‘Kafka’s Wound’ is an innovative project that pushes the boundaries of the traditional literary essay. Commissioned by London Review of Books for The Space – the new digital arts platform developed by the Arts Council in partnership with the BBC, it asks whether a line of text can be enhanced in new ways, without losing the impetus and coherence of the reading experience.
Taking in other texts, video and audio material, pictures and photographs, Kafka’s Wound aims to create a reading experience that is multidimensional yet still coherent – a daring concept and the LRB are refreshingly open to all judgements on its success. Energetic and positive, or confusing and fragmentary, the reader will decide.
The main ‘essay’ was written by novelist and essayist Will Self, provoked by his reading of Franz Kafka’s short story ‘A Country Doctor’. However, over 70 other contributors researched or created the additional content.
In his role as Professor of Contemporary Thought at Brunel University, Self challenged staff and students to produce creative digital responses to the Kafka story. This inspired music, animations, films and texts discoverable through multiple routes in the essay. Readings, interviews, translations and debates, as well as documentary videos about the essay-making process have been interwoven, allowing readers a unique insight into the writer’s intellectual journey. The whole process took fourteen weeks.