I have never read a Kafka novel before but I have always been interested in his ideas and themes that are presented in his work. I am also a big fan of Self Made Hero and the graphic literature that they produce. The Castle, a graphic novelisation of Kafka’s final, unfinished work, does not disappoint, urging me to discover more of Kafak’s work.

 The story adapted by writer David Zane Mairowitz and artist Jaromir 99, follows K as he enters a village that is overshadowed by the castle. K is determined to get to the castle that is where the bureaucrats are. Whenever K attempts to find away to the castle he is constantly met with more and more paperwork. His battle to get to the castle lead to conflicts with the authorities.

This is the second Kafka novel to be adapted by Self Made Hero with the first being The Trial. The Castle perfectly illustrates modernism: the constant strain, the battle to try to discover something only met with more paperwork to get through that eventually becomes endless. Further the reader really gets a sense of alienation from K who seems to be on this constant journey of discovery only to find that he has got no closer to the truth. The surreal feel adds depth and character to both the castle and the village, making the feeling of alienation almost engross the reader. Skilfully the creative team decide to show that this is an unfinished piece of work that adds some extra to it. It feels like we have been taken on a similar journey to K where we have been looking for answers and yet we do not get them all. Therefore the reader mirrors the feelings of K: that desperation to find out more and yet there is no way to discover it.

The artwork really adds something extra to the piece, especially when looking at some of the more surreal scenes. Jaromir 99’s art looks like something that came out of 1920s German expressionism, often reminiscent of the work by Fritz Lang in particular The Cabinet of Dr Cagliari with the sharp, jaggy landscapes and Metropolis through the clever use of light. The book is black and white and yet Jaromir 99 shows just how much emotion and depth can be used with just these two stark colours. They build to dramatic effect well with the like of two pages having a lot of white on them. Yet when the reader turns the page they are greeted by the opposite illustrating the change in storytelling.

Further lettering is often an aspect that is not looked upon and is usually only mentioned when it is done exceptionally well or exceptionally badly. In The Castle is the former. The letters have a creepy feel to them building to this sense of struggle that K has to deal with. What is more, sometimes the castle is referred to by a simple drawing of a castle in the word balloon. This adds great effect to the scene as the reader automatically realises that the castle is a place that many might be frightened of but at the same extent it is a place that is where the powerful stay.

Overall The Castle is a highly entreating, surreal journey through modernism. Mairowitz, Jaromir 99 and Self Made Hero have made me a fan of Kafka and therefore they have done their job, making me want to go back and read The Trial. Highly recommended for anyone who is interested in social commentary and a surreal take on modern life.

Find out more about Self Made Hero 

GS Rating: 4/5

GS Reporter: Luke Halsall

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