Saturday, April 12, 2014
K is for...Kafka, Kostova, and Kaestner
Happy Saturday, fellow A-Zers. We've made it through week two of the challenge and I'm feeling good! Today is all about the letter K and I'm bringing you the following authors: Franz Kafka, Elizabeth Kostova, and Erich Kaestner.
Franz Kafka (1883-1924)
The first time I read Kafka, I was hooked. His work is dark, seedy, and brutal. Often he deals with themes of alienation, physical/psychological trauma, labyrinths, and terrifying quests, so there is a lot to be found in his work. Born in Prague, Kafka wrote all of his work in his native language of German which contrasted with the mainly Czech-speaking population of the city, thus causing much tension. Added to this, Kafka's Jewish heritage further alienated him from the masses. The majority of his work was published posthumously despite his wish that they be destroyed after his death. The pieces that were published during his lifetime, mainly in literary journals, attracted very little attention. In fact, Kafka never wrote a full-length novel and destroyed ninety percent of his drafts. Regardless, his work has influenced many writers, Sartre and Camus most notably, and spawned the term "Kafkaesque," which is used to describe surreal situations.
*Recommendation: The Complete Stories: specifically "The Metamorphosis" and "In the Penal Colony"
Elizabeth Kostova (1964-)
American novelist Elizabeth Kostova has written two novels so far: The Historian and The Swan Thieves. When The Historian was published, after a huge bidding war, it immediately shot to #1 on the New York Times bestseller list due to its heavy promotion, the first debut novel to ever accomplish this feat. Along with this, it was the fastest-selling hardback novel of 2005 in US history. Combining the story of Dracula with elements from varying genres, including Gothic, adventure, detective, travel, thriller, and the postmodern, the novel is more an eerie tale of discovery rather than a horror and it effortlessly blends the legends of Vlad the Impaler and history. I have yet to read The Swan Thieves, but it is on my bookshelf :)
*Recommendation: The Historian
Erich Kaestner (1899-1974)
A German poet, author, screenwriter, and satirist whose stories are known for their humor and social astuteness, Kaestner is probably most well known for his children's literature, especially the Emil stories which popularized the sub-genre of the child detective. What sets his children's literature apart from others is the fact that he sets them in a contemporary setting (mostly Berlin) and does not include any fairy tale aspects. In addition, he does not outline a moral in any of his stories. Instead, he lets the actions and deeds of the characters speak for themselves. His choice to write for children stemmed from his belief that the youth had regenerating powers to better society and because of this the Nazi regime burnt many of Kaestner's works. He also wrote the children's book Das doppelte Lottchen (Lottie and Lisa) which was adapted into the film The Parent Trap in 1961 and again in 1998.
*Recommendation: Emil und die Detektive (Emil and the Detectives)