Re/Read: R. Crumb’s Kafka

bookcover_rckafk  Kafka-1

Welcome to Re/Read, an occasional column by Fantagraphics Bookstore curator Larry Reid drawing attention to comix that you may have overlooked or are worthy of another read. We’ll begin with a classic by the great Robert Crumb.

Kafka is among the most compelling books by R. Crumb. A collaboration with writer David Zane Mairowitz, this book seamlessly weaves Franz Kafka’s complex stories into a biographical narrative of his life in Prague as Europe descended into turmoil at the turn of the twentieth century. Many of Kafka’s stories foreshadowed the unspeakable horrors that would soon befall his fellow Jews at the hands of a brutal bureaucracy. His secular upbringing in Prague’s bleak Jewish ghetto led to lifelong despair and alienation that informed his singular literary vocabulary.

The most appealing parts of the book are Crumb’s abridged versions of Kafka masterpieces like The Castle, The Trail, and Metamorphosis. I maintain these illustrated stories represent Crumb’s strongest work to date. While others reasonably argue for the more recent renderings of Genesis (which remain on view at Seattle Art Museum through this Sunday), Kafka is clearly a better writer than Moses.

Currently in its sixth printing from Fantagraphics Books, Kafka is an essential addition to any comix library. Don’t miss the seminal work of America’s greatest cartoonist in R. Crumb: Early Works, 1965 – 1967 opening September 10 at Fantagraphics Bookstore in Seattle.