Kafka...has been given the graphic treatment in Kafkaesque: Fourteen Stories — this time by the illustrator Peter Kuper, whose menacing portraits fit so well with Kafka’s mood ... In rendering Kafka’s stories, Kuper translates them into an imagery that evokes things Kafka may never have known of or considered ... Kuper’s art likewise adds significant new dimensions to Kafka’s stories. He gives expression and personality to characters from stories that sometimes take up no more than a paragraph in Kafka’s collected works. Kuper’s ability to express movement and expression is also notable, and Kafkaesque has the quality of being not simply an adaptation but an artistic object in its own right.
(Kuper) collects 14 short stories adapted into comic form, some of which were previously collected in 1995’s Give it Up! ... Usually, when adapting literary prose, comic creators are too slavish to the source material, unsure of what to cut from the sacred original text, resulting in paragraphs of narration that overpower the art. Kuper’s greatest feat here is how heroically he edits Kafka down, using just the right amount of words as captions to accompany his visuals. In being so concise, he stays true to form as a cartoonist without losing anything vital from the source material and keeping Kafka’s 'voice' intact ... For those who have little experience with the original stories Kuper creates an accessible gateway for Kafka amateurs and a varied sampling that may surprise you and possibly expand your own definition of what constitutes something as being Kafkaesque.
Eisner-winning Kuper’s career of 'translating Kafka into comics' began in 1995, when his initial collection of nine shorts hit shelves, with Give It Up! He adds another five here, scrambles the previous order, and includes his 'Kuperesque' foreword, emphasizing how, since Kafka’s death at 40, in 1924, 'our world increasingly reflects the adjective ‘Kafkaesque’'—nightmarish, oppressive, surreal ... In distilling Kafka’s timeless themes, Kuper creates stark panels of disturbing truth and powerful warning. While Kafka aficionados will savor enhanced perception, readers without prior knowledge will nevertheless appreciate Kuper’s unflinching interpretations.
Eisner-winner Kuper brilliantly accentuates both the absurd and menacing qualities of Kafka’s short stories in this graphic collection. Using a scratchboard technique to mimic the woodcut style of German expressionism, Kuper emphasizes the ways Kafka addressed social injustices rather than simply his trademark existential paranoia ... Kuper’s heavy use of chiaroscuro creates an atmosphere of dread, while his playful character design and innovative page layouts keenly evince Kafka’s dark sense of humor. Kafka’s timeless work has never hit so hard, nor more artfully.
This adaptation’s source material runs from several dozen pages to just a handful of lines, and Kuper proves adept at using the synergy between text and image to both expand Kafka’s ideas and trim his word counts. In The Trees, Kuper lays the sparse text over a tableau of homelessness, giving additional poignancy to the story’s suggestion of life’s impermanence, and his depiction of the frustrated supplicant in Before the Law brings the story into a modern, racial context ... Kuper’s chosen medium—drawings on scratchboard—gives the work the angular, crosshatched chiaroscuro of woodcuts, which keenly evokes the text’s early-20th-century origins, while his style imbues the characters with a garish cartoon quality that unequivocally expresses emotions while also underscoring the nightmarish conditions of the worlds presented ... A richly innovative interpretation that honors the source while expanding the material.