First published: 1927 (posthumously – written between 1911 – 1914)
Original title: Der Verschollene
Original language: GermanTranslation to English by: Michael Hoffman, 1996
Page count: 336
The back says: Kafka’s first and funniest novel, Amerika tells the story of the young immigrant Karl Rossmann who, after an embarrassing sexual misadventure, finds himself “packed off to America” by his parents. Expected to redeem himself in this magical land of opportunity, young Karl is swept up instead in a whirlwind of dizzying reversals, strange escapades, and picaresque adventures.
Although Kafka never visited America, images of its vast landscape, dangers, and opportunities inspired this saga of the “golden land.” Here is a startlingly modern, fantastic and visionary tale of America “as a place no one has yet seen, in a historical period that can’t be identified,” writes E. L. Doctorow in his new foreword. “Kafka made his novel from his own mind’s mythic elements,” Doctorow explains, “and the research data that caught his eye were bent like rays in a field of gravity.”
I say: Kafka before he became Kafkaesque and I loved most of it, and definitely wanted more of it.
Well, at least an ending...
As with a lot of Kafka’s other works, this was never completed, which left me feeling cheated because I really liked Karl and wanted to know what would happen to him in the future. Unlike Kafka’s other works, this is a rather straightforward tale of Karl’s arrival to, and fist time in America. He encounters certain mishaps on the boat and with a relative in America that lead him to be left to fend for himself in a new country where nothing seems to be as it appears to be.
The way these stories usually go...
Although this isn’t as confusing as Kafka liked to be in his later work, I could see the beginnings of what would later be his trademark. The humour is definitely there, as well as some absurd situations and moments. I loved the narrator describing the events as they happen without any flourish or embellishments.
4/5 because it’s unfinished and because it took me a while to properly get into the story.