Illustrating the unfinished

Marking 170 years since the birth of Czech author Kafka, publisher SelfMadeHero has released a graphic novel of his final work, The Castle.

The Castle cover
The Castle cover

The Castle has been adapted by writer David Zane Mairowitz, who also adapted Kafka’s The Trial, and drawn by Czech artist Jaromír 99.

'Hospitality is not our custom, we don't need strangers'
‘Hospitality is not our custom, we don’t need strangers’

The novel delineates The Castle’s tale in an eerie crisp monochrome with a style recalling traditional paper-cut techniques.

'He felt it had already dealt with things concerning him, things he didn't yet know the existence of...'
‘He felt it had already dealt with things concerning him, things he didn’t yet know the existence of…’

It’s an interesting contrast to the narrative twists and turns, which conspire to create a surreal, perplexing text.

'They're contemptible, disgusting. And I have to serve them beer!'
‘They’re contemptible, disgusting. And I have to serve them beer!’

Thankfully, the picture-led treatment simplifies things rather, though the tale remains a shadowy one, drawing on Kafka’s familiar motifs of bureaucracy, alienation and confusion.

'You'll miss him, whether you wait or not'.
‘You’ll miss him, whether you wait or not’.

As with other novels, including America, Kafka left The Castle unfinished, having succumbed to tuberculosis before the story was concluded.

'You'll miss him, whether you wait or not'.
‘You’ll miss him, whether you wait or not’.

However, debate still rages as to whether Kakfa had any intention of ever finishing The Castle, and the novel ends mid-sentence.

'I imagine a grave, deep and narrow, in which we are clamped together...'
‘I imagine a grave, deep and narrow, in which we are clamped together…’

Helpfully, Mairowitz and Jaromír 99’s graphic novel take on The Castle expresses this rather literally – a stark black illustration of a hand, frozen mid sentence graces the final page, with minute text reading, ‘Kafka’s text stops here.’

'You didn't appreciate the sacrifice she was prepared to make for you.'
‘You didn’t appreciate the sacrifice she was prepared to make for you.’

The Castle is available now priced £12.99 published by SelfMadeHero

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