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Amerika Paperback – July 2, 1996

3.9 out of 5 stars 39 customer reviews

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Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: German

About the Author

Franz Kafka was born in 1883 in Prague, where he lived most of his life. During his lifetime, he published only a few short stories, including “The Metamorphosis,” “The Judgment,” and “The Stoker.” He died in 1924, before completing any of his full-length novels. At the end of his life, Kafka asked his lifelong friend and literary executor Max Brod to burn all his unpublished work. Brod overrode those wishes.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Schocken (July 2, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805210644
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805210644
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #528,967 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
As everybody already pointed out Kafka wrote this novel without ever having been to America. Allegedly his characterisation of the country is more akin to the oppressive situation in Prague, but I think you can make an argument that he stumbled on a theme of American culture that isn't often explored, or rather best described by Kafka, the whole idea of claustrophobia within a land of wide open spaces. The young immigrant protagonist, Karl, seems to follow the 'right' path that is expected of him and yet finds himself unable to advance and trapped in horrible social situations. The story is set in an America that is so slightly off-kilter as to be surreal (it's not America, it's Amerika) and with that sense of Kafkaesque dread (like the Statue of Liberty with the sword in her hand instead of the torch - a symbol of war and violence instead of freedom and enlightenment, or that neverending labyrinth of a suburban mansion that is bigger than could ever be possible) but in a way Kafka's commentary on an America he never visited is one of the most shockingly accurate depictions you'll read. It's unfinished but I kind of liked that; it was endearingly rough around the edges and that made it even more surreal. Some people have mentioned that the last chapter is an optimistic one but I really found that the carnival-like atmosphere to be menacing and the uncertainty of Karl's future in a Wide Open Country was more a feeling of unnamed dread than optimism, but you know, it is Kafka.
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Format: Paperback
"Amerika" looks like it was written by someone who not only had never been to America but did not even care to know what it's really like. But Kafka's style is all about transforming the real into the surreal, tainting reality and disturbing our sense of order and structure. Even in the book's very first paragraph, when a ship carrying the protagonist, Karl Rossmann, approaches New York, the Statue of Liberty is depicted as holding in her raised hand not a torch symbolizing a beacon to welcome immigrants, but a sword, ominously threatening aggression. Similarly, when later in the book New York and Boston are described as being separated by the Hudson River, one wonders whether Kafka was sincerely ignorant of American geography or deliberately distorting it to create a dreamlike effect.
Karl, a German-speaking teenager from Prague, has been sent to America by his parents to evade charges of paternity by a maidservant he has impregnated. He is to learn English and complete his education while living with his uncle Jakob, owner of a shipping business. Soon he is invited to the mansion of one of uncle's friends, where he is assaulted by this man's daughter and loses himself within the enormous house's labyrinth of dark corridors. This is a typical Kafka touch -- enshrouding a normal situation with an eerie atmosphere and a sense of foreboding.
After Karl is expelled by his uncle over an unintended act of disrespect, he takes to the road and hooks up with two rough drifters named Delamarche and Robinson. They proceed to bully and steal from him and eventually cause him to lose his job as a hotel elevator operator, and, when all three end up living in an apartment with an imperious fat woman named Brunelda, Karl even becomes their prisoner and slave.
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Format: Paperback
Kafka's image of a foreboding land in which "no one has sympathy for anyone" and in which the statue of liberty carries a sword instead of a torch is amazingly perceptive for a writer who never set foot on the American continent. The novel's theme is unjust accusation and the willingness of others to believe the worst without knowing or caring about the facts. _Amerika_ is especially pertinent to today's America of trial TV, Dr. Laura Schlesinger and Jerry Springer -- in which the armchair sport of sanctimoniously plucking motes from the eyes of others has become a national passtime. Maybe Kafka had an insight into the future direction of American culture, or maybe we've always been this way.
Despite all this, _Amerika_ is Kafka's most upbeat work, and it ends on a fanciful, optimistic note. Beware, though: it is also Kafka's least complete work and the last chapter completely changes scene and situation without any explanation. Even given this fault, however, the book is well worth the read. Kafka does get a lot of things wrong about American culture, but he gets the important themes right and even some of the details (like our obsession with pointlessly saying "hello" over and over on every chance meeting). _Amerika_ might well be the Kafka novel for those who don't like Kafka -- a kind of Kafka lite. To those familiar with the gloominess of the Penal Colony or the Castle or the Trial, _Amerika_ will seem like PG Wodehouse by comparison.
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Format: Paperback
Kafka drives the reader crazy by this epic narration about the adventures of Karl, an adolescent sent to America at the beginning of XX century. While escaping from a stupid love affair Karl is to meet his uncle who will receive him at home and will push him into the secrets of accounting.
Thanks to one of Kafka's eternal "malentendus" Karl is sent to the immigrant's arena and he has to live on his own. Almost penniless, his sole possessions are his battered trunk and an old photography of his parents.
One can't but feel empathy and tenderness for young Karl. Fired by his uncle who was supposed to protect him, Karl has to cope with two drunkards (an Irish and a French) who attempt by all means to abuse of his innocence by promising him a job in the west coast.
Karl then finds a humble place at a big hotel. He is in charge of one of the numerous elevators and works almost sixteen hours a day just to be dismissed due to a new misunderstanding.
At times hilariously, the novel describes the situation of many Europeans who might have dreamed of America as an oasis to later realize they were just joined as a little part of an enormous and unspeakable machine.
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