Someoneyouknow's Reviews > Kafka's Soup: A Complete History of World Literature in 14 Recipes

Kafka's Soup by Mark Crick
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's review
May 11, 2010

liked it

I was fascinated with the unusual format of this book, so I actually bought it (and I seldom do that). I think it takes a lot of talent to grasp the most important elements of different authors' writing styles and incorporate them into short receipt stories. Very unfortunately, of all the literary works imitated in this little book I only read "The Iliad" and an excerpt from Proust's "In Search of Lost Time". Perhaps that is the reason why I could connect with "The Iliad" remake easily and enjoyed it more than other receipts. I love how Crick makes fun of Greek Gods and makes Agamemnon and Achilles argue about who gets more meat! Crick really made this epic poem look light-hearted and funny.

Another funny story was the imitation of de Sade's "Justine". The beginning of this story is a short discourse on food ( the metaphors and epithets he uses in it are absolutely brilliant!) and then the author tells the story of Justine who barely managed to escape from the judge who intended to rape her. I applaud to Crick's ability to write this story so that without the obvious markers of 20th century (the van, the phone etc) it can totally seem that events are unfolding several centuries ago, judging by the writing style and the speech of the characters.
Also, I think I should mention that I read this book in Russian translation and it's obvious that they did an outstanding job conveying the text from English to Russian, especially when translating the last recipe, because it's pretty hard to make the words rhyme in a recipe and not omit anything important.
To Crick's credit he wrote receipts not only in prose, but also in a form of a poem and a play.
The minus of this book for me was that I have no interest in cooking anything other than pastry, so I didn't have much practical use for it. OK, I admit I made a cherry pie following one of the receipts, but that's all. I would have preferred if there were more desserts recipes in this book.
Speaking of desserts, there's a recipe of a chocolate cake in it and I was really surprised by the amount of swear words in it. I don't mind American swear words, but Russian ones kind of disgust me, so, unfortunately, this story was mostly ruined for me.
Among other stories that I didn't like were the Eggs a la Jane Austen and Coq au Vin a la Garcia Marquez (I found them rather dull).

Back to the positive stuff :
I also enjoyed the fish recipe a la Borjes which is a very interesting tale set in London during 2nd World War.
The recipe a la Kafka seems to convey the idea of absurdity and frailness of human's existence, it's dependence on other people, but Crick wrote it in a way that made me smile at certain points, really, Kafka and miso soup is a wierd combination.
Risotto a la Steibeck is a pretty good descriptive piece.

Overall, the writing style of this book resembles a chameleon, every story is different from the previous one and it might seem that it has been written by several different people. I would recommend this to people who like cooking and unusual stories.
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