Franz Kafka The Drawings Andreas Kilcher, Pavel Schmidt, Judith Butler, Kurt Beals

Publication date:
31 May 2022
Yale University Press
368 pages: 279 x 203mm
240 color illus.
Sales territories:
World English

The first book to publish the entirety of Franz Kafka’s graphic output, including more than 100 newly discovered drawings

The year 2019 brought a sensational discovery: hundreds of drawings by the writer Franz Kafka (1883–1924) were found in a private collection that for decades had been kept under lock and key. Until now, only a few of Kafka’s drawings were widely known. Although Kafka is renowned for his written work, his drawings are evidence of what his literary executor Max Brod termed his “double talent.” Irresistible and full of fascinating figures, shifting from the realistic to the fantastic, the grotesque, the uncanny, and the carnivalesque, they illuminate a previously unknown side of the quintessential modernist author.

Kafka’s drawings span his full career, but he drew most intensively in his university years, between 1901 and 1907. An entire booklet of drawings from this period is among the many new discoveries, along with dozens of loose sheets. Published for the first time in English, these newly available materials are collected with his known works in a complete catalogue raisonné of more than 240 illustrations, reproduced in full color. Essays by Andreas Kilcher and Judith Butler provide essential background for this lavish volume, interpreting the drawings in their own right while also reconciling their place in Kafka’s larger oeuvre.

Andreas Kilcher is professor of literature and cultural studies at ETH Zurich. Pavel Schmidt is an artist and researcher. Judith Butler is Maxine Elliot Professor of Comparative Literature at the University of California, Berkeley. Kurt Beals is associate professor of German and comparative literature at Washington University in St. Louis.

“The uncanny animatedness, that which strikes us in Kafka’s prose even before we are enraptured by its depths, lives everywhere in the evidence of his hand. It lives in his cursive script, in these faces and bodies and windswept horses, in these self-portraits we encounter having somehow always known he was there, staring into us, waiting to be seen.”—Jonathan Lethem, author of The Fortress of Solitude

“An important and original book. Informative and perceptive, it illuminates a side of Kafka that has hitherto scarcely been known.”—Ritchie Robertson, author of Kafka: A Very Short Introduction

“Kafka, this absorbing book shows, was both artist and art-lover: inspired by Asian art, he explored line in defiance of gravity, drawing as a counterpoint to script. An intriguing volume, with Butler's essay as the highlight.”—Katie Trumpener, Yale University