Zischler, Hanns 1947-

views updated

ZISCHLER, Hanns 1947-

PERSONAL: Born 1947, in Nuremburg, Germany.

ADDRESSES: Home—Berlin, Germany. Agent—c/o Author Mail, University of Chicago Press, 1427 East 60th St., Chicago, IL 60637.

CAREER: Actor, theater and television director, and writer. Cofounder, Merve and Alpheus Publishers.


Kafka Geht ins Kino, Rowohlt (Reinbek bei Hamburg, Germany), 1996, translation by Susan Gillespie published as Kafka Goes to the Movies, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 2002.

Also author of Day Trips, 1993, and You Can't Judge a Book by Its Cover, 1995.

SIDELIGHTS: While working on a TV film about Franz Kafka, Hanns Zischler discovered that the acclaimed writer's diaries contained references to the cinema. Determined to discover what the movies meant to Kafka, Zischler studied film schedules, correspondence, and other artifacts to arrive at an understanding of the writer's tastes in cinema. Kafka Goes to the Movies, according to Library Journal reviewer Carol J. Binkowski, not only shows how cinema influenced Kafka's work, but also presents a "fine look at a fascinating era of cinematic history."

Critics noted the surprising fact that Kafka's tastes in film ran to "trashy" works such as The White Slave Girl, The Heartbreaker, and Slaves of Gold. Indeed, New York Times Book Review critic James Poniewozik found this so amusingly incongruous that he suggested, "The book is nearly worth it for that image alone: Franz Kafka, chronicler of alienation and dread, in Prague's darkened Kinematographen Theater laughing his head off at 'Dude, Where's My Prisoner?'"

Yet Poniewozik noted that, for all his fascinating research, "Zischler has found little evidence as to whether the movies influenced Kafka's fiction." The critic went on to observe that, in the end, "Zischler concedes that in Kafka's work 'cinematography is not thematized either as a technique or as an image; it remains oddly excluded, as if Kafka, in distinct contrast to many writers of his generation, doubted its ability to be turned into literature.'"

For most critics, however, Kafka Goes to the Movies remained a well-researched and engaging study. Joanna Griffiths in the Observer described it as "delightful," and Poniewozik called it "a charmingly eccentric" book that "offers illuminating details about Kafka as a man of his time, trying to escape through entertainment and trying to move from a 19th-to a 20th-century mode of seeing." Los Angeles Times critic Richard Schickel, acknowledging that Zischler "makes too much of what little Kafka had to say on this topic," nevertheless found the book "curiously seductive." He wrote that the book offers a portrait "not of a cinephile but of an intelligence, an oddly determined sensibility, emerging from the conventions and distractions of ordinary middle-class, middle-European life, beginning its immortal assertions against the conventions and distractions of ordinary literary life. Watching Kafka emerge . . . is worth a thousand disquisitions on popcorn culture."



Library Journal, October 15, 2002, Carol J. Binkowski, review of Kafka Goes to the Movies, p. 76.

Los Angeles Times, November 10, 2002, Richard Schickel, review of Kafka Goes to the Movies, p. R2.

New York Times Book Review, December 22, 2002, James Poniewozik, review of Kafka Goes to the Movies, p. 16.

Observer, February 16, 2003, Joanna Griffiths, review of Kafka Goes to the Movies.

Publishers Weekly, November 4, 2002, review of KafkaGoes to the Movies, p. 74.*