Tag Archive: Franz Kafka

UNKNOWN PLEASURES by Peter Hook (Simon & Schuster, 2012)

joyPop-pickers of a certain age and diehard hipsters out there surely won’t have missed that the title of yesterday’s post on Ricky Gervais’ ‘Afterlife’ featured a quote from the Joy Division song ‘Heart And Soul’.

This track, from their second and final album ‘Closer’, includes the tortured lines: “Existence, well what does it matter? I exist on the best terms I can. The past is now part of my future. The present is well out of hand”.

Anyone pausing to reflect on such lyrics would probably conclude that the author was either a) deeply troubled or (b) that he had been reading a little too much outsider fiction. Both of these were true of the band’s tortured lead singer Ian Curtis who hung himself on 18th May, 1980. Continue reading

LANARK by Alasdair Gray (Canongate, 1981)


If anybody denies that Lanark is a work of genius, that man or woman is not be trusted. If that same person says that it is a work of madness, you might concede that he or she has a point.

It is, by now,  common knowledge that the line between the two concepts – genius and madness – is a fine one. Navigating life can be defined in terms of such a fine line. Imagine a tightrope walker moving between two points without the security or consolation of a safety net. On false step could prove fatal and the safest option of all is not to start the walk from point A to point B in the first place.

Fortunately, enough humans have an inbuilt drive to do things that  have not been done before.  Convention tends to stifle such urges but the risk takers and iconoclasts of this world may embark on journeys that no-one has contemplated.

Lanark is such a journey. It was written over the course of 25 years and eventually published in 1981 when Gray was 47. It is a work of diversity and perversity and is to Glasgow, Scotland what Jame’s Joyce’s Ulysses is to Dublin, Ireland. Continue reading

ERASERHEAD directed by David Lynch (USA,1977)

Seeing Eraserhead in a small arts cinema in Birmingham soon after its UK release was a kind of epiphany. Everything I thought I knew about movies suddenly had to be reimagined.

Here were images that defied logic yet were recognisable as the world I had read in the stories of Franz Kafka or seen in the surrealistic paintings of Max Ernst.

The low-budget horror sequences were at once comical yet hideously grotesque. The creation of mood through Alan Splet’s extraordinary analogue sound design was like nothing I’d heard before.

Watching it again in a brilliantly restored DVD version is a different experience because now there are so many more points of reference. Body horror is a recognized sub-genre and we can refer to images as Lynchian to give a context which was entirely absent in 1977.

Yet even from this more knowing perspective, you will struggle to explain what connects a black planet in space, a man pulling levers in a shack, a singing lady in the radiator, worm-like fetuses or a severed head being turned into pencil erasers?

 With typical perversity David Lynch says Eraserhead is the most spiritual of all his films yet this is a secular, nightmarish world that, for all its absurdity, many will still find sick and horrifying.

It remains totally unique and stands as one of the most terrifying movies in the history of cinema.


This might come in handy on the Tardis - Peter Capaldi with his Oscar statuette

This might come in handy on the Tardis – Peter Capaldi with his Oscar statuette

Before he was sharp-tongued media adviser Malcolm Tucker in BBC’s The Thick Of It and, more recently, being transformed into a gigantic (in global marketing terms) time lord as the new Dr Who, Peter Capaldi won the Oscar in 1995 for a quirky short film he wrote and directed called Franz Kafka’s It’s Wonderful Life.

This is one of a virtual treasure trove of 550 free movie listed on the Open Culture website.

Gregor Samsa post metamorphosis

In the film, we find K (Richard E. Grant) struggling to overcome writer’s block while writing the famous opening to his short story Metamorphosis.

He is distracted by a knife salesman searching for his pet cockroach and by the noise from a party downstairs attended by a group of young women who look like extras from Picnic At Hanging Rock.

Like Frank Capra’s feel good Christmas caper, it all ends happily as Kafka gets his inspiration and wins some new friends in the process (“call me F”).

Just like Kafka’s life it is dark, strange, surreal, satirical and short.


Aki Kaurismäki is Finland’s answer to Jim Jarmusch so you know in advance that his movies won’t be action packed. His latest movie Le Havre is plot driven but events unfold in a slow, unhurried fashion and it is full of enigmatic characters who never explain their actions.

A woman who thinks she is terminally ill lies in hospital and a friend reads her to sleep with a Franz Kafka story. A man named Marcel Marx has artistic aspirations but  is reduced to earning his living shining shoes near Le Havre station. Marx witnesses the shooting of recent customer in the first scene and expresses relief that the man paid first. Later he and his neighbours help a young illegal immigrant boy who has been separated from his family and is on the run from the police.

Le Havre is billed as a comedy but there are no laugh out loud moments and any humour here is black and deadpan, Finnish people are not renowned for being gregarious and Aki Kaurismäki does nothing to change the national stereotype.  The dialogue is sparse and wooden. “I’m home” says the husband; “I can see that”, says his wife. Neither of them smile. Continue reading

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