Kafka’s novella sells for $30,000

Kafka’s Die Verwandlung (The Metamorphosis)

Stealing this post from another site I often frequent- Abebooks released a list of the top ten most expensive books ordered on their site last month. Top of the list was a first edition of Franz Kafka’s Die Verwandlung, or The Metamorphosis, published in 1915, sold for $30,000. Looks like K. actually wins this time, or Gregor…

Here is the rest of the list ‘borrowed’ from: http://www.abebooks.com/books/RareBooks/franz-kafka-americans-frank/most-expensive-apr12.shtml

2. The Americans by Robert Frank – $11,745
First American edition, 1959, signed by Frank to a fellow photographer on the half-title page.

3. Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote – $7,500
First edition, price clipped but in near fine condition and signed by Capote.

4. The Works of Shakespeare by William Shakespeare – $6,215
Sir Thomas Hanmer (1677 – 1746), Speaker of the House of Commons, produced this edition of Shakespeare in his retirement in 1744.  This edition contains six volumes in total, with 36 full-page engraved plates (one for each play) plus an engraved portrait of Shakespeare as frontispiece.

5. De West-Indische Gids by H.D. Benjamins – $5,265
33 volumes of the West Indian Guide series (lacks volumes 35, 36, 38 and 39) written by Surinamese mathematician and physicist Herman Daniël Benjamins.

6. The History of the Rise, Progress, and Accomplishment of the Abolition of the African Slave-Trade by the British Parliament by Thomas Clarkson – $5,068
First edition, in two volumes, published in 1808 complete with plates, two folding, including the famous illustration of the layout of human cargo on a slave ship.

7. The Worst Journey in the World by Apsley Cherry-Garrard – $4,950
The story of the 1910-1913 Antarctic expedition – a first edition in two volumes, including 73 panoramas, maps and illustrations, including the 10 original folding plates issued only in the first edition, by Dr. Edward A. Wilson and other members of the expedition.

Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
Nineteen Eighty-Four
by George Orwell

8. Memoirs of the Life of John Constable, Esq. R.A. composed chiefly of his letters by C.R. Leslie, et al – $4,887
First edition of the first book printed on the English romantic painter, one of 186 copies. The work set a new standard for an artist biography written in English, demonstrating Constable’s neglected genius to a previously uninterested public through his own words.

9. View of the Hebrews by Ethan Smith – $4,200
This first edition, published in 1823, argues that native Americans were descended from the Hebrews. Numerous commentators on Mormon doctrine, from LDS Church general authority B. H. Roberts to biographer Fawn M. Brodie, have discussed the possibility that View of the Hebrews may have provided source material for the Book of Mormon, although it should be noted that Ethan is of no relation to Joseph Smith.

10. Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell – $3,975
A signed first edition, first printing of this dystopian classic, with a maroon dust wrapper, published by Secker and Warburgh in 1949, and twice signed by Sir John Hurt (the actor who starred in the film adaptation with Richard Burton) on the title page as himself, as well as his character ‘Winston Smith’. 

For those bibliophiles who frequent Melbourne, Kay Craddock Books specilises in selling rare and antiquated books. Located at the Paris end of Collins Sreet, Assembly Hall Building, 156 Collins St, it’s a great place to dig through for some golden oldies, or simply for forgotten authors. Melbourne is, after all, the second literary city after  Norwich.

Kay Craddock Books on the Paris end of Collins Steet



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3 responses to “Kafka’s novella sells for $30,000

  1. “The Metamorphosis” is probably one of the most perfect works of fiction ever written, hands-down, and a damn shame that K didn’t live to see the sustained impact he would have on literature.

    Here’s a little flash-fic piece I wrote in 2008 for a series called ‘Writers at the Shore’ about poor old Franz.

    “Kafka at the Black Sea”

    It was a wonder to behold, the world’s most isolated sea, connected to the brooding Atlantic Ocean via the Mediterranean Sea through the Bosphorus, Dardenalle and Gibraltar Straits.

    In spite of the vast beauty to behold before his eyes, Kafka felt a migraine emerging. He had tried to counteract these miserable attacks through a regimen of naturopathic treatments: a strict vegetarian diet and consuming vast quantitities of unpasteurized milk. But still the spells and the tormenting pain persisted.

    Kafka stretched an old checkerboard quilt over the moist soil and knelt into it among the tall reeds and sea grass without a care for the cold wetness seeping through the knees of his trousers. He appeared as a penitent before an altar, eyes cast in solemn and holy reflection upon the sea. He blindly fumbled in the picnic basket — the one that Helga had packed for him — and wrestled free a sandwich wrapped in the front page of that morning’s Prague Post. He bit into the sandwich that had been haphazardly constructed over two slices of arid and thick brown bread. Tart liverwurst. Lifeless lettuce with the distinct taste of mold. A few scab-encrusted scrapings of hot mustard from the bottom of the jar he bought last year in Berlin. And there was pickled cucumber, also carefully encased in a page from the morning paper, the crisp vegetable dry and stripped of all vitality by the suffocating ink of the newsprint that brought a foul chemical smell to his red and inflamed nostrils.

    Kafka closed his dry eyes, made a feeble attempt at meditating upon the waves as they embraced the shore, and bit into the sandwich with utmost caution. As his cavity-ravaged teeth chewed and gnawed at the repulsive item delivered for their mastication, forcing the contents down his dry throat and into his troubled stomach for no other reason than to sustain his life another intolerable day, a feeling of dread swept over him. A dark, creeping dread, the kind of primal fear that every quivering child acquires of The Thing most certainly lurking under the bed at night.

    Someone, Kafka knew, was watching him. They were watching his every move.
    And Helga was trying to poison him.

    • That sense of dread you’ve written perfectly captures the idiosyncratic feeling of inevitable doom in most of Kafka’s works.

      I have always been fascinated by Kafka’s influence, and I don’t just mean in works like Murukami’s “Kafka on the Shore”. There are a couple of interesting works that I’ve read recently that deal explicitly with Kafka: “Kafka Americana” by Jonathan Lethem and Carter Scholz, an interesting work of literary ventriloquism in which K. becomes a screenwriter in LA, amongst other bizarre scenarios. There’s also “Kafkaesque”, a collection of stories influenced by Kafka or which adopt his style, including writers such as Philip Roth, Jorge Luis Borges and J.G. Ballard.

      It’s hard to pick a favourite of his works, though I did like “The Castle”. That it is unfinished, and that it stops mid-sentence makes me wonder whether the makers of the Sopranos were influenced by it…
      I’m just over halfway through his “Diaries 1910-1923”, and I’m enjoying them very much, though I feel conflicted reading them as they were to be burned at Kafka’s behest along with his other works. His is one of the more intriguing diaries of famous authors I’ve read, which should go without saying.

      I also read a great literary ventriloquist work by Mark Crick called “Kafka’s Soup”, which is actually a small recipe book that uses famous literary styles and prose to write recipes by famous authors. Among them are Graham Greene’s Vietnamese Chicken, Marcel Proust’s Tiramisu, Lamb with Dill Sauce à La Raymond Chandler, and of course Kafka’s Soup- where a character called K. all of a sudden realises he has to cook for impolite strangers in his living room, detailing how finely he is dicing the onions while pondering the motive of his ‘friends’ in the other room. I’d like to think K. would have thought it funny. I read that he couldn’t stop laughing when giving his first reading of “The Trial” to friends.

  2. Reblogged this on The Brimmer Files and commented:
    Also read my flash fiction piece in the comments. Siobhan runs a nice lit blog here from Down Under and is a former student of my colleague Matthew Asprey.

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