I’ve seen Icon Books Introducing series in the bookshops but it was only when confronted by a long train journey with my current novel finished that I finally dived in and bought one. I don’t think I’ve read a graphic book before and I was suprised by how much I enjoyed reading Introducing Kafka with illustrations by Robert Crumb (who will be well known to readers of The Guardian).
Kafka has always interested me, but I’m not a great one for biographies so this seemed a good way of learning more about this favorite writer than I would glean from a Wikipedia article or some-such. In any case I was on my way home after a visit to the Tate Gallery, so was in the mood for more visuals rather than immediately descending down into pages of text.
I think the first thing to say is that the book is a work of art in its own right. The design of the volume is immediately attractive, and when you open it up, the eye is drawn into a fascinating and complex set of images, showing Crumb’s interpretation of life in early 20th century Prague.
Crumb’s larger than life images somehow portray the essence of the father son relationship. I am not saying that words could not provide a more accurate “picture” of the realities of the situation, but for a quick impression, Crumb and writer David Zane Mairowitz do a pretty good job.
Its a little like seeing a film of Kafka’s life, but more than that, because Crumb adds his own unique and definitely eccentric perspective. There must be a whole set of people who would baulk at a full-scale written account of Kafka’s life who might glean quite a lot from this graphic novel format.
Perhaps the book should just be seen as entertainment in its own right, but at least its entertainment which very successfully communicates a lot of information.
I enjoyed this book and wouldn’t hesitate to try some more titles from this useful series.