Completely Kafka: A Comic Biography

Pushkin Pr. Jun. 2024. 112p. ISBN 9781805331582. pap. $19.95. BIOG
Mahler’s (creator of a graphic novel take on Proust’s In Search of Lost Time) playful perspective and striking illustration result in an innovative and engaging overview of Franz Kafka’s life and work. As a child, Kafka suffered from severe anxiety and insecurity about his appearance and intelligence and was burdened by feelings of inferiority and self-loathing. As an adult, he remained pretty much the same. At least, that’s how Kafka presented himself in his diaries and letters. Rather than allowing Kafka to have the last word on the subject of himself, Mahler draws on diary entries, letters, and material quoted from interviews with Kafka’s friends and contemporaries to create a compelling portrait of an artist whose inner life and outward expression seem to have rarely aligned. Yes, Kafka’s associates agree, the writer could be grim, brooding, at times frighteningly intense and almost impossible to satisfy, but they also describe him as being quite charming, as well as handsome, intelligent, great at giving advice to those experiencing hardship, and possessing a wonderfully absurd sense of humor.
VERDICT An uncommonly entertaining biography and reconsideration of Kafka’s complex character, released to coincide with the centennial of his death.
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