From the Buyer’s Desk: Klee, Kafka and Brecht

April 4, 2014 at 3:44 pm Leave a comment

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The past year has seen the release of several excellent monographs devoted to the work and pedagogy of the great Swiss-German painter Paul Klee. Paul Klee: Life and Work, produced by the Zentrum Paul Klee in Bern, features a broad swath of the artist’s work as well as photographs, documents and a biography that runs alongside the illustrations. Paul Klee: Making Visible (published by Thames and Hudson) accompanies the recent retrospective at the Tate Modern. Two other books focus on more specific aspects of Klee’s work: Paul Klee: The Angels and Paul Klee: Bauhaus Master (also produced by or in conjunction with the Zentrum Paul Klee). One of Paul Klee’s angels was, of course, the model for Benjamin’s Angel of History, but as powerful as Benjamin’s writing is, it doesn’t convey the magic and strangeness of Klee’s original images. Paul Klee: Bauhaus Master is to me the most exciting of these four titles because it brings together an extensive selection Klee’s Bauhaus lecture notes and examples from Klee’s work that illuminate his theoretical insights.

Also out this year is a new translation of Kafka’s Metamorphosis by Columbia Professor Susan Bernofsky (check out her blog at translationista.blogspot.com). Bernofsky garnered acclaim for her translations of Robert Walser and she brings to her Kafka translation a comparable vividness. The edition also features an afterword by Bernofsky and an introduction by the twentieth century’s other master of body-horror, filmmaker David Cronenberg.

Finally, April sees the release of Stephen Parker’s Bertolt Brecht: A Literary Life (Bloomsbury), the first biography of the playwright in twenty years. By all accounts (http://www.literaryreview.co.uk/sassoon_04_14.php for example), Parker’s work is both masterful and unflinching—portraying Brecht’s conflicted relationships with the women in his life, his misery during his American exile, and his less than welcome return to East Germany after the war’s end. More Brecht books are on the way: In August, Methuen Drama releases a new translation of Brecht’s adaptations for the Berliner Ensemble (including his Marxist re-workings of Shakespeare’s Coriolanus and Moliere’s Don Juan) and November will see a translation of Brecht’s love poems by Goethe translator David Constantine.

From the Buyer’s Desk is a new feature of the Book Culture Blog. Expect more posts from us over the coming weeks.

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