“Kakfa was drawing in a very individual, very idiosyncratic way. I think that’s the source of his boldness, just to draw and not to think.”
To celebrate the publication of the groundbreaking Franz Kafka: The Drawings (Yale University Press), contributors Andreas Kilcher & Judith Butler join the show for a wide-ranging conversation about Kafka’s art & how it intersects — and diverges from — his writing. We get into their essays in the book (and Andreas’ role as co-editor), the humor & grotesqueness — and craft! — of K’s drawings, the legal battle over their ownership, and the ways in which the drawings help us approach Kafka in a new light. We talk about Kafka’s use of comic tension & comic relief, the ways in which the drawings liberated him from the horizontality of writing, his objections to using illustrations in his books, and Kafka’s ‘positive nihilism’ & the reason why neither Judith nor Andreas believe he really wanted Max Brod to destroy all his papers. Plus, we explore their own histories with Kafka, their personal favorites among the drawings, and how their students’ responses to Kafka have changed over the years. Give it a listen! And go read (& revel in) Franz Kafka: The Drawings!
“In my view, the drawings constitute a different way of working with the line on the page.”
“Kafka uses a lot of measures to question the linear understanding of a story, of characters, of everything he describes. This contrast between linear storytelling and alienation from everything that makes linear storytelling, his drawings help me understand more and more of that.”
“I think Kafka is always concerned with law. But he’s not trying to find the law according to which we will live. He understands that the key to that law has been lost, and as lost creatures we have to make our way. He’s not holding out for redemption.”
About our Guest
Andreas Kilcher is professor of literature and cultural studies at ETH Zurich. Judith Butler is Maxine Elliot Professor of Comparative Literature at the University of California, Berkeley. You can find much more extensive bios at Andreas’ & Judith’s respective university-pages.
Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded remotely via Zencastr. I used a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photos of Judith & Andreas by . . . other people. They’re on my instagram.