Kafka’s face on it, and then light your cigarette from a box of Kafka matches.

Franz Kafka died in obscurity in 1924, publishing only a handful of bizarre stories in little-known literary magazines. Yet today he persists in our collective imaginations. Even those who have never read any of Kafka’s fiction describe their tribulations with the Department of Motor Vehicles as being Kafkaesque.

Kafkaesque explores the fiction of generations of authors inspired by Kafka’s work. These dystopic, comedic, and ironic tales include T. C. Boyle’s roadside garage that is a never-ending trial, Philip Roth’s alternate history in which Kafka immigrates to America to date his aunt, Jorge Luis Borges’s labyrinthine public lottery that redefines reality, Carol Emshwiller’s testimony by the first female to earn the right to call herself a “man,” and Paul Di Filippo’s unfamiliar Kafka—journalist by day, costumed crime-fighter by night.

Also included is Kafka’s classic story “The Hunger Artist,” appearing both in a brand-new translation and in an illustrated version by legendary cartoonist R. Crumb (Fritz the Cat). Additionally, each author discusses Kafka’s writing, its relevance, its personal influence, and Kafka’s enduring legacy.

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You are secured, you see, to the bed of a unique apparatus intended to convince the enemies of Zionism of their folly. Above you is an adjustable clockwork mechanism which can be set to reproduce certain movements in what we call `the Harrow,' to which it is connected by various subtle motors. "The Harrow features two kinds of needles arranged in multiple patterns. Each long needle has a short one beside it. The long needle does a kind of inkless tattoo writing directly into your flesh, and the

huh, fellows, but I guess we got to start, you know, thinking about-" "Listen, Harry," said the bald man seriously, leaning forward to touch him on the wrist, "why don't you get back inside?" The little man looked at him for a moment with sad hound-dog eyes, then ducked his head, embarrassed. He stood up uncertainly, swallowed and said, "Well-" He climbed up on the chair behind the big man, opened the back of the dinner jacket and put his legs in one at a time. A few people were watching him,

pitiable martyr, which the hunger artist certainly was, only in an entirely different sense. He seized the hunger artist around his narrow waist with convincingly exaggerated care, as if he were dealing with a fragile thing, and presented him-not without shaking him a little in secret, so that the hunger artist's legs and torso swayed uncontrollably back and forth-to the ladies, who had become deathly pale. At this point the hunger artist tolerated everything; his head lay on his breast as if it

engaged, but also his old, famous name. Indeed, since by the nature of this art increasing age did not mean decreasing skill, one could not even say that here an exhausted artist, no longer at the height of his ability, was seeking refuge in a quiet post in the circus. On the contrary, the hunger artist quite believably asserted that he could fast as well as ever; he even maintained that, if they let him have his way-and this he was promised without further ado-he could now, for the first time,

the nape of her neck, and I spend much of the lesson watching her play with them. I also stare at a framed picture of the Ka'ba done in hologram. The mad dream of Wonderland, taken at such protracted length, makes no sense whatever: we might as well be reading Japanese. Mr. Rahim pops his head around the door: a cheerful face, a white kurta. He is carrying a live chicken by the legs. Shortly afterwards I hear him killing it in the kitchen. As I leave the house at five the children are making

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