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Entering New York harbor, the young immigrant Karl Rossmann sees the Statue of Liberty, "her arm with the sword stretched upward." This forbidding introduction sets the tone for Kafka's narrative about an innocent European astray in an ultra-modern America that is both a fantasy and an object of social satire. Full of incident and blackly humorous, Kafka's first novel portrays American civilization with horrified fascination, in a biting satire which gives fresh meaning to the term "Kafkaesque." Ritchie Robertson's sensitive and natural translation is both faithful to Kafka's style and highly readable. Moreover, this is the only edition to provide a full introduction and explanatory notes. The introduction explains why Kafka set the novel in America, a country he had never visited, what his sources of information were, and how he distorts his fictional America for satirical purposes. The notes incorporate the most recent Kafka scholarship to illuminate difficult parts of the text. In addition, a Biographical Preface provides an account of Kafka's life. The book also includes an up-to-date bibliography and a chronology.
Ritchie Robertson is Taylor Professor of German at Oxford University and co-director of the Oxford Kafka Research Center.