Pub Date: September 26, 2023

Author: Francis Levy

From Francis Levy, author of Seven Days in Rio, which The New York Times called “a fever dream of a novel,” comes The Kafka Studies Department, a highly original collection of short, parable-like stories infused with dark humor, intellect, and insight about the human condition. While the book’s style is deceptively simple and aphoristic, it carries a hallucinatory moral message. A prism of interconnected and intertwined tales, inspired by Kafka, the stories examine feckless central characters who are far from likable, but always recognizable and wildly human.

“Knowledge is not power, power is not power. Life is irrational or accidental or both. We drift victims, victimizers. A collection for our time.” —Joan Baum, NPR

“A collection of bleak and amusing literary short stories from Levy…A dark, sometimes funny, meditation on the absurd trials of life.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Francis Levy has an unhampered, endearingly maverick imagination—as if Donald Barthelme had met up with Maimonides and, together, they decided to write about the world as it appeared to them. These deceptively simple and parable-like stories are full of wily pleasures and irreverent wisdom about everything from the failure of insight to make anything happen, to the subtle gratifications of friendship, to the tragicomedy of eros.”Daphne Merkin, author of This Close to Happy and 22 Minutes of Unconditional Love

“Francis Levy’s fiction is knowing but never instructive. His characters inhabit a twilight zone where the lines blur between dream and waking, familiar and surreal, inevitability and surprise.  These short takes, snapshots of feelings-in-flight, of moments still being formed, build an irresistible magic. I found myself enchanted.” —Rocco Landesman, Broadway producer and former Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts

 “The Kafka Studies Department is not about academia. It’s about anomie, and how complicated it is to figure out what’s really going on with people. Of course (since it’s Levy) it’s about sex. Kafka’s shadow is everywhere as Levy’s characters stumble their way through their compromised lives. The interlinked stories leap across time and context, in satisfying and sometimes hilariously poetic ways.” —David Kirkpatrick, journalist and author of The Facebook Effect

“A startling collection of thirty literary gems deftly illustrated by Hallie Cohen into dreamy sketches, which perfectly suit the tone of the work. Initially it seems like these stories are fed into a kind of a magical Kafka Cuisinart where they come out tightly sealed, hilariously ironic, and occasionally mysterious. On the surface they have the muted highbrow narrative of Wes Anderson movies. A closer look you’ll find they are actually far more nuanced and layered. To a lesser writer, they could easily bloat to ten times their size. This economy though, allows for the reader to reflect on each piece—many of which unravel as modern parables that have the makings of mini-masterpieces.” —Arthur Nersesian, author of The Five Books of Moses and The Fuck-Up