Born OTD in 1883, Bohemian novelist and short-story writer, widely regarded as one of the major figures of 20th-century literature, Franz Kafka. Like Orwell, Kafka has given his name to a world of nightmare, but in Kafka’s world, it is never completely clear just what the nightmare is. The Trial, where the rules are hidden from even the highest officials, and if there is any help to be had, it will come from unexpected sources, is a chilling, blackly amusing tale that maintains, to the very end, a relentless atmosphere of disorientation. Superficially about bureaucracy, it is in the last resort a description of the absurdity of ‘normal’ human nature.

Still more enigmatic is The Castle. Is it an allegory of a quasi-feudal system giving way to a new freedom … More

More than eight decades after his death, the works of Franz Kafka continue to intrigue and haunt us. Even for those with only a fleeting acquaintance with his unfinished novels, or his stories, diaries and letters, ‘Kafkaesque’ has become a byword for the menacing, unfathomable absurdity of modern existence. Yet for all the universal significance of his fiction, Kafka’s writing remains inextricably bound up with his life and work in the Czech capital Prague, where he spent every one of his 40 years.

Klaus Wagenbach’s biography provides a meticulously researched insight into the author’s family background, his education and employment, his attitude to … More

Kafka meets The Thick Of It in a bitingly funny new political satire from Ian McEwan. That morning, Jim Sams, clever but by no means profound, woke from uneasy dreams to find himself transformed into a gigantic creature. Jim Sams has undergone a metamorphosis. In his previous life he was ignored or loathed, but in his new incarnation he is the most powerful man in Britain – and it is his mission to carry out the will of the people. Nothing must get in his way: not the opposition, nor the dissenters within his own party. Not even the rules of parliamentary democracy. With trademark intelligence, insight and scabrous humour, Ian McEwan pays tribute to Franz Kafka’s most famous work to engage with a world turned on its head.

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When Kafka died in 1924, his loyal champion Max Brod could not bring himself to fulfil his friend’s last instruction: to burn his remaining manuscripts. Instead, Brod devoted the rest of his life to editing, publishing and canonizing Kafka’s work. By betraying his friend’s last wish, Brod twice rescued his legacy – first from physical destruction, & then from obscurity. But that betrayal was also eventually to lead to an international legal battle: as a writer in German, should Kafka’s papers come to rest in Germany, where his three sisters died as victims of the Holocaust? Or, as a Jewish writer, should his work be considered as a cultural inheritance of Israel, a state that did not exist at the time of his death?

Alongside an acutely observed portrait of Kafka, Benjamin Balint also traces the journey of the manuscripts Brod had rescued when … More

Next book reading at Printed Matter will be by local author, artist & playwright, Howard Colyer. Joseph K is not a happy man. Not only has he been arrested on the morning of his thirtieth birthday for no discernible reason, he’s not had his breakfast yet. Both problems weigh heavily on Joseph’s mind as he reflects on the incidents that may- or may not- have led him to his incarceration and possible imminent execution.

Written by Prague’s favourite son on the eve of the first world war there are echoes of impending doom throughout … More