Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Metamorphosis

Graphic novel adaptations have tended to be the province of Classics Illustrated, but a growing trend has seen notable artists translate some of their favorite works into another medium. This adaptation of Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis is very faithful to the original novella (first published in 1915) about a traveling salesman who wakes up one morning and finds himself transformed into a giant insect. Protagonist Gregor Samsa's plight is traditionally seen as commentary on the modern condition of life. Trapped in a situation over which he has no control, he is forced into strained relations with his job, his family, and the narrowing world he lives in.

Peter Kuper, the artist who has adapted this work has long had an interest in political causes and drawing socially charged cartoons. He co-founded the political comix magazine World War 3 Illustrated in 1980 and has also adapted the muckraking classic The Jungle by Upton Sinclair. A successful commercial artist, Kuper also has published work in Time and Newsweek magazines and currently draws the Spy Vs. Spy feature in Mad Magazine.

The dark, blockish illustrations in The Metamorphosis reflect the bleak subject matter, and Kuper embellishes the actions and emotions in an extremely expressive manner. The black on each page dominates the small glimpses of white, and the whole book is composed of scratchboard images. Another feature that adds to the atmosphere of futility is that Kuper decided to portray Samsa as a roach, an image that is disputed by a number of translators.

The book has been generally well reviewed, as seen in this example from Lenora Todaro from The Village Voice. There are also a range of reviews available at Goodreads. More about Kuper's views and work can be seen in this interview with Erik Farseth.

Finally, an animated preview of the book is available online from Random House.

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