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Konundrum by Franz Kafka
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Konundrum by Franz Kafka
Nov 01, 2016 | ISBN 9780914671527

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  • Nov 01, 2016 | ISBN 9780914671527

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“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

Table Of Contents

11 Words Are Miserable Miners of Meaning
12 Letter to Ernst Rowohlt
13 Reflections
14 Concerning Parables
15 Children on the Country Road
20 The Spinning Top
21 The Street-Side Window
22 At Night
23 Unhappiness
30 Clothes Make the Man
32 On the Inability to Write
35 I Can Also Laugh
41 The Need to Be Alone
43 So I Sat at My Stately Desk
47 A Writer’s Quandary 
52 Give It Up!
53 Eleven Sons
60 Paris Outing
66 The Bridge
68 The Trees
69 The Truth About Sancho Panza
70 The Silence of the Sirens
73 Prometheus
74 Poseidon
76 The Municipal Coat of Arms
79 A Message from the Emperor
81 The Next Village Over
82 First Sorrow
86 The Hunger Artist
102 Josephine, Our Meistersinger, or the Music of Mice
129 Investigations of a Dog
189 A Hybrid
192 A Report to an Academy
207 Transformed
287 In the Penal Colony
331 From The Burrow
352 Selected Aphorisms
356 Selected Last Conversation Shreds
359 Notes
365 In the Caves of the Unconscious: K Is for Kafka (An Afterword)
381 The Back of Words (A Translator’s Postscript)
383 Acknowledgments

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