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Kafka For Beginners by David Zane Mairowitz
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Kafka For Beginners (original 1993; edition 1993)

by David Zane Mairowitz

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7041119,210 (3.82)11
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Title:Kafka For Beginners
Authors:David Zane Mairowitz
Info:Icon Books Ltd (1993), Paperback, 176 pages
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Kafka by David Zane Mairowitz (1993)

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Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
In Kafka, Robert Crumb and David Zane Mairowitz presents author Franz Kafka -- himself and a discussion of his works -- in graphic novel format. I picked this volume up in a used bookstore thinking that it would be interesting. It was. I don't know much about Kafka beyond one work (The Trial) that we were required to read in high school. I do have one of his collections in my to-be-read pile, and will definitely pull it out now to read soon.

While this book is clearly not an extensive study, it does provide a solid background on Kafka and and also covers the meaning of "Kafkaesque". The authors make an interesting point: "Could he have become the powerful Adjective -- "Kafkaesque" -- if his name had been Schwarz or Grodzinksi or Blumenthal?" (p. 156).

R. Crumb is a well-known cartoonist and illustrator, and his artwork fits very well with the darkness that is Kafka's personality and works. Warning, though, some illustrations are very graphic when there are violent scenes -- so one would not want to hand this over to a young child. ( )
  ValerieAndBooks | Feb 28, 2016 |
A nearly perfect blend of style and substance. I'm a longtime Crumb fan & Kafka novice. The text told me all I want to know & the amazingly controlled & excellent illustrations filled in the rest, providing a surpisingly satisfying learning experience. ( )
  ReneeGKC | Nov 8, 2015 |
David Zane Mairowitz thinks Kafka's writing has insufficient Jewish content, so too much of the text here talks about the Jewish situation in Prague in Kafka's time and adduces a lot of highly questionable and possibly discriminatory ideas about Jewish psychology (really? all of them with the same psychology?) such as self-loathing. Although the cover extracts Kafka's comment, "What do I have in common with the Jews? I don't even have anything in common with myself," and it appears in the text too, he is undaunted, and his regret that the only person Kafka seems to have truly loved was not Jewish is palpable. His excoriation of the city of Prague, which he has established meant little if anything to Kafka, for cashing in on its native son makes for a pretty flat ending.

However, this is a comic book, not read for the text but for Robert Crumb's drawings, which have long interested me. He is master of the horror-comic style, which here is aptly used to illustrate Kafka's stories (and perhaps depictions of his father), but also does attractive portraits of sympathetic characters and classic comic-book two-page spreads, especially of cityscapes, real or imaginary. When the text describes a character as a strapping young woman, we know the artist is home free: those familiar with his work will know that strapping young women are a special feature of his work.

The best parts are the retelling of Kafka's stories, which include various bits of information, painlessly delivered, about the circumstances of their creation and some bibliographic details. Max Brod seems somewhat slighted, though I have to say Kafka's original title for his last work, "The Man Who Disappeared," is a better title than Brod's "America." Because of the detailed drawings with many telling and funny details, this little book takes longer to read than you'd think -- but with the stories embedded in it, it's best, and most fun, to take it in slowly.
3 vote V.V.Harding | Apr 21, 2015 |
I read this in parallel with I Am a Memory Come Alive and found it somewhat disappointing. I like R. Crumb a lot, and he seemed like the perfect artist to depict Kafka and his works so I was initially excited about the book. The text in here is written by David Zane Mairowitz who has done similar literary collaborations with other comic artists. A lot of the text in the book is concerned with Kafka's Jewish identity, which I was less interested in than other aspects of his person. For me, the strongest sections of this are the illustrated versions of Kafka's major works. Unfortunately the book is printed on cheap paper that is already beginning to yellow. Worth a read for serious Kafka fans if you come across it, although it is not so easy to find for a reasonable price. Your best shot is probably interlibrary loan through the local public library. ( )
2 vote S.D. | Apr 5, 2014 |
Crumb's drawings are great. Mairowitz doesn't include any sources for his claims, which weakens the text. A foreword or afterword referring to significant scholarly influences on his interpretation might have been helpful; even a "for further reading" bibliography would have bee nice. Instead, I was left wondering what led Mairowitz to make some of the claims that he made about Kafka's point of view. This book is best if taken as art, rather than scholarship, and used to stimulate further reading. ( )
1 vote BenTreat | Apr 28, 2012 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
David Zane Mairowitzprimary authorall editionscalculated
Crumb, RobertIllustratorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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What do I have in common with the Jews? I don't even have anything in common with myself." Nothing could better express the essence of Franz Kafka, a man described by his friends as living behind a "glass wall." Kafka wrote in the tradition of the great Yiddish storytellers, whose stock-in-trade was bizarre fantasy tainted with hilarity and self-abasement. What he added to this tradition was an almost unbearably expanded consciousness. Alienated from his roots, his family, his surroundings, and primarily from his own body, Kafka created a unique literary language in which to hide away, transforming himself into a cockroach, an ape, a dog, a mole or a circus artiste who starves himself to death in front of admiring crowds.… (more)

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