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The Castle: A New Translation Based on the Restored Text [Deckle Edge] [Paperback]

Franz Kafka , Mark Harman
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Dec 15 1998

Translated and with a preface by Mark Harman

Left unfinished by Kafka in 1922 and not published until 1926, two years after his death, The Castle is the haunting tale of K.’s relentless, unavailing struggle with an inscrutable authority in order to gain access to the Castle. Scrupulously following the fluidity and breathlessness of the sparsely punctuated original manuscript, Mark Harman’s new translation reveals levels of comedy, energy, and visual power previously unknown to English language readers.


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They are perhaps the most famous literary instructions never followed: "Dearest Max, my last request: Everything I leave behind me ... in the way of diaries, manuscripts, letters (my own and others'), sketches, and so on, [is] to be burned unread...." Thankfully, Max Brod did not honor his friend Franz Kafka's final wishes. Instead, he did everything within his power to ensure that Kafka's work would find publication--including making some sweeping changes in the original texts. Until recently, the world has known only Brod's version of Kafka, with its altered punctuation, word order, and chapter divisions. Restoring much of what had previously been expunged, as well as the fluid, oral quality of Kafka's original German, Mark Harman's new translation of The Castle is a major literary event.

One of three unfinished novels left after Kafka's death, The Castle is in many ways the writer's most enduring and influential work. In Harman's muscular translation, Kafka's text seems more modern than ever, the words tumbling over one another, the sentences separated only by commas. Harman's version also ends the same way as Kafka's original manuscript--that is, in mid-sentence: "She held out her trembling hand to K. and had him sit down beside her, she spoke with great difficulty, it was difficult to understand her, but what she said--." For anyone used to reading Kafka in his artificially complete form, the effect is extraordinary; it is as if Kafka himself had just stepped from the room, leaving behind him a work whose resolution is the more haunting for being forever out of reach. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Upon his death in 1924, Kafka instructed his literary executor, Max Brod, to destroy all his manuscripts. Wisely refusing his friend's last wishes, Brod edited the uncompleted Castle, along with other unfinished works, ordering the fragments into a coherent whole, and had them published. Brod's interpretation of the work as a novel of personal salvation was accepted and strengthened by Willa and Edward Muir, who translated it into English in 1930. Recent scholarship, less willing to accept Brod's version, has led to a new critical edition of the novel, which was published in German in 1982 and which purports to be closer to Kafka's intentions. Harman's translation represents this edition's first appearance in English. Harman's stated goal as translator is to reproduce as closely as possible Kafka's style, which results in an English that is stranger and denser than the Muirs' elegant work. A necessary acquisition for anyone interested in Kafka.?Michael O'Pecko, Towson State Univ., Md.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The public misconception of Kafka July 15 2004
Format:Paperback
Whenever asked who is my favorite writer, my response of Franz Kafka usually generates in the inquisitor a look of severity, as if I had responded with the most stifling and impenetrable answer imaginable. I have always been positively baffled by the public perception of Kafka as a "difficult" author, a "serious" author, one of those authors good for no one beyond college professors. This is simply not the case. All of three of Kafka's novels are thrilling, nightmarish, and haunting, to be sure, but they are also downright hysterical, containing countless moments of slapstick humor worthy of the great comics. Furthermore, Kafka's novels are probably the most compulsively readable of any I've ever read. I've yet to spend more than two days reading or re-reading one of the three novels, as once I'm drawn into Kafka's spell I have no choice but to finish (that previous statement obviously fits right in with Kafka's universe). I can't stand it when people consider Kafka "the guy who writes stories about people turning into bugs". The Castle is my favorite of Kafka's works, a novel so rich and beautiful, so full of crazy characters and imagination, it is the logical precursor to Roald Dahl and Tom Wolfe and Terry Southern and other writers of the comically absurd. Monty Python surely owes a huge debt to The Castle. The Castle is indescribable. There has never been another novel quite like it, before or after, and surely every reader will find it a different experience. It is a masterpiece in that it hints at serious post-modern themes and events, but remains ambiguous enough to take under its wing any number of interpretations. Great 20th century novels like Orwell's 1984 and Nabakov's Lolita probably won't stand up to future scrutiny the way Kafka's will, because Kafka is the only writer of the 20th century to succesfully represent the human experience through the form itself, letting the content and meaning transform entirely according to the reader.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nightmarish fare will haunt your dreams Sept. 19 1999
Format:Paperback
I read somewhere that Kafka used to read the newly-written chapters of THE CASTLE to his friends who would laugh uproariously along with the author. I found this the scariest thing about the book, indeed one of the strongest clues that late 20th century America is immeasurably distant from early 20th century Austria-Hungary. This book will give you nightmares. It is nothing so childish as a Hollywood horror movie, but a somehow crumpled, twisted, horrifying view of human nature, especially as manifest in bureaucracies. K needs to speak to someone to get something done. He approaches the castle where the lord lives. The whole story involves his endless efforts to speak to someone, anyone, who can help him contact the servant who has the ear of the clerk who can speak to the courtier who might be able to talk to the cousin who occasionally is known to have the ear of the lord. And of course, K is continually frustrated. Not to mention you, the reader. It is the stuff of the worst nightmares. Thus, though it is extremely unpleasant,without any hint of beauty, love, or human feeling, THE CASTLE is a most powerful novel, one of the best I have ever read. I can't say I liked it, but it impressed me no end. If you have ever read anything else by Kafka and liked it, you will definitely like this one. It was never finished, but then such a novel can have no finish.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars No Gates Jan. 12 1999
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
The most amazing thing about the castle, is Kafka's relation to it...the fact that Kafka died just before he was going to write the chapters in which K finally got into the castle. I do no believe this story is one of futility. I don't think that's what Kafka meant. Nor do I think he intended humor. Instead, I look at the castle as a testament to daily drudgery. The idea that our lives have little meaning beyond the present. Nothing is definite...and so, it is an abstract monumnet. Characters are whimsical in the face of adversity, but ultimately, their motives are uncertain, and their feelings are unknown. A little too close to reality for me...but a good work.
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Format:Paperback
Franz Kafka was obsessed with dreams, and THE CASTLE is his attempt to depict the modern world of corporate and governmental bureaucracy as a crazed nightmare. The novel possesses the logic of dreams, and there is a dreamlike quality to everything that happens in the book. As in a dream, people and situations transform effortlessly into something entirely different, as when one of the young, silly assistants of the protagonist K. suddenly appears to be a much older, decrepit man. Though his transformation is absurd, it is part and parcel of the logic of the village dominated by The Castle.
I first read this novel years ago when the only option in translation was the Muir translation. This new complete translation, which includes a large section that Kafka's friend and literary executor Max Brod decided to excise, transforms the novel into an entirely different book. For one thing, the section that Brod left out indicates even more vividly the degree to which the novel is concerned with depicting the more horrific aspects of modern bureaucratic life. For another, the manner in which the text simply breaks off in mid-sentence reinforces the nightmarish quality of the book, for just as we wake up from a dream, never able to complete the tale, so we break away from the narrative, never knowing what K.'s fate is.
The novel contains more a situation than a plot. K., a surveyor, arrives in a village having been hired by the local Castle, presumably to survey. Instead, K. quickly learns that he may not have been hired at all, and manages to break rapidly a number of laws of which he was utterly unaware and whose logic is far from obvious.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Original!
When KafKa died, this novel, on which he had already stopped working for a few years, was left unfinished. It actually stops in mid-sentence! Read more
Published 10 months ago by Pierre Gauthier
3.0 out of 5 stars Not his best
I disagree with many of the reviews of this work. "The Castle" is deliberately cumbersome to get across the feeling of bureaucracy; this makes it perhaps a good read... Read more
Published on July 16 2004 by John Barkley
4.0 out of 5 stars Enter At Your Own Risk
Outside of the Russian authors it's hard for me to think of an author I like more than Kafka. I own everything he's every written, whether I have read all of his stories is a... Read more
Published on Jan. 8 2004 by Alex Udvary
5.0 out of 5 stars Franz Kafka: So Many Rooms Behind
The Trial, written by Franz Kafka and published posthumously by Kafka's best friend, Max Brod, is hailed as Kafka's best work, and though it is very well written and very good,... Read more
Published on Dec 28 2003 by Nobody!
3.0 out of 5 stars Very sneaky indeed!
It is a pity that it wasn't until the book's abrupt end that my interest finally piqued. So many questions unanswered. Read more
Published on Aug. 19 2003 by "randywood7"
5.0 out of 5 stars the greatest book half-written
There's no denying it--the Castle is fragmentary, maddeningly slow-paced, and suddenly shifts gear at repeated points, with the undeniable suggestion that Kafka stumbled across... Read more
Published on June 15 2003 by 869516255
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Kafka, but not for the neophyte.
I would not buy this book if it were your first forray into the realm of Kafka. But the short stories first, then Amerika, then the trial, and then, if you could make it through... Read more
Published on March 9 2003 by C. Cosentino
5.0 out of 5 stars Readable at last!
Translation means everything! Over the years I've read much of Kafka especially during adolescence and into my early twenties when his worldview spoke most directly to my own... Read more
Published on Feb. 25 2003 by hkrosnick
5.0 out of 5 stars A hilariously terrifying book !!
I wish to offer a friendly retort to reviewer Bob Newman, who states how Kafka would share excerpts of this book with his colleagues and would laugh out loud uproariously - and how... Read more
Published on Aug. 8 2002 by John K. Joachim
3.0 out of 5 stars Unsure. Is this how I'm supposed to feel?
Being the last (and unfinished) work of the brilliant, but very bizarre writer Franz Kafka, this book weaves a strange tale of supposedly autobiographic search and discovery. Read more
Published on Oct. 24 2001 by Brendan Kennedy
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