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Posted: Thursday July 3, 2014
Kafka-Related Books for Kafka’s Birthday

Happy 141st birthday to Franz Kafka! This iconic, important twentieth-century author was born on July 3, 1883. His signature novella, The Metamorphosis, was first published in October 1915, his novel The Trial in 1925, and his novel The Castle in 1926 (in the original German). His work has come to represent certain sentiments and challenges related to identity, bureaucracy, and modernity that the twentieth century seemed to present.

Numerous authors – Talon authors included – have been heavily influenced by Kafka. Quebecois author Serge Lamothe at one time in his career adapted The Trial for the French-Canadian stage. Garry Thomas Morse invoked Kafka’s Hat (Talonbooks, 2013) in “Novel Novel,”, an essay in his Text in the City series for Meta-Talon, in which he explores the current state of the novel, experimental fiction, speculative fiction.

Here are the two Talon titles that most directly trace their lineage to the work of Franz Kafka, one that post-modernizes The Castle and another that feminizes The Trial:

Kafka’s Hat by Patrice Martin, an employee of the Canadian government, was nominated for the inaugural Typographic Translation Award, hosted by the Typographic Era blog in 2013. In it, we follow the misadventures of a bureaucrat – aptly named “P.” (pun intended) – as he embarks on the illustrious task of collecting the titular headgear. “P.” expects that the accomplishment of this seemingly simple task will grant him both a professional and a personal promotion. But Martin’s eager protagonist has overlooked the systematic difficulty in modern bureaucracies – as well as in some of twentieth-century’s best fiction – of getting things done. And so Kafka’s hat is increasingly unreachable: express elevators get stuck between floors, rooms full of suitcases must be searched, unsympathetic bureaucrats must be confronted, and then there’s the rather unanticipated discovery of a fresh cadaver in the library … Naturally, “P.” knows that every hero has his coming-of-age trial to go through; trouble is, he’s no modern Ulysses. Patrice Martin’s “P.” is the compelling alter ego of a not-so-distant “Joseph K.” – still contemporary, still relevant.

Kafka’s Hat is available from Talonbooks for $12.95.

The Trial of Judith K. by Vancouver playwright Sally Clark is roughly based on The Trial. This black comedy transforms the lead character into a modern business woman who finds herself accused of an unknown crime. The more she delves into the bureaucratic nightmare, the more her ordered little world unravels and the more she is entangled in the increasingly obscure process of the trial.

The Trial of Judith K. is available from Talonbooks for $16.95.