The Metamorphosis

By

Published June 7, 2011

 

When Pantheon Books art director Peter Mendelsund redesigned the Franz Kafka backlist and posted the cover art on his personal blog earlier this year, the most enthusiastic feedback wasn’t from the literati. It was from teenagers. “There’s this disenfranchised rock-god aspect to Kafka,” explains Mendelsund. “He’s a countercultural hero.” This June, the first four of eight titles will be available in unusually high-spirited packaging influenced more by non-representational designers like legendary mid-century book-jacket man Alvin Lustig—whose 1946 Amerika was an inspiration—than the standard insectile Kafka treatment done in a black-and-red Soviet color palette. Mendelsund, who has already given canonical works by Nabokov, Foucault, and Tolstoy a facelift, wanted to reframe the author’s legacy of gloomy existentialism. “I just find him really funny,” Mendelsund says. “He isn’t George Orwell.”