Kafka, Redesigned and Reconsidered by Peter Mendelsund

Kafka Redesigned by Peter Mendelsund

Kafka Redesigned by Peter Mendelsund

Kafka Redesigned by Peter Mendelsund

I figure with The Great Gatsby Re-Covered Project coming to an end on Friday it makes sense to feature another redesign for a major author, Franz Kafka. Peter Menelsund is art director at the book publishing company Knopf, who also own the rights to all of Kafka’s novels. Technically these are being released by Pantheon, a subsidiary of Knopf Double Day, which Menelsund is also taking over art directing duties on. Anyhow, he’s had the chance to redesign all of Kafka’s novels and I think they look stunning. Eye-catching, if you don’t mind the horrible pun. Here’s what he has to say about the designs:

So, as you can see, I’ve gone with eyes here (not the first or last time I will use an eye as a device on a jacket-book covers are, after all, faces, both literally and figuratively, of the books they wrap). I find eyes, taken in the singular, create intimacy, and in the plural instill paranoia. This seemed a good combo for Kafka- who is so very adept at the portrayal of the individual, as well as the portrayal of the persecution of the individual.

I also opted for color. It needs saying that Kafka’s books are, among other things, funny, sentimental, and in their own way, yea-saying. I am so weary of the serious Kafka, the pessimist Kafka. Kafkaesque has become synonymous with the machinations of anonymous bureaucracy- but, of course, Kafka was a satirist (ironist, exaggerator) of the bureaucratic, and not an organ of it. Because of this mischaracterization, Kafka’s books have a tendency to be jacketed in either black, or in some combination of colors I associate with socialist realism, constructivism, or fascism- i.e. black, beige and red. Part of the purpose of this project for me, was to let some of the sunlight back in. In any case, hopefully these colors, though bright, are not without tension.

The typography. The script is an amalgam of Kafka’s own hand, and a wonderfully versatile typeface called “Mister K” (based on Kafka’s own hand) by Julia Sysmäläine who works at Edenspiekermann in Berlin.

These editions should be available, in June or July, so be sure to keep your eyes peeled (sorry, I couldn’t resist.)


January 26, 2011