18 Fév


A Hunger Artist & Other Stories; Poems and Songs of Love – Franz Kafka & Georg Mordechai Langer

The first thing to know is that it’s a flipside book. On one hand you have “A Hunger Artist and Other Short Stories” by Franz Kafka, and on the other it’s “Poems and Songs of Love” by Georg Mordechai Langer, translated from Hebrew by Elena and Menachem Wolff. I read a digital version, which made me regret the good old paper books, which I could have simply turned in my hands instead of reprogramming the settings my computer screen for the second half.

These two works were put together mostly because of the link between the original writers. Kafka was a friend and a mentor for Langer, although we also learn in Langer’s poetry that he was in love with Kafka. But let’s start with the beginning. There’re pretty strange short stories in this book. Surreal, disturbing, sad… You never really know what’s coming. You don’t really know if things make sense, but it doesn’t matter. You enter in a kind of alternate universe where the writer wants you to think differently, to think his way. At first, it’s baffling (especially “A Country Doctor”, and its dreamlike setting), but soon enough you get used to it and you’re really looking forward to the next story.

Some of them left me thinking (“In Front of the Law”), others left me more indifferent, but I most admit that everyone of them has at least a little something. The style is constantly reinvented so it seemed to me each story could have been written by someone different, but at the same time you can feel that they’re all interconnected. I think that one of my favourites is “An Ancient Manuscript”, which is about the fear of immigrants and difference. I read this side of the book twice, so the second time I could enjoy even more the texts, that I already knew by then.

About “Poems and Songs of Love”, I have to say that I have no idea how faithful to the original the translators have been since I can’t read Hebrew, but the English version by itself is definitely a success. I don’t consider being qualified enough to analyse their meaning, but I think the words are perfectly chosen and the images powerful.

Indeed the turn has come, the bond is at an end,
a bond made of waves of the sea of the world;

– Georg Mordechai Langer


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