Print Length: 108 pages
Publisher: FiNGERPRINT! Publishing
My first introduction to Kafka was in Prague, Czech Republic. The Head of Franz Kafka is a moving sculpture by David Černý which is 11 meters tall and made of 42 rotating panels. A year later, thanks to The Big Book Box, I received Metamorphosis as part of their January 2021 Anniversary box. Huge shout-out to the @TBB team for including this lovely novella with so many other bookish goodies!
Franz Kafka was a Prague-born and based German-language writer of Jewish origin, one of the most influential and appreciated writers of the 20th century . His work fuses elements of realism and the fantastic. Metamorphosis is one of the finest examples of absurdist fiction. So if this is your first time reading about Kafka, let me point out why this is a must read that can be finished quickly.
Honestly, if I had skipped reading the Preface given in this edition of book, or did not research about ‘Kafkaesque’ writing prior, I would have found the story quite bizarre. What elevated my reading experience of this story–Kafka’s first published story in 1915 is closely a depiction of his life presented in the form where the protagonist turns into a vermin.
Gregor Samsa is a salesman who wakes up as vile vermin one fine day. He worked as a salesman and lived with his parents and a younger sister. He earned enough to support all the family members comfortably without having them to work. Upon finding himself in a completely different body of an insect, Kafka brilliantly captures the thought process of Gregor and his struggle to move and adjust vividly which makes the entire situation of turning into an insect a normal scenario. Though his body has changed, Gregor still thinks like a human and recollects his memories and feels stressed about work. He was a person who never took a leave from office (even though he has no real interest in doing the job, he does it for his family), and his first worry after the transformation was reaching the office late and his boss coming over to check on him at his home. And that is exactly what happens – his boss comes home and instead, finds this insect which makes him run for his life.
Gregor’s parents and his sister are in shock. They immediately close his bedroom door and ensure he is kept in isolation expecting him to become human again. His sister pushes in the leftover food in his room so he could survive and discusses with their mother if the furniture’s in his room needs to be removed for Gregor to move around more freely. Gregor is unable to speak and thus starts the turn of events with his parents, especially with his father where he is left severely injured. He feels terribly lonely, reminisces the good times with his family and is physically weak. After some time, his treatment by his family gets worse and they feel him to be an unnecessary burden that should be done away with soon after an incident. Since there is no one working now, the financial burden hits the family and they are in desperate need of change in situation.
–he knew full well, right from the first day of his new life, that his father thought it necessary to always be extremely strict with him.
This story makes you feel the desperation of the protagonist to communicate, move and simply survive with his own family in a helpless body of an insect. Metamorphosis shows the change of treatment to a member of a family who can be disabled, old or is in the need of continuous care and support. While the ending made me shed some tears, Kafka writes the reality of changing relationships – the emotions, the treatment and the overall impact of it on the individuals involved. Even though Gregor supported his family, in return, he was made to feel like a nobody whose existence is only a burden to everyone around him. Fair warning, if you are particularly feeling low, do not pick this until you feel okay. The story can be finished in one sitting; it has simple narration but leaves you feeling terribly sad for Gregor. I would suggest reading about Kafka’s personal life and his influences in writing (here) before reading this novella. If you are in mood to feel melancholic and read simple but something that makes you reflect long after finishing the story – then this should be in your TBR right away.
Ratings on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being exceptional):
Quality of writing – 7
Pace – 9
Plot development – 7
Characters – 7
Enjoyability – 6
Insightfulness – 8
Ease of reading – 9
Photo/Illustrations – NA
Buy your copy – Metamorphosis
Thank you so much for reading this post. Cheers!
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.