Kafka’s ape on stage

This video says about itself:

Kafka’s Monkey trailer

3 June 2015

This sell-out production features an extraordinarily physical performance from Olivier Award-winner Kathryn Hunter as a chimp who assimilates human behaviour to become a master of the ‘civilised world’ – a walking, talking, spitting, smoking, hard-drinking man of the stage.

Kafka‘s Monkey runs until Sat 27 June.

By Paul Foley in England:

The beast in man

Tuesday 23rd June 2015

Kafka’s Monkey has some discomfiting things to say about our attitudes to the animal world, says PAUL FOLEY

Kafka’s Monkey

HOME, Manchester


ADAPTED by Colin Teevan, this play is based on Franz Kafka’s intriguing short story A Report to an Academy, where a domesticated ape — Red Peter, so named because of the scar he received when shot by hunters — is invited to give a lecture to the esteemed members of the institution.

He describes his journey from a captive beast to a human with the “average education of a European” and how, once captured, he comes to realise he has two options — a zoo or the circus. The first is merely swapping one cage for another and, while the circus may appear to offer some kind of escape, he has no illusions that this represents liberty. “People all too often are deceived by freedom,” he says.

Professing satisfaction at what he has attained, he will not countenance regret. Yet the sorrow in his eyes tells a different story, one in which there is a real sense of loss for a culture and an identity as an ape in the wild.

This is an engrossing hour-long discourse on the meaning of captivity, freedom, migration and whether assimilating into a host culture can be an escape or merely a different type of shackle.

Kathryn Hunter is extraordinary as the ape. Her physicality and flexibility are breathtaking as she lumbers across the stage in a shabby top hat and tails, playfully interacting with her audience. Astonishment and fascination at her performance slowly give way to discomfort and sadness at the realisation that it is we, humanity, who stand accused.

Audiences across the world have reacted very differently to the play. In Australia, comparisons have been made with the plight of the Aboriginal people, while in New York a Jewish audience believed that Kafka was talking about them. That’s hardly surprising, since Kafka’s Monkey speaks to a world that turns its back on desperate people who risk their lives in overcrowded, leaky boats merely to swap poverty and war for hostility and incarceration in inhumane prison camps. In making us reflect on those parallels, Hunter’s wonderfully humane performance is a must-see.

Runs until June 27, box office: homemcr.org.

Court rules: Kafka’s papers belong in Israel’s National Library. Judges say Eva Hoffe has been holding the papers she inherited from her mother, Max Brod’s secretary, illegally and ordered her to transfer them to the National Library: here.

Kafka papers will be published

This is a video of The Trial by Franz Kafka.

From British daily The Guardian:

Franz Kafka papers should be made public, Israeli judge rules

Czech author’s unpublished works, reportedly including handwritten short story, to be revealed for first time

* Kate Connolly in Berlin
* Wednesday 21 July 2010 15.05 BST

An Israeli judge overseeing a battle over papers once belonging to Franz Kafka has ruled that details of the documents should be made public, the Guardian has learned.

The literary world now faces the prospect of previously unpublished works emerging from boxes containing manuscripts, letters and journals written by the Czech author and his adviser and friend Max Brod. According to the daily Haaretz, the items include a handwritten short story by Kafka that has never been seen by the public before. More boxes had yet to be opened, it said.

Brod’s daughters had sought a gagging order over the documents, arguing that their dignity and privacy was threatened if the contents were unsealed.

If we look at the conclusion of this article, and at the Haaretz article, then Ms Hoffe and Ms Wisler are not the daughters of Max Brod, but of Mr Brod’s secretary.

But Talia Koppelman, a judge at Tel Aviv family court, rejected the legal move by Eva Hoffe and Ruti Wisler.

Following Koppelman’s ruling, details of the papers stored in Tel Aviv and Zurich are now due to be published. The decision is a victory for Israel’s national library and for Kafka scholars around the world, who had long pressed to find out what was contained in the boxes.

In a statement today, the library said the ruling was in compliance with Brod’s will. It said it was “pleased that at long last Dr Max Brod’s last known will is beginning to be executed”.

Kafka asked Brod to destroy the papers after his death. But Brod defied his wish, taking them with him to Israel in 1939. They were inherited by his secretary after his death, who then passed them on to her daughters.

Eduard Goldstucker, a champion of Franz Kafka and the first Czechoslovak ambassador to Israel, died recently in Prague at the age of 87: here.

Ode to Franz Kafka – The Castle: here.

Kafka’s Penal Colony on stage

This video says about itself:

Franz Kafka‘s In the Penal Colony

A dramatic short film (13 minutes) offering a faithful adaptation of Kafka’s famous story.

A lone officer in a deteriorating penal colony tries to convince a visitor of the importance of his execution machine. As he prepares to put a prisoner to death, he wanes nostalgic for the old ways of the colony, and tries to enlist the visitor to help in his cause to make the colony the resplendent place it once was. The visitor, he sees, is his last hope for salvation.

As I have said, immediately after the first one of two plays based on Franz Kafka short stories had finished in Ghent, Belgium, the second one started.

It was In the Penal Colony. Its theme is torture, the death penalty, and other human rights violations by authorities.

It is set on an island, not in Europe. Kafka, writing the original short story in 1914, probably thought about the infamous Devil’s Island near French Guiana. Where Jewish French officer Dreyfus had been banished to unjustly (more on the Dreyfus affair here). Also, later, the inspiration for the well known “Papillon” autobiography by Henri Charrière.

In an interview with Bart Meuleman, who translated In the Penal Colony into Dutch to make a play out of it, Meuleman said: “We want to establish a relationship of Kafka’s work with the world of today”. Today, people may think of places like Guantanamo Bay in Cuba with its United States prisons. On an island, like Kafka’s fictive colony. Like in Kafka, Guantanamo prisoners are tortured and do not get fair trials. A difference is that most Guantanamo prisoners were never accused of any crime at all. While in Kafka’s story and the play performed in Ghent, prisoners are accused and do get trials. However, in these trials, the accused are automatically assumed to be guilty, and do not have the right to defend themselves. They also never hear what they have been accused of, and what their sentence was.

At least until they are subjected to a complex torture and death penalty instrument, which kills them slowly, taking twelve hours. The machine writes what they are accused of on their backs.

Another parallel with Guantanamo (I am not sure whether the Belgians who made this play intended it), is that the old commander of the penal colony and inventor of this horrible way to kill prisoners has died. The new commander does not really like the torture instrument. Still, he has not yet ordered the officer who is the military judge to stop it, being too hesitant for that. One is reminded of new United States President Barack Obama, who before and after his election promised to close down the Guantanamo Bay torture camp of his predecessor George W. Bush, and to stop torture, but who still has achieved neither of those two things.

Neither the old commander nor his successor have roles in the play. The two main roles are the officer-military judge and an outsider, “the explorer”. Two more minor roles are for a soldier who helps the officer with executions, and another soldier, condemned to death for subordination (without knowing that, as usually in the penal colony).

Most of the dialogue in the play is by the officer, who thinks that the explorer may be a tool of the new commander to abolish his beloved death penalty system. He tries to get the explorer on his side, but gets hardly any reaction from that outsider. After the explorer finally says he opposes the execution machine, the officer commits suicide on it.

Another play based on this Kafka story: here.

President Obama’s hopes of closing Guantánamo, which were already gravely wounded by his inability to meet his self-imposed deadline of a year for the prison’s closure, now appear to have been killed off by lawmakers in Congress: here.

Tuesday will see a demonstration outside parliament calling for the release of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident still held in Guantanamo: here.

Human rights activists have stepped up their campaign to secure the release of a British resident who has been held in Guantanamo Bay for more than eight years by lobbying the US government: here.

Guantanamo Prosecutor Faces Retaliation for Testimony Exposing Constitutional Violations: here.

“Who Are the Guantanamo Prisoners Released in Cape Verde, Latvia and Spain?” – 176 prisoners now remain: here.

World Without Torture: here.

Britain: Amnesty International UK has told the coalition government that it must live up to its pre-election pledges to end Britain’s shameful role in human rights abuses: here.

UK STILL IMPICATED IN TORTURE – charges Amnesty report: here.

Ten Infamous Islands of Exile: here.

Another play based on Kafka: here.

A “Lieutenant Kafka” was a US soldier at Guantanamo (no, not a joke): here.

Chris Hedges | America’s Disappeared. Chris Hedges, Truthdig: “Tens of thousands of Americans are being held in super-maximum-security prisons where they are deprived of contact and psychologically destroyed. Undocumented workers are rounded up and vanish from their families for weeks or months. Militarized police units break down the doors of some 40,000 Americans a year and haul them away in the dead of night as if they were enemy combatants. Habeas corpus no longer exists. American citizens can ‘legally’ be assassinated”: here.