Monday, July 21, 2014

The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

Take a Walk on the Weird Side (Classics)

The Metamorphosis (Die Verwandlung) by Franz Kafka is a super-short, 59-page, surreal classic.  Think—Salvador Dali in written format.  One morning Gregor Samsa wakes up to discover he had transformed into a monstrous bug. Strangely, after his first thought of “Holy, crap!  What’s happened to me?!!!,” he dwells more on “OMG, I’m going to be late for work!” Now, that’s not a sign of a dedicated employee. It’s pure and simple fear.  His boss is a real orb-smasher, if you know what I mean. In the living room, his family keeps knocking on the door asking why Gregor isn’t already on the road as a traveling salesman.  In fact, he’s so late, the head clerk shows up at his house demanding to know what’s going on. The family is very worried about Gregor and the extra pressure of the presence of his boss isn’t helping. Just when they’re ready to run and get the locksmith, Gregor manages to turn the key with his mouth and open the door.  Enter the bug.  The family is horrified; the head clerk is outta there. 

Well, bad morning or not, life goes on. Gregor starts to adapt to his new situation, and the family must too. Unfortunately, this pesky metamorphosis affects their lives more directly than just having an ugly kid. Gregor was the only bread-winner of the family.  He supported his father, who had lost his business five years prior, as well as his mother, sister, and some household staff to boot. Eventually money gets tight and they must let the help go with the exception of one tough charwoman who takes Gregor’s condition in stride. But soon, they all have to bite the bullet and get jobs.  And that bugs them.   

Life isn't easy. The family starts getting irritable. They're not so happy with the son who’s made a pest of himself. At one point in an unforgettable image, tempers flare and apples fly. So, what happens to the black bug of the family? You’ll have to read it to find out.

I’m not a fantasy/science fiction fan, so I wasn’t sure how much I’d like this book. But this novella surprised me.  I really liked it. I was amazed at how Kafka made this bug seem so real.  He described the creature’s feelings as if he knew that it would feel good to hang from the ceiling because it was easier to breathe that way and a nice tingling sensation vibrates through the body. I liked this trip to the Twilight Zone.  I may even venture there again.

You can read The Metamorphosis online at:

A bit about the author:  Franz Kafka was born in Prague, which was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, in 1883. His writings are translated from German, so your version of the story may not match word for word with another translation. He was a lawyer by profession and worked as a bureaucrat for many years.  His true passion was writing, yet only a few of his works were published during his lifetime.  Tragically, Kafka died at 40 of tuberculosis in 1924. Although he instructed his friend, Max Brod, to burn his unpublished works, Max did the opposite.  Therefore many of his famous works like The Castle (Das Schloss) and The Trial (Der Prozess) were published after his death. The Trial was made into a 1962 Orson Welles movie.

Happy Reading,


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