Monday, November 9, 2009

Graphic Novel Monday: The Metamorphosis, by Franz Kafka and adapted by Peter Kuper

The Metamorphosis, by Franz Kafka. Graphic adaptation by Peter Kuper. Published 2003 by Three Rivers Press.

Click here to buy The Metamorphosis from via I'm an IndieBound affiliate and receive a portion of the proceeds.

As I've said before, I'm not the biggest fan of graphic novels adapted from literary sources; I think it takes a combination of the right book and the right kind of adaptation to really make it work. Novel-length stories are difficult to adapt because by necessity, most of the narration and even most of the dialog has to come out in order for the graphic adaptation to be a readable length, but I think Peter Kuper hit it just right with his adaptation of Franz Kafka's classic The Metamorphosis, about the unfortunate Gregor Samsa, who awakens one day to find he's been transformed into a cockroach.

The story is rendered in beautiful, disturbing and at times chilling chiaroscuro- black on white and white on black, with varied lettering, varied panels. Much of the narration is rendered in a typeface-like script; the lettering changes depending on the emotional content of what's being communicated, and the panels can go from a tiny, claustrophobic closeup to a two-page nightmare dreamscape. Sometimes the pictures take on the shape of bodies or objects, especially at moments of heightened emotion. I loved how Kuper really makes the reader engage with the art and makes the art so central to the storytelling. As they say, it's not just the medium- it's the message.

The fantastical story and adult themes all render the book suitable for older teens and adults. (I think when it comes to literary adaptation in general, if the source material isn't suitable for young children, the adaptation won't be, either.) I really admire the way the artwork and storytelling work together in The Metamorphosis to create a surreal, violent and haunting world. It's a great little book for fans of graphic novels and classic literature alike.

Rating: BUY

FTC Disclosure: I did not receive this review for review from the publisher.