Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Metamorphosis - Franz Kafka

The Metamorphosis (including critical essays)
Author:
Franz Kafka
Translator: Stanley Corngold
Pages: 194pgs.
Rating: B

More than anything, Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka has given society a healthy debate. Never truly explaining his work, Kafka has left academics and inquiring readers alike pondering the meaning of his stories. Metamorphosis is no different.

Taken at face value, Kafka presents a simple story. The first sentence sets the mood and theme for the entire story: “When Gregor Samsa woke up one morning from unsettling dreams, he found himself changed in his bed into a monstrous vermin.” Gregor becomes an insect, and the rest of the short story describes how he lives out the rest of his life. All philosophical pandering is ultimately left to the masses.

Kafka does not explain why the Metamorphosis occurred. Nor does he give any inkling to the depths of the story, its symbolism, and deeper meaning. In this vacuum, numerous theories have been developed ranging from Freudian interpretations, religious symbology and connotations, and Marxist attacks on the “bourgeois condition”. Many do not even agree on an accurate English translation for the title, and would rather see it changed to a variety of options, ranging from Transformation to Transubstantiation.

Is it an existential novel? Maybe. Is it a simple story? Maybe. Eighty years of analysis have not been able to answer these questions, I’m not about to try. Why such pressure to give a story one true meaning? If 50 people are affected by Metamorphosis in 50 different ways – more power to Kafka!

Did I like this story? Maybe. It’s honestly hard to say. Was it worth reading? Definitely. I already feel as if this is a story that will stick with me for a long time. When I least expect it, it will pop back into my subconscious, looking to be explored.

What did I think? I’m not telling. ☺ At least, not yet.

Some interesting quotes:
"Gregor tried to imagine whether something like what had happened to him today could one day happen even to the manager; you really had to grant the possibility."

"Unfortunately the manager's flight now seemed to confuse his father completely, who had been relatively calm until now, for instead of running after the manager himself, or at least not hindering Gregor in his pursuit, he seized in his right hand the manager's cane, which had been left behind on a chair with his hat and overocoat, picked up in his left hand a heavy newspaper from the table, and stamping his feet, started brandishing the cane and the newspaper to drive Gregor back into his room. No plea of Gregor's helped, no plea was even understood; however humbly he might turn his head, his father merely stamped his feet more forcefully."


"In the beginning she [cleaning woman] also used to call him over to her with words she probably considered friendly, like 'Come over here for a minute, you old dung beetle!' or 'Look at that old dung beetle!' To forms of address like these Gregor would not respond but remained immobile where he was, as if the door had not been opened."

Up next is D for Deadbeat, some cozy mystery reading to relax with (but most likely will not review). Then its back to the teens and twenties of the 20th century, with Virginia Woolf's Mrs Dalloway.

6 comments:

Literary Feline said...

I read The Metamorphosis when I was in high school and it still haunts me even though I'm sure most of the story itself is lost to my memory. Great review!

Lotus Reads said...

Loved the review! I have wanted to read "Metamorphosis" for the longest time, but, if it's a read that leaves you with more questions than answers at the end, I would prefer to have more time to ponder it. Maybe once all the challenges are done, I'll delve into it at leisure.

BBC 4 had a radio adaptation of Kafka's book recently - it was an awesome production! It's unfortunate they do not archive their programs for more than a week.

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