Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ $3.99 shipping
+ $3.99 shipping
Konundrum: Selected Prose of Franz Kafka Paperback – November 1, 2016
|New from||Used from|
See the Best Books of 2018 So Far
Looking for something great to read? Browse our editors' picks for the best books of the year so far in fiction, nonfiction, mysteries, children's books, and much more.
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
"The translator Peter Wortsman’s excellent and bracing new selection of Kafka’s stories, Konundrum: Selected Prose of Franz Kafka (published by Archipelago Books), brings the author’s peculiar rhetoric to glorious life." — Los Angeles Review of Books
"Even a year after the centennial celebration of Franz Kafka’s signature novella Die Verwandlung, commonly known as The Metamorphosis, Peter Wortsman’s latest English translation—which he simply titles “Transformed,” feels downright fresh. Konundrum: Selected Prose of Franz Kafka promises to lure a new generation of casual readers, if not jaded scholars—for its streamlined, playful prose (which still manages to stay faithful to Kafka’s German syntax), as well as its contemporary concerns and sensibilities... Konundrum’s prescient vision of identity mediated, controlled, and distorted via the gaze of popular trend and opinion makes it relevant, if not required, reading." — Brooklyn Rail
"Composed of short, black comic parables, fables, fairy tales, and reflections, Konundrum also includes classic stories like 'In the Penal Colony,' Kafka's prescient foreshadowing of the nightmare of the twentieth century, refreshing the writer's mythic storytelling powers for a new generation of readers." — Jewish Book Council
"Based on this collection, I’d like to see more of Wortsman’s work . . . Kafka is the vegemite of high-brow literature. You either hate it, love it, or hate it and then realise you love it. Konundrum is an excellent starting place to try his stuff out." — Peter Kelly, Super Novel
"The translation is superb and it seems as though Kafka himself has written in English. This is a book you can dip into, read a couple of stories at a time. But be warned – it is addictive. It is also not conducive to a good night’s sleep – too many weird and wonderful fancies start to rattle around in your brain. Konundrum is a real literary treat and will hopefully bring the exquisite prose of Kafka the acclaim in the English speaking world that it fully deserves." — Rosemary Standeven, Waterstones
"[Kafka] spoke for millions in their new unease; a century after his birth, he seems the last holy writer, and the supreme fabulist of modern man's cosmic predicament." --John Updike
"Kafka's survey of the insectile situation of young Jews in inner Bohemia can hardly be improved upon: 'With their posterior legs they were still glued to their father's Jewishness and with their wavering anterior legs they found no new ground.' There is a sense in which Kafka's Jewish question ('What have I in common with Jews?') has become everybody's question, Jewish alienation the template for all our doubts. What is Muslimness? What is femaleness? What is Polishness? These days we all find our anterior legs flailing before us. We're all insects, all Ungeziefer, now." --Zadie Smith
"[Kafka's] stories are dreamlike, allegorical, symbolic, parabolic, grotesque, ritualistic, nasty, lucent, extremely personal, ghoulishly detached, exquisitely comic, numinous, and prophetic." --The New York Times
"The distinction Kafka, or his heroes, draw between this world and the world does not imply that there are two different worlds, only that our habitual conceptions of reality are not the true conception." --W. H. Auden
"Kafka engaged in no technical experiments whatsoever; without in any way changing the German language, he stripped it of its involved constructions until it became clear and simple, like everyday speech purified of slang and negligence. The common experience of Kafka's readers is one of general and vague fascination, even in stories they fail to understand, a precise recollection of strange and seemingly absurd images and descriptions--until one day the hidden meaning reveals itself to them with the sudden evidence of a truth simple and incontestable." --Hannah Arendt
"Kafka's 'stark narratives and furtive fragments' - a series of alerts and premonitions from the unconscious of a genius - are powerfully resonant today." - Jane Ciabattari, BBC Culture
"Kafka's writing is so effective because it plays within an area of overlap between the two worlds. The result, of course, is the Kafkaesque, a mode that is entirely unto itself." - Nicole Rudick, The Paris Review
"Wortsman, who is both a fiction writer, and a translator, changed the way I think about Kafka... Could we call him pre-cognitive of both the 20 and 21st centuries? In this translation, he's a man for any time." — Susan Weinstein, notanotherbookreview (blog)
"Old favorites such as 'The Metamorphosis,' translated in this collection by Wortsman as 'Transformed' appear in the volume with fresh, updated language for a 21st century audience... Three additional works of short prose that particularly attracted my attention... all showcase Kafka's ability to take elements of the fantastic and put a realistic and even humorous spin on them." — The Book Binder's Daughter (blog)
"I was struck by the variety in the fiction in this collection and orginality of thought and treatment. Who would think to write a piece where a bridge is the central character and narrator? Or would portray Poseidon as an accountant? ... it does seem to me that the translator Peter Wortsman has been able to create a sense of Kafka's own voice in this book - a voice that is humane and at times humourous, that presents the surreal as if it was the normal." - Zoe Brooks, Magical Realism
"Not only does the excellence of the translations in Peter Wortsman's Konundrum: Selected Prose of Franz Kafka delight, but he wisely decided to mix-and-match a number of Kafka’s texts, fiction and non-fiction. Not only are the oft-printed stories (“In the Penal Colony,” “The Hunger Artist”) here, but diary entires, parables, and excepts from letters. The result is a distinctive vision of the writer — not the “patron saint of neurotics” beloved by the 20th century, but a black comic absurdist who seems particularly apt for the 21st century." — Bill Marx, The Arts Fuse
About the Author
Franz Kafka was a German-language author from Prague who wrote novels and short stories. Many of his works (such as The Trial and The Castle) involve surreal encounters with mysterious bureaucracies. He is widely regarded as one of the most influential writers of the twentieth century.
ABOUT THE TRANSLATOR: Peter Wortsman was a Fulbright Fellow in 1973, a Thomas J. Watson Foundation Fellow in 1974, and a Holtzbrinck Fellow at the American Academy in Berlin in 2010. He received the 1985 Beard's Fund Short Story Award, the 2008 Gertje Potash-Suhr Prosapreis of the Society for Contemporary American Literature in German, and the 2012 Gold Grand Prize for Best Travel Story of the Year in the Solas Awards Competition. He is the author of a book of short fiction, A Modern Way to Die: Small Stories and Microtales (1991), the plays The Tattooed Man Tells All (2000), and Burning Words (2006), and the travelogue/memoir Ghost Dance in Berlin: A Rhapsody in Gray, from Travelers' Tales/Solas House. Wortsman's numerous translations from the German include Telegrams of the Soul: Selected Prose of Peter Altenberg, Travel Pictures by Heinrich Heine, Posthumous Papers of a Living Author by Robert Musil, Peter Schelmiel, The Man Who Sold His Shadow by Adelbert von Chamisso, Selected Prose of Heinrich von Kleist and most recently, Tales of the German Imagination: From The Brothers Grimm to Ingeborg Bachmann, an anthology he assembled, from Penguin Classics. He works as a medical and travel journalist.
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
There are many selected gems in this collection, including one of my favorite Kafka stories. I first read "The Hunger Artist" when I was in high school and it had a profound impact on me - both the ideas in the story, and the idea that a story could be conceived about this. Though I've read it a few times since high school, I was very glad to read it again.
Though I have "Josephine, Our Meistersinger, or the Music of Mice" in another collection (titled slightly differently), I didn't remember this, but it stands out now as one of my favorites of this collection.
"A Hybrid" was another story that I didn't remember (it may be titled "A Crossbreed" in other collections) but I made the note in this edition: "I love this opening!" Kafka begins the story:
<blockquote>I have a curious creature, half cat, half lamb. A bequest from my father’s estate, it only really developed in my care, before it was much more lamb than cat. But now it’s half and half. Head and claws come from the cat, size and stature from the lamb; both bequeathed the glint and wildness in its eyes, the soft and snug coat of fur, the manner of its movements no less leaping than skulking. In sunshine on the windowsill it curls up and purrs, out in the meadow it runs around like crazy and you can hardly catch it. It flees from cats and tries to assault sheep. The roof gutter is its favorite runway in the moonlight. It can’t meow and is terrified of rats. It can lie in wait for hours beside the chicken stall, but never took advantage of an opportunity to pounce.</blockquote>
Nearly all of Kafka's short stories are simply amazing and would likely take a reader by surprise for their insight and wit. But one only has to read some of his letters or noted thoughts to see this sharp mind was often making poignant observations. This becomes quite clear in the section of the book with the heading: "Selected Last Conversation Shreds."
If you think you know Franz Kafka, but all you really know is the basic story-line of "Metamorphosis" or perhaps the futility of The Trial, then I would encourage you to check out these short prose pieces. If you don't know Kafka, then this is a great way to see the creative mind at work and play.
This is highly recommended.
Looking for a good book? <em>Konundrum: Selected Prose of Franz Kafka</em> is a welcomed collection of some of Kafka's short works. It's high time we introduce this classic author to a new generation, and this collection could just do the trick.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review.
GN I have always enjoyed the flow of language that is unique to Kafka. As with some of his longer works, these excerpts and short stories flow through your mind like a neighborhood creek, little ripples here and there and a first sense of destination. I loved Josephine, Our Meistersinger, or the Music of Mice, though I have no idea where that was flowing. My favorite was Investigations of a Dog. and Selected Aphorisms. All were beautifully written and translated to maintain that Kafka flow. Thank you, Peter Wortsman, for that.
Thus we all feel that we know him pretty well if we have read his three unfinished novels, AMERIKA (1911-1914), THE TRIAL (1914-1915), and THE CASTLE (1922-1924), and a one-volume collection of his stories (1904-1924), all available for many years in the English translations of Willa and Edmund Muir. Those wanting more have gone to the parables, the letters, the diaries. The hunger has been so great that even the insurance reports he wrote have been published, translated and read with the same reverence and interest as his creative works. Courses are taught, lectures read, articles published -- nonstop. And still we want more, because Kafka, more than any other writer, speaks to our loneliness, our uncertainty and our inner sense of injustice.
Now Peter Wortsman, author of stories and travelogues, and translator from German, notably TELEGRAMS OF THE SOUL by Peter Altenberg, has given us a collection that delivers the unexpected joy of reading Kafka as if for the first time. KONUNDRUM consists for the most part of little pieces -- stories, notes, diary entries, letters -- that each fill only one to five pages, things one is likely never to have read, interspersed with a half-dozen parables and some of the longer, famous stories in new translations: “The Hunger Artist,” “A Report to an Academy,” “In the Penal Colony.” As you enter the book -- bound in graspable thick grey paper, printed in a large font on high-quality stock -- you meet Kafka, as it were, in a different suit, coming down the staircase, and he has a few words for you. First, “Words are miserable miners of meaning,” then a letter to a publisher, then a few reflections, then the parabolic “Concerning Parables” and a vignette “Children on the Country Road.” It’s the perfect reacquaintance; before you know it, you have read twenty pages.
The juxtaposition of unknown, little-known and well-known works establishes a new context and refreshes your perception. Most of the works in the first two categories are short or very short, while the long works all belong to the last category: famous stories. Some readers, perhaps, will read the book from start to finish, and it will be interesting to know what they think. But my inclination has been to read the short pieces, skip the long and save them for later, especially since I have already read most of them several times. Of course, one can read the book any way one wants; the layout and selection invite you to read it your own way, for pleasure.
The chief distinction of Wortsman as a translator is his willingness to use American English of today to render works written in German early in the last century. Other translators, notably the Scottish Muirs, translating from the 1930s through the 1950s, aim for a generalized English appropriate for a generalized European setting, where no word or phrase sticks out as particularly British, or -- God forbid! -- American. But here is Wortsman translating Kafka’s story/catalogue of his “Eleven Sons”:
“My tenth son comes off as a devious character. I cannot wholly deny this character flaw, nor can I absolutely confirm it. What is certain is that whoever sees him approaching from a distance with that air of gravity way beyond his years, striding forward in his ever buttoned-up frock coat, wearing his old but overly brushed black hat, with that immovable expression of his, that somewhat protruding chin, those veiled eyelids, with two fingers sometimes pressed to his mouth -- whoever sees him thinks to himself: there goes a consummate phony...”
It’s an interesting mix: “comes off...” (American) and “devious character” (general), “air of gravity” (general) and “way beyond his years” (American), “consummate” (general) and “phony” (American). If you are sensitive to these contrasts, it may take you a bit of time to get used to them. But the Americanisms are not necessarily anachronistic; every translation of a work fifty or more years old will contain anachronisms in its vocabulary, and the choice for the translator is whether to try to conceal this fact and create a rendering of the work that seems consistent with its time and place, and even slightly bland, or to accept the inevitable anachronisms and allow the rendering to reflect the time of the translation. The virtue of the second option is that it sparkles and amuses in unexpected ways.
This is Wortsman’s method. “How my life has changed, and yet essentially nothing has changed! When I now think back to and recall the times when I still lived in dogdom, took part in everything they did, a dog among dogs, I find upon closer scrutiny...” (the opening to “Investigations of a Dog”). For such a text it is good to take risks (dogdom!), even though not every risk works. The story “Die Verwandlung” is known to the English-speaking world as “The Metamorphosis.” Wortsman wants to perk our perception and retranslates the title, “Transformed.” It’s startling, and may work for some readers, but to change the German noun into a past participle in English strikes me as too rash. Only if a classic title was not literally translated in the first instance, I think, should you make such a radical change in the second. For example, Constance Garnett translated Dostoyevsky’s BESY (1872) as THE POSSESSED. and later translators rendered it literally and legitimately as DEMONS or as THE DEVILS. So this translation keeps you alert and guessing.
I have a few quibbles about the format. First, the sources for the short pieces are listed at the back, no doubt to facilitate the easy transition from one piece to the next. But I was curious about the source of each one and had to flip back and forth repeatedly from the text to the notes. Yet the source could easily have been given in italics at the end of each piece without impeding the reading. Second, I am not pleased to see the story “The Burrow,” which I consider one of Kafka’s greatest, abbreviated, though, yes, it is a long story. Otherwise, and without attempting to make a comparison with German texts, I find that the translation reads wonderfully well, especially in “The Hunger Artist,” which summons up images of American circuses rather than European. The volume is bright and fresh, and Kafka steps closer toward you.