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Translating Kafka: A Panel Discussion with Susan Bernofsky, Jay Cantor, Glenn Kurtz, and Peter Mendelsund

Friday, January 31, 2014, 6:30 p.m.

Deutsches Haus at NYU


Few writers' works are as self-contained--or as all-consuming--as the literary world created by Franz Kafka. Perhaps for that reason, compelling descriptions and interpretations of Kafka have been rare. Translating Kafka addresses the challenges of grasping Kafka in a variety of different media: in English translation, in graphic artwork, and in fiction.

Susan Bernofsky: Susan Bernofsky directs the literary translation program at the Columbia University School of the Arts. Her translations include seven works of fiction by the great Swiss-German modernist author Robert Walser, as well as novels and poetry by Jenny Erpenbeck, Yoko Tawada, Gregor von Rezzori, Uljana Wolf and others. She chairs the PEN Translation Committee and is co-editor (with Esther Allen) of the 2013 Columbia University Press anthology In Translation: Translators on Their Work and What It Means. She received the 2006 Helen and Kurt Wolff Translation Prize and the 2012 Calw Hermann Hesse Translation Prize as well as awards and fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies, the PEN Translation Fund, the NEA, the NEH, the Leon Levy Center for Biography and the Lannan Foundation. Her translation of Jeremias Gotthelf's classic tale of horror, The Black Spider, was published in October 2013 by New York Review Books Classics, and her new translation of Kafka’s Metamorphosis is forthcoming from Norton in January 2014. Her afterward to "The Metamorphosis" was just posted on the New Yorker's blog. She writes about translation at

Jay Cantor: Jay Cantor is the author of three novels, The Death of Che Guevara, Krazy Kat, and Great Neck, a book of stories, Forgiving the Angel,  two books of essays, The Space Between: Literature and Politics and On Giving Birth to One’s Own Mother, and a graphic novel Aaron and Ahmed (with James Romberger). A MacArthur Prize Fellow, Cantor teaches at Tufts University.

Glenn Kurtz (moderator): Glenn Kurtz is the author of Practicing: A Musician's Return to Music, which received enthusiastic reviews in the New York Times, the Los Angels Times, The Wall Street Journal, and many other publications. His second book, Three Minutes in Poland: Discovering a Lost World in a 1938 Home Movie, is forthcoming in 2014 from Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. He is the host of “Conversations on Practice,” a discussion series about writing and the writer’s life, held at McNally-Jackson Bookstore in New York City, where guests have included Patti Smith, Jennifer Egan, Tom McCarthy, Francine Prose, and many others. He is a graduate of the New England Conservatory, Tufts University, and holds a PhD from Stanford University. More information is at his

Peter Mendelsund is the Associate Art Director of Alfred A. Knopf Books, the Art Director of Pantheon Books, and a recovering classical pianist. His designs have been described by The Wall Street Journal as being “the most instantly recognizable and iconic book covers in contemporary fiction.” His book on the phenomenology of reading, What We See When We Read comes out August 2014 from Vintage Books; a book of his design work and design writing, Cover, comes out August 2014 from Powerhouse Books.
His writing on literature, design and other matters can be found on his blog:

Events at Deutsches Haus are free of charge. Please let us know which event you would like to attend by sending us an email to Space at Deutsches Haus is limited, please arrive ten minutes prior to the event. Thank you!

Books by Susan Bernofsky and Jay Cantor will be available for sale by mcnallyjackson.

Translating Kafka is a DAAD-sponsored event.