Tag Archives: Franz Kafka

New Books: August

I mentioned in a previous post that I recently acquired several Penguin Modern Classics via a well-known internet auction site, and so here they are in all their shiny and much-anticipated glory:

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  • William S. Burroughs –  The Wild Boys: A Book of the Dead
  • Albert Camus –  The Outsider
  • Albert Camus –  The Fall
  • Truman Capote –  Music for Chameleons
  • Truman Capote –  Answered Prayers
  • Hermann Hesse –  Steppenwolf
  • Franz Kafka –  The Trial
  • Franz Kafka –  The Castle

The reason that there is no price listed for any of them is because I had these for my birthday, even though I had picked them and knew they were coming (and didn’t bother receiving them wrapped in jazzy paper), and because I can’t remember the prices at any rate. However, I also got the book that I ranted a bit about in the aforementioned post:

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  • John Wyndham –  The Chrysalids

Here you can see a quite tatty and battered copy alongside the much cleaner edition that I was sent after complaining to the sender that it was not quite a ‘minor flaw’ afflicting it as they had suggested. The first one had been rather extensively water damaged, and was proving difficult to open effectively due to the crinkled pages.

Also, I picked this one up from a charity shop for 20p:

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  • Christopher Isherwood –  Goodbye to Berlin
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The further joys of library booksales

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You may notice that this photo is decidedly un-crappy, which makes a change from the photos of my last few book-purchasing posts. This time, you can read the titles, but I will still list them anyway:

  • Ian Fleming –  Casino Royale     50p
  • C.S. Lewis –  The Great Divorce     25p
  • Graham Greene –  The Human Factor     25p
  • Donald Barthelme –  Forty Stories     25p
  • Tennessee Williams –  A Streetcar Named Desire and Other Plays     25p
  • John Steinbeck –  East of Eden     25p

As the title suggests, these were all from a library booksale (not the same one as those in previous posts)… well, ‘Casino Royale’ wasn’t. The rest were, though.

Also, we managed to get a very nice and very hefty copy of Oscar Wilde’s collected works for 25p as well, but my wonderful partner has commandeered this one. I may be able to borrow it if I ask very nicely.

The Barthelme book and the Greene book were only spotted by myself as we were leaving the library, as I happened to glance back at the table, and the former caught my eye due to the interesting cover image. I didn’t recognise the author, but recognised the title as being one I read about at the back of my Penguin Classics edition of ‘Ulysses’ and thought sounded worth getting. I’d actually forgotten about it until I saw it at the sale, and hadn’t added it to the list of classics that I want (yes, I do have a list). The fact that it was a silver-spined Penguin Classic also won me around to getting it, too. At the moment, I’m pouncing on any of the Modern Classics that I see. As an aside, this edition also raises an interesting issue (if issue is the right word), as it is in the Modern Classics series, but doesn’t have the Classics-style cover. This is similar to the recent reissues of Kafka by Penguin, and those of John Updike in the Modern Classics range: penguins-kafka-2

I’ve read some rather uncomplimentary things about these covers, but personally I quite like them myself.

A further random book-related point: these aren’t the only books I’ve had recently, but my other half has put some of my recent purchases up for Christmas, including one very special purchase that I am itching to mention, but will save for a special post at Christmas. I’ll do two them, actually- one on the books I already know about, and one on those that I don’t know the identities of.

Oh- one last point: I’ve got two more ‘Thoughts on…’ posts to get up soon- one on Orwell’s ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’, and one on Penelope Lively’s ‘Heat Wave’. These will come soon, so please be patient!

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Thoughts on ‘Metamorphosis and other stories’

Image: zombiebackrub.deviantart.com

Image: zombiebackrub.deviantart.com

Yeah… that pretty much sums it up, to be fair. I approached this book with an immense excitement and hyped it up somewhat in previous posts, but when I was actually reading it, I found the collection a bit lacklustre, if I’m being honest. The actual story ‘Metamorphosis’ is very good, in both the way it is written and in the story itself, and despite being fairly simple in plot when it is broken down (as above), I didn’t actually expect it to go how it did. I didn’t know the story before hand, and so was approaching it completely blind (other than knowing a man becomes an insect- or more accurately, ‘vermin’. The original German doesn’t state explicitly that Georg is an insect). However, I was expecting there to be some kind of moral in the story, but couldn’t find one. I will have to read some commentaries on it, but personally I missed any sort of allegory within it or greater message behind Georg’s plight. Now, I’m not saying that there needed to be a moral or that every story needs one, but to me it seemed as though it was written with this intention, but that it hadn’t quite been pulled off.

The other stories in the collection were a rather mixed bag. I could see that some of these did indeed have messages behind them, but again feel that some of these may perhaps have been lost in translation somewhat, as some of the very short glosses (‘Meditations’ and ‘A Country Doctor’) were completely lost on me. I was somewhat surprised by the way that these tales went, as they were in many cases very abstract and modernist- I knew the term ‘Kafkaesque’, but han’t realised it was originally applied to things that were quite so odd. Odd in a strange-and-somewhat-disjointedly-random way. I can’t really explain these pieces, other than to say what I already have, and that they were… different. However I do also think that they were ridiculously compelling too, due to the short, clipped nature of their writing and presentation. They have certainly given me some ideas for my own writing, and i think writing some similar pieces would be a good way to use up various story ideas that I have and scene ideas but which I can’t fashion into complete novels or stories. I suppose they could always be expanded upon later on, too, if I felt the inspiration. Perhaps this is an experiment I should endeavour to complete sometime soon. I will update this and say how I get on.

I feel that with this ‘Thoughts on…’ I should perhaps have gone through the book a story and collection at a time, giving thoughts on each, but don’t know quite how useful or interesting this would be, as some of the pieces, such as ‘The Airplanes at Brescia’ and ‘The Stoker: A Fragment’ left me feeling fairly lukewarm. However, I will produce an extended discussion of this book in the future as and when I think about it and get around to it.

Oh- a final note. ‘In the Penal Colony’ is well worth a look. I think that it is also available as a stand-alone Penguin Mini Modern Classic, and is very interesting. I enjoyed it, if only for the imagination and twisted thoughts that went behind its writing.

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Reading update

I haven’t posted on here for a few days, but in this time I have managed to procure some new reading matter, and have made progress with another book. However, I haven’t started the Kafka book I said I would read next. This will be digested in due course. Anyhoo- my new books can be seen below:

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Incase the titles are a tad difficult to read, here they are from left to right, along with the price that I paid for them:

  • Lewis Carroll- Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass (two volumes)  10p each (yes- really!)
  • Ian Fleming- Diamonds are Forever  50p
  • John Ruskin- On Art and Life (Penguin Great Ideas No. 15)  50p
  • Penelope Lively- Heat Wave  25p
  • Carol Ann Duffy- The World’s Wife  25p
  • Rudyard Kipling-  Just So Stories  £1.49
  • Thomas More- Utopia  £1.49
  • Seamus Heaney- North  £1.49
  • Martin Amis- Money  £1.49

I have currently been distracted away from the Kafka collection by another Penguin Classics book titled The Cloud of Unknowing and other works, which is a decent-sized volume of 14th century Christian teachings about the sheer impossibility of actually perceiving and understanding God, which I have recently learnt is actually a way of thinking that is taken up by the Eastern Churches, but not so much in the West. In the West the view is generally more along the lines of God being a friendly, approachable father-figure, whereas in the East, he is a powerful and unreachable being who cannot be represented in human terms and who can never be fully understood by simple mortals weighed down by sin and their perception of the body. To truly know God, The Cloud teaches that a person must become a contemplative, and be able to stop perceiving and thinking about his own existence to focus solely on God. The …other works of the title are shorter pieces believed to have been written by the same anonymous author upon similar themes, and it is in fact quite a good read. A tad heavy going at times, but it certainly gives food for thought and has provided me with a few new ways to look at both myself, my faith, and my perception of God. Also, the whole idea of a ‘Cloud of Unknowing’ is a great metaphor and image to use in my poetry…

tcou

Once I’ve finished this, I plan to read the Heaney and Duffy poetry collections, and then the two Lewis Carroll books, before finally getting to the Kafka. I promise to provide opinions etc. when I finish these.

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Next Reading

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I mentioned in my last post that today is my birthday, and from my wonderful partner I had the above edition of Franz Kafka’s ‘Metamorphosis and other stories’. I had planned to read Joseph Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness’ next, but think that I will dive into the Kafka first. Expect thoughts to follow!

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