see Metamorphosis video interview)
(see In the Penal Colony video interview)
(see A Country Doctor video interview)
(see A Hunger Artist video interview)
Based on the Ian Johnston translation, with additional material translated by Dr. Kruse and others, and including 27 illustrations, this eNotated edition extends Kafka’s writing by providing a new layer of information behind the text, which the reader can access before, during, and after each of the three parts of The Metamorphosis. For instance, in the eNotations to Part 1, Dr. Kruse provides a link from the English title, The Metamorphosis, to a discussion of the pros and cons of using that as an adequate translation of Kafka’s original German title, “Die Verwandlung.” Kafka had something different in mind from what an English reader understands by the word “metamorphosis” and it’s important to understand his intention and the shortcomings of “metamorphosis” in order to understand his novella.
"The Metamorphosis" is one of the most important European literary works of the early 20th century - engaging and provocative while at the same time disorienting and confusing. Connecting Kafka’s text with his life and times, Dr. Kruse provides a framework that, while not solving the puzzle Kafka left us, makes it much clearer and richer.
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Based on the Ian Johnston translation, with additional material translated by Dr. Kruse and others, and including 23 images, this eNotated edition extends Kafka’s writing by providing a new layer of information behind the text, which the reader can access before, during, and after the reading of In the Penal Colony.
For instance, in the eNotations, Dr. Kruse, by highlighting the relevant words in the texts, provides links to eNotations that explain the function of the parts of the apparatus at the center of this story, elucidate the conflicting conceptions of law and justice at work in the story, their connection to the jurisprudence of the time, and to the larger historical context. These notes, together with the other elements of this edition, enable and enrich the reader’s understanding of this story.
In the Penal Colony is one of the most important European literary works of the early 20th century - compelling and disturbing, seemingly otherworldly and yet saturated with its historical context. Dr. Kruse provides a framework that, while not solving the puzzle Kafka left us, makes it much clearer and richer.
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Based on the Ian Johnston translation, this volume also includes 17 Kafka related images. A frame from Koji Yamamura’s award winning animated film “A Country Doctor” provides the cover art.This eNotated edition extends Kafka’s writing by providing a new layer of information behind the text, which the reader can access before, during, and after reading of “A Country Doctor.”
For instance, in the eNotations, Dr. Kruse, by highlighting the relevant passages in the texts, provides links to eNotations that point to the themes Kafka wove through story and its connection to his “Country Doctor” uncle and his other works. These notes, together with the other elements of this edition, enable and enrich the reader’s understanding of this story.
"A Country Doctor” is one of the most important European short literary works of the early 20th century - simultaneously compelling and confusing, seemingly otherworldly and yet saturated with its historical context. Dr. Kruse provides a framework that, while not solving the puzzle Kafka left us, makes it much clearer and richer.
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This edition of "A Hunger Artist" is based on Ian Johnston's translation and also includes a fragment ("The Man-eater," translated by Dr. Kruse and here published for the first time in English) Kafka wrote for but didn't include in the published edition of the story.
With the extensive eNotations and topical essays, Dr. Kruse shows how Kafka was, with this story, "working through the extreme doubt and ambivalence he felt about his own art at this point in his life, which is amply evidenced in his diaries and letters of the time. Further, the multiple references to other writers and, even more so, the many cross references to his own oeuvre might suggest that Kafka was, however obliquely, engaged in cataloguing and summarizing, for himself and others, his own artistic achievement or failure up to this time....All of these [resources provided in this edition] will hopefully aid and enrich the reader's understanding, but they are not meant as interpretations. As a matter of fact, we will resist the desire to soften the impact of the story by domesticating it with a specific interpretation." (From the introduction.)
“A Hunger Artist” is one of the most important European short literary works of the early 20th century - simultaneously compelling and confusing, haunting yet matter-of-fact. Dr. Kruse provides a framework that, while not solving the puzzle Kafka left us, makes it much clearer and richer.
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About Franz Kafka
The Little Story
Franz Kafka, born on July 3rd 1883, in Prague, was the first child of the self-made Jewish businessman Hermann Kafka and his wife Julie Löwy.
He was born into a German-speaking enclave in a predominantly Czech-speaking city. Educated in German schools, he studied a little chemistry, then literature and then law at the German University of Prague. In 1906, he received his Doctor of Law degree. He soon worked for the Arbeiter-Unfall-Versicherungs-Anstalt für das Königreich Böhmen (Workers’ Accident Insurance Company for the Kingdom of Bohemia) by day; at night, he wrote such stories as “The Judgment,” “The Metamorphosis,” “A Country Doctor,“ and many more. He published little and was read by few. Yet, among German translated authors, he is now arguably the most famous, and most widely read.
In 1912, when Kafka was at work on the “kleine Geschichte” (“little story”), which would become one of the most read stories in world literature, he had little more than ten years left to live and write.
In that period, he wrote stories, novels, parables, aphorisms, and letters, again and again letters. Letters to his future fiancée Felice Bauer, to her — and his — friend Grete Bloch, to his Czech translator and love Milena Jesenska, to his sister Ottla, the “Riesenbrief” (giant letter) to his father. He lived in Prague, traveled, spent time in sanatoria. Toward the end of his life, he lived in Berlin for a short time with Dora Diamant, the last and happiest of his loves.
In September of 1917, he had been diagnosed with tubercolosis. It did not heal and eventually spread to his larynx. In the last few weeks of his life he could barely speak or take nourishment. In the sanatorium at Kierling, near Vienna, he reads the proofs for his last volume of stories: The Hunger Artist. There he died, a month short of his 41st birthday, on June 3rd 1924. He is buried in the Jewish cemetery in Prague-Straschnitz.
His parents followed him in 1931 and 1934. His three sisters all perished in the Nazi holocaust.
His writing did not. Saved by his friend Max Brod, first from Kafka’s own desire to be forgotten, then from the Nazis, his writing was published, read, translated, turned into film, into opera, into plays, and – again and again — read.
More, his writing was written about: by other writers, by scholars, by journalists — again and again, more and more — a torrent of words, a mountain of writing — until the once unknown Franz Kafka became Kafka, the world author, the tourist attraction, the cultural phenomenon.
Other than his most famous novel, The Trial, it is The Metamorphosis, a story about a traveling salesman who finds himself transformed one morning into an “ungeheueren Ungeziefer,” a “horrible verminous bug,” that is probably more firmly associated with his name in readers’ minds than any other.
The writing of The Metamorphosis comes at a crucial time in Kafka’s life and career as a writer. After some early writing, much of it burned, some of it published, the year 1912 brings important developments in both Kafka’s personal life and his life as a writer (although this distinction actually makes little sense in Kafka’s case). On August 13, in the house of the family of his friend, fellow author, and later editor, Max Brod, Kafka meets the 25-year old Felice Bauer from Berlin.
Shortly thereafter he begins a voluminous correspondence with her that will lead to two engagements and two dis-engagements. Shortly after the beginning of that correspondence, during the night of September 22-23, 1912, he writes (in one sitting, from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.) “Das Urteil” (“The Judgment”), the story he considers his “breakthrough,” not only because of the result, a story that he immediately reads aloud to his sisters and that he always considered one of his best, but also because of the process of writing he achieved with it: a continuous act of writing that he describes in his diary as a “complete opening of body and soul.”
About eight weeks later, on November 17, 1912 while depressed about not having received letters from Felice, Kafka writes to her that “still today (…) I will write down a little story, which occurred to me in bed in my pitiful state and which greatly troubles me inwardly.” If Kafka truly assumed that the story would remain “little” and would be written in one day or night, like “The Judgment,” he was mistaken. It is not until the night of December 6 - 7, 1912 that he writes to Felice that his story is now finished.
During the intervening three weeks, Kafka provides Felice with almost continuous commentary on the progress of his story, giving us an unusually detailed understanding of its composition process. His letters make clear that Kafka initially must have thought that his story would consist more or less of the material of the first part. He soon concluded, however, that a full development of the potential contained in his initial idea required the second and then the third part of the story as well as the epilogue. As a result, the story that he had once hoped to complete in relatively short order took almost three weeks to complete. The protracted writing process of The Metamorphosis contrasted unfavorably in Kafka’s mind with the ecstasy of writing “The Judgment” in one night. He was particularly unhappy about the ending and complained that it would have been much better if he had not been forced to make a business trip at a crucial phase in its composition.
Kafka’s dissatisfaction with the story, at least in part, explains the span of almost three years between its writing and its publication. What might seem inexplicable today, does not seem so strange when we consider that individual (Kafka’s ambivalence regarding the quality of the story), cultural (a reading public not quite ready; and publishing rivalries and complications) and geo-political (the advent of World War I) events conspired to complicate the progress towards publication. An abbreviated and somewhat simplified account of his little story’s publishing history goes something like this: In his initial correspondence with Kurt Wolff, his publisher, in early 1913, Kafka proposed to bundle “The Judgment,” “The Stoker” (the first chapter of his unfinished novel The Man Who Disappeared (America), and “The Metamorphosis” in a volume of narratives to be called Söhne (Sons). This idea did not come to anything: “The Stoker” was published separately by Kurt Wolff in May of 1913 and Kafka abandoned all active pursuit of publishing “The Metamorphosis” for five months. Then, in early 1914, he is at work preparing a corrected typescript for possible publication in Kurt Wolff’s series Die Weißen Blätter, a venue where Wolff liked to publish new, avant-garde texts. A little later, in February, another publication possibility comes into play. The Fischer Publishing House’s prestigious literary journal Die Neue Rundschau shows an interest in the story and Kafka explores this possibility even though his typescript is already submitted to Kurt Wolff. But this comes to nothing when Die Neue Rundschau demands a very substantial shortening of the story. Eventually, Kafka’s story is published in the October 1915 issue of Kurt Wolff’s Die Weißen Blätter. In November of 1915 it is first printed as an independent publication as part of the Kurt Wolff publishing house’s series Der Jüngste Tag with the year of publication given as 1916.
The three-year delay in publication contributed to a muted initial reaction to the story. In the context of the terrible news of the events of World War I, reviews of the story were infrequent. Those that were positive stressed the qualities of Kafka’s prose rather than the boldness of its conception, and the – more common – negative ones found the content of the story repulsive and nauseating. Kafka’s story proved too revolutionary. Even contemporary avant-garde writers who dealt with somewhat comparable themes were careful to make them acceptable to their readership by couching human-animal transformations in terms of dreams or fantasies, something that Kafka’s story explicitly refuses to do. It was not until a generation of readers, prepared for stronger aesthetic shocks by two world wars and the forms of modernist sensibility, encountered the story that it began to be fully appreciated as the masterpiece that it is.
About eNotator Jens Kruse
Jens Kruse was born in Hamburg, Germany. He was educated there and in the United States. He received the M.A. degree in Comparative Literature from Indiana University in Bloomington in 1971, and took the Staatsexamen at the University of Hamburg in 1974. He received the Ph.D. degree in Comparative Literature from the University of California in Los Angeles in 1982.
Mr. Kruse joined the Wellesley College faculty in 1983. He teaches both German language and literature on all levels of the curriculum and has served repeatedly as chair of the German Department and Coordinator of Foreign Language Chairs. He served Associate Dean of the College from 1992 until 1999.
His particular teaching interests are late 18th and early 19th century literature, especially the works of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, and 20th century literature, especially the works of Franz Kafka and Martin Walser. He has also taught comparative literature courses, such as "Classic Western Texts in Contemporary Perspective and Imaginary Crimes and Courts: the Law in Literature."
He is the author of the book Der Tanz der Zeichen: Poetische Struktur und Geschichte in Goethe's Faust II and of articles on Goethe, Goethe reception, Franz Kafka, and Martin Walser. In his most recent book, Tortured Enlightenment: Writing and Reading in Kafka's "In the Penal Colony," written mostly for the general reader in the form of letters to his family, Mr. Kruse examines this horrifying novella of the year 1914 for instructions on how best to read Kafka.
The eNotated Metamorphosis
Five stars: Superb edition of the classic story
By Piscator, September 21, 2011, Amazon Kindle
This presentation of the classic Kafka tale is a treasure trove. Jens Kruse's excellent introductory essay, and detailed, informative notes and photos greatly enhance our sense of Samsa's predicament and Kafka's techniques. This is my first e-notated text, which I read on the Kindle, and I found the text and annotations very easy to navigate. If this edition is any indication, the e-notated series of literary classics will be a great success -- an ideal choice for serious readers who want a definitive translation and helpful apparatus from scholars who are authorities in their field. A winner all the way.
The eNotated In the Penal Colony
Five Stars: Great Annotations!
By S, October 2, 2011, Amazon Kindle
This annotated version is great for a better understanding of the connections between the Penal Colony and other Kafka writings. That kind of information isn't usually provided in annotations, and even though I've read many of Kafka's stories the connections aren't immediately apparent to me. Also, the clarification of certain German words and the possible hidden meanings is extremely useful. There is also quite a bit of interpretation which helped me engage with the text a bit more critically. Overall, this is a wonderful edition both for those new to Kafka and those who are familiar with his work.
Five Stars: Wonderful as all Kafka works and great anotations
By Filipe Leitao, May 26, 2012, Amazon Kindle
Great book as all of Kafka works. The annotations are a great plus on this strange work. Great use of the electronics for read
Five Stars: A Model for a Valued Added E Book of a Classic
By Mel u -The Reading Life, March 2, 2012, Amazon Kindle
In the Penal Colony by Franz Kafka (1883 to 1924, Prague) is a short novella (some would see it as a long short story) set on an unnamed penal colony of a European nation. A man identified only as "The Traveler" is there to witness an execution done with a very unusual machine.
As a general rule I do not advise buying e-books of literature that are in the public domain. Very rarely or really close to never does one get any added value in such e-books. I am very happy to say that eNotated Classics has found a way to really add to our experience and understanding.
There is an excellent non-academic introduction by Professor Jen Kruse. By "nonacademic" I do not mean "Kafka for Dummies". What I mean is that it is not devoted to refuting the views of other professors but rather is a serious attempt to advance our understanding of Kafka's importance and of the story in particular. Kruse provides an interesting account of the love life of Kafka and suggests how this might have influenced his work. He explains why the work of Kafka is so central to the modern novel. There are also some interesting photographs and the cover art is perfect.
In The eNotated In the Penal Colony whenever there is a note in the work it is not in tiny print in a foot note, you simply click on the text which is colored red to let you know there is a note and it takes you there and another click takes you back.
This edition would be perfect for class room instructions. Every paragraph is assigned a number which I can also see as very helpful for making references to E books as page numbers are less relevant for Kindle books.
As I was reading In The Penal Colony I could not help but think of the 1973 movie Papillon set on the infamous French penal colony, Devil's Island starring Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman.
As you might guess, the story is many layered and open ended in its meaning. (If you want just an account of the plot, check here.) It is open to political, religious and philosophical readings. There is a very interesting machine at the heart of the story. It kills condemned prisoners over a twelve hour period by inscribing their crime with tiny needles on their body. The method of execution is exceedingly painful and has been a big source of controversy among those in charge of the colony.
One thing Kruse said in his very well done notes startled me with his brilliance and obvious truth while providing me with a "how did I miss that moment" when he said that in a way the story is about how what we read inscribes itself on our bodies and our lives.
I am glad to be able to endorse The eNotated In the Penal Colony by Franz Kafka, 1914 with an introduction and eNotes by Jens Kruse, as for sure worth buying for anyone who wants to get a good understanding of the work. I think it would be a great instructional vehicle for high school and college students.