The size of Kafka scholarship is so vast, his influence on the arts and literature so pervasive, that both by far exceed the scope of any overview. By necessity, this chapter will therefore pursue a more selective approach. The first part outlines the main strands of Kafka scholarship in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, while the second part explores the challenges of ‘translating’ Kafka’s texts into other media through three film adaptations of his novels: Orson Welles’s The Trial (1962), Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet’s Class Relations (1984, based on The Man who Disappeared) and Michael Haneke’s The Castle (1997).
Editions and translations
Any survey of Kafka scholarship is tied up with the complex history of Kafka editions, for the question of what does or does not constitute the ‘original’ Kafka text remains a thorny one, both for readers of German and, even more so, for those relying on translations.
Only a fraction of Kafka’s works appeared during his lifetime, but less than two months after his death, in July 1924, Max Brod signed an agreement to publish a posthumous edition of Kafka’s works. In doing so, Brod ignored Kafka’s own explicit instructions, which he had spelled out twice, that all his unpublished manuscripts should be destroyed after his death. Kafka readers thus find themselves in the moral dilemma that by reading Kafka’s texts – and particularly his private diaries and letters – they violate the author’s own express wishes.