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Twisted Spoon Press

PO Box 21 - Preslova 12, 150 00 Prague 5, Czech Republic

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series: image to word #6

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also by the author:
A User’s Manual

  responses  •  kafka’s prague

by Jiří Kolář

translated from the Czech by Ryan Scott

Kafka translations by Kevin Blahut

artwork by the author

Written and compiled in the 1970s but facing virtually no prospect of being published in communist Czechoslovakia,
“Responses” and “Kafka’s Prague” first appeared together in 1984 with the exile publishing house Index based in Cologne, Germany. The text discusses Kolář’s influences and his wide variety of collage techniques as well as his views on art and literature in general. “Kafka’s Prague” is a series of color crumplages of Prague’s buildings, streets, squares, and gardens accompanied by short extracts from Franz Kafka’s work, which was likewise banned by the regime, as a sort of homage to the city whose artistic vitality was being snuffed out by communist repression. Taken together, the result is a fascinating document akin to an artist’s book that captures Kolář’s creative flux at a particular moment in time.

Crumplage is a technique developed by Kolář in which a
sheet of paper or reproduction is crumpled at random and then flattened out and pasted onto a backing, creating a deformation of the original image or a new image. As he explained it in his Dictionary of Methods: “Crumplage washed over me on a huge wave of gesturalism during a period when the graphic artist Vladimír Boudník was running his marathon in Bohemia fueled to the hilt by Explosionalism and structural prints. The first crumplages I made were monochrome, either white or black. Anyone can crumple wet paper, and if that doesn’t work, all you need to do is toss a few magazine pages onto the sidewalk in the rain. The rain and the trampling of passersby or the tires of cars will do the trick. Believe me,
I’ve tried this many times, and Boudník was the only one
who didn’t thumb his nose at me. This didn’t surprise me.
He was one of the very few who knew how to read a picture
in creases, on walls, etc. ... The analogies to events in life and explosions of fate, which can ‘crumple’ a person so suddenly and profoundly that the consequences of such an inner tornado can never be smoothed or straightened out, convinced me that this technique of mine was indeed
useful for gaining insight.”


It all makes for a quite fascinating double-work, Responses • Kafka's Prague offering insight into a remarkable artist as well as a striking set of examples of his visual work. The Twisted Spoon Press edition is, like all their books, a beautiful volume, too – this is a lovely book.

— M.A. Orthofer, The Complete Review

Putting the two halves of the book together, one could say that Responses introduces the reader to a theory of poetry and art in interaction, at least insofar as anything like a theory can be abstracted from Kolář’s fragmented commentary. Subsequently, in Kafka’s Prague, we are offered the chance to see that theory put into practice by a master practitioner using one of his favourite techniques. The book as a whole seems to invite its readers to judge for themselves not just how effective such juxtaposition of word and image may be but also what kind of effects it might generate when transposed into a different cultural context.

— Alena Dvořáková, Dublin Review of Books

”Kafka’s Prague” is an entertaining and thought-provoking sequence, with deconstructed and re-imagined buildings, reproduced in full colour, opposite brief and elusive fragments from Kafka, often to do with death, dreams and confusion. But it is “Responses” that has enthralled me.

— Rupert Loydell, Tears In the Fence

It has a thoughtful, conversational, musing-out-loud sort of feel and a sense of direction that is not explicit or artificial but gives the work a natural flow. From the outset, Kolář makes it clear that he sees art as part of the “general drive toward universal knowledge” and as such there can be nothing extrinsically new that is not a departure from that which is already innate to the practice. Art and literature are disciplines that do not create anything new so much as they create new ways of looking at (and using) what is already there, a “special type of perception.”


This is to be recommended for admirers of A User’s Manual, Kolář’s jaunty set of suggestions for artistic procedures, brought out in English by the same publisher and translator in 2019.

— Michael Caines, TLS

In extending the techniques and topics of the past to match the contingencies and urgencies of the present Kolář felt as if neither images nor words by themselves was enough [...] One of those methods – “crumplage” (crumple + collage) — involved taking found images from books and newspapers and altering them. The impulse for this was beyond producing Dadaist or Surrealist pictures but was intended to convey senses of loss and beginnings.

— Tom Bowden, Book Beat


ISBN 9788086264578
133 pp., 17 x 20 cm
smyth-sewn softcover
with flaps
34 color plates
prose : art : literature

release dates:
Europe: July 2021
UK: Sept. 13, 2021
US: Nov. 22, 2021

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