36 of 36 people found the following review helpful
Eerie parallel universe yet still relevant,
By A Customer
This review is from: Amerika (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.