FOWC with Fandango: Metamorphosis

Beetle

I read a lot, various authors and various subjects so I am not inspired by any particular author. Either it is a good book and impresses me, or I just write it off as being read, nothing special. There are books that do leave an imprint behind, something not to be forgotten. I would not be writing in the style of an author or paying homage. There are too many good authors out there and imitation is not my idea of flattery.

Anyone ever read The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka? Probably the fewer amongst us. Kafka is not every man’s thing. On my quest for learning something about the literature of other countries I decided to see what this Kafka was all about.  Perhaps I am especially honoured to be able to read Kafka in original German, although he was born in Prague, Czech Republic, so most probably he was not writing in his mother tongue.

Anyhow I started with The Castle and got my first taste of strange; a castle governing the surrounding village with beaurocracy. The main character in the book wanting to arrive at the castle. His ways followed many paths, but did he get to the castle? To be quite honest I am not sure, but I do not think he did. So is Kafka, full of unanswered questions. Then I decided to read The Process. A man accused of a crime, although what the crime was is still shrouded in mystery for me. He was subject to a process and found guilty and I think, am almost sure, he faced a death sentence at the end of the book. Sorry for being a little uncertain, but Kafka has a way of uncertainties. The Verdict had about six different endings. Either Kafka could not make up his mind, left the end open, or a few other authors tried to conclude the novel. Actually I quite enjoyed the book, but it was an exhausting experience.

I am not a wise reader, just enjoy reading and Kafka is an adventure in itself. Now to my favourite book written by Kafka which is such a favourite that I read it twice to make sure I did not miss anything. I am now returning to The Metamorphosis. A man, Gregor Samsa, awakes one morning and finds he is laying on his back in bed. Nothing strange, but Gregor awakes with eight spindly legs. Overnight he has become a  beetle. His human body has undergone a metamorphosis. He eventually manages to turn his body after many strenuous attempts, landing on his legs. He hides from everyone. What will mum and dad say? What will anyone think?

Of course Kafka is not just telling a tale of mystery and horror. He is showing what happens when you are an outcast, no-one wants to know you, let us just ignore him and he will go away. The story takes many twists and turns. The only person that bothers about this transformed human body is Gregor Samsa’s sister. She brings him food, looks after him, but even her patience is eventually exhausted. At one stage in the story Gregor becomes the victim of assault. An apple is thrown at him and embeds itself in his armoured back. Needless to say this does not help. Eventually Gregor is left alone in his room, the sister abandons her brother and he dies, shrivels into a dried insect, still with a rotting apple wedged in his back. The End – Kafka was never known for happy endings.

This is not a homage to Kafka and if I could write in his style I would have received my Booker/Nobel/Pulitzer prize many years ago, plus selling movie rights to the films of my books. Even Kafka has been filmed. Generally in black and white which fits the bleak subject matter of his writings. The Trial was filmed with both Anthony Perkins and Anthony Hopkins in the leading role. The Castle was a German production with the late Ulrich Mühe, who is probably not known by most of the readers.

Metamorphosis is a book that left an insect trail of tiny footprints in my mind. I just love the strange and mysterious. So if you go to bed in the evening and think tomorrow is going to be just another day, think about Gregor Samsa. You might awake to be someone different. Just remember all the people you know that are different, perhaps isolated, ignored, like Gregor Samsa.

FOWC with Fandango: Metamorphosis

22 thoughts on “FOWC with Fandango: Metamorphosis

  1. I worked my way through Dostoyevsky when I was MUCH younger and some of the other Russians. Cheerful is not a Russian thing. When I got to Gogol, I gave up. But the only funny thing to come out of that was being on Martha’s Vineyard and watching the Russian cruise ship, the Nikolai Gogol dock. What a terrible name for a vacation ship! The Gogol has docked!

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    • I read The Idiot and once began Brothers Karamasov, but only read the first few chapters. I will have to read that book one day. I saw the film, but it is not the same. I have never read Gogol, perhaps I should.

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  2. i love Kafka. coincidently i was talking about metamorphosis to a friend yesterday. when i read it my mom was battling cancer and i couldn’t help relate.
    but i found the trial harder to read. i have been on it for a year now and i can’t finish it. Kafka increases the level of despair with every word.

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  3. This made me laugh. It’s not for nothing that you speak of a Kafkaescian situation!!!! I think I might have started a book he wrote but I surely hadn’t finished it as he really has a twisted mind…. But it’s great that you go for him and congrats on reading him in German. THAT’S a challenge…. I had the same challenge with Philip Roth – reading him in American English, I was doubting the ‘knowing me’ of the person who offered me that particular book. I was terribly offended by the content, and as a young woman in an International HQ I really thought what the heck the wife of that person must have had in mind, offering me Portnoy’s Complaint….

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      • Oh yes, he’s a great one. Have you tried G. Keller, H. Hesse, M. Frisch? OK they’re real heavyweights and probably not as thrilling as your preferred suspence writers but there lies many a hidden pearl. I do agree that Glauser is both very accessible and has a captivating style. Frisch is a bit too posh sometimes and he isn’t on my nightstand’s pile of reading. Keller I read because one had to and I think he is a great writer but no longer as relevant as he used to be. There is an Argovian writer whose name has just escaped me who did some beautiful writing. I’ll be back when I can think of him. I’ve been gifted a dedicated copy of one of his books by one of my sisters and it’s a shame that my brain seems stuck right now…

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