Franz Kafka: The Drawings

George Prochnik at Literary Review:

Wispy, thick, swirled and streaking, the dark lines burst outward, racing or splintering. The strongest impression one is left with while paging through this exquisitely produced volume of Kafka’s complete drawings is of minimally delineated figures in states of maximally dramatised unrest.

In two of the early single-page sketches, the human subjects – one on foot, the other riding a horse – are reduced so entirely to curling and back-slanting flourishes that they resemble lines drawn to indicate wind or the displacement of air surrounding figures in motion rather than figures themselves. Even when Kafka’s subjects are depicted on chairs or penned within enclosures in positions ordinarily associated with stationary conditions, their poses are so dynamically strained as to inject the immobilised state with high kinetic tension. Here, movement and the repressed urge thereto appear as traces of a primal survival instinct. ‘Mount your attacker’s horse and ride it yourself,’ Kafka wrote in one frantic diary entry. ‘The only possibility. But what strength and skill that requires! And how late it is already!’

more here.