REVIEW by Amanda Hopkinson

NWR Issue 99

A Hunger Artist and Other Stories

by Franz Kafka, trans. Joyce Crick

Like many enthusiasts, I first read Kafka as a teenager. Then again in my 30s. And again now, at twice the age I first started out. Each time it seemed I was reading a different author. It is a truism that, while the source text cannot alter, each target text (translation) creates anew. Indeed, when I first started teaching literary translation, I would produce five translations of Madame Bovary, each moving further away from Flaubert’s original.

Perhaps more than any other translated author, with Kafka our impression alters according to age, reading experience, and ability to contextualise. For example, as a teenager I read Metamorphosis as a horror story drawn from nightmare. As an adult, a satire laden with pointers to the cruelty of family relations described in the author’s own autobiographical ‘Letter to his Father’. As an older woman, the incipient First World War impressed itself, as well as patriarchy’s ability to inflict an inferiority complex on even the most accomplished of artists. Yet Metamorphosis is intended also as a humorous parable, inviting readers to empathise with the persecuted ‘beetle’...

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previous review: Poet to Poet: Edward Thomas' Letters to Walter de la Mare
next review: The Ninjas


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