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Kafka: Give It Up! And Other Short Stories    illustrated by Peter Kuper order for
by Peter Kuper
Order:  USA  Can
ComicsLit, 2005 (2005)
* * *   Reviewed by Lance Victor Eaton

If Kafka's work is hard to deconstruct as a piece of literature, one might contend that a sequential artistic interpretation may make it more accessible by the common reader. Indeed, Peter Kuper's graphic depiction of nine Kafka short stories proves both illuminating and challenging. Kuper provides an artistic take on these short stories that generates a unique synergy of art and words.

Drawn in vividly contrasting black and white colors, each panel pulls readers into the story making them feel the intensity of every moment. Kuper uses a variety of complex transitions from panel to panel in his attempts to induce continuity or isolation. Overall, he uses a lot of symbolism in almost every panel, character, background, etc.. His hauntingly full page panels leave readers' heads spinning as they repeatedly go over the few but often complex details. Even the shorter stories (which run at six pages) force the audience to work and understand the piece more than most graphic novels will. The words too are painted and presented like poetry throughout the stories. Huddled in clusters, or etched into the wings of a vulture, the placement and even limited use of text further incite one to think and consider what is being read.

A work like this can manage to be a great asset in several ways. It serves as a perfect supplement to those who have trouble reading - in general or just trouble reading Kafka. This visual aspect of these short stories allows readers to bypass the concrete aspects of the story and address the more abstract portions of the writing. This graphic novel also draws its own intriguing depiction of Kafka's writings, thereby allowing people to perhaps see a new side of the text they had not previously conceived.

Far from your typical super-hero comic book, Kafka engages a readership that is either highly into the aesthetics of graphic novels or seeking evidence that comic books can be accepted into the halls of art and literature. But the common reader too can appreciate what this graphic novel holds, so long as that reader is willing to work a little harder than they might like.

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