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Reading “The 57th Franz Kafka” Friday Night

Tonight, Friday, I’ll be reading my weird old SF story, “The 57th Franz Kafka,” under the auspices of the SF in SF group, who have arranged a Kafkaesque reading for the annual San Francisco Litquake festival. Doors (and drinks) at 6 pm, Readings start at 7 pm. Terry Bisson and Carter Scholz will be reading as well as me.

And here’s an R. Crumb-illustrated plug for our reading in the Huffington Post.

My story will be reprinted soon in Kafkaesque: Stories inspired by Franz Kafka, edited by John Kessel & James Patrick Kelly. Here’s part of the story note that I wrote for this new anthology.

I wrote “The 57th Franz Kafka near the start of my literary career, in the spring of 1980. My wife and I were in Heidelberg for two years—I had a grant to do research on infinity at the Mathematics Institute of the university. During this period I read and reread the Penguin Modern Classics edition of The Diaries of Franz Kafka several times, drinking in Kafka’s vibes and chuckling over the crazy letters he’d write to his relatives and to the family of his lady friend.

One aspect of Kafka’s writing that’s perhaps not as well-known as it could be is that Kafka himself considered his stories to be funny. His friend Max Brod reports that Kafka once fell out of his chair from laughing so hard while reading aloud from one of his works, perhaps from Die Verwandlung, that is, The Metamorphosis. Our puritanical and self-aggrandizing American culture tends to make out Kafka’s work to be solemn and portentous. But it’s funny in somewhat the same way as Donald Duck comics…

And here, just as a teaser, are the first two paragraphs of my dark tale:

Pain again, deep in the left side of my face. At some point in the night I gave up pretending to sleep and sat by the window, staring down at the blind land-street and the deaf river.

The impossibility of connected thought. Several times I thought I heard the new body moving in the long basin.

Here’s a photo taken at the event—me, Terry Bisson, and Carter Scholz. There’s also some video of the event on YouTube, there’s a link to the video segment with me reading “The 57th Franz Kafka.” Thanks to Litquake, Evan Karp, and Stellar Cassidy for making and posting the video.

One Response to “Reading “The 57th Franz Kafka” Friday Night”

  1. Alex Says:

    Great cover artwork on “The 57th Franz Kafka” – who did that?

    I like the “Message found in a copy of Flatland”.
    I always like it when I find notes and business cards in old books…


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