meilufay’s #CBR4 review #85 The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
I read The Metamorphosis in one sitting. I did this not just because it’s short (a novella rather than a novel), because I literally couldn’t put it down. It is such an astonishing work of fiction that I feel completely unequal to the task of writing about it. We all know the scenario of the Metamorphosis even if we haven’t read it. Gregor Samsa wakes up one morning to discover that he has become a large, verminous bug. (According to Wikipedia, he is not a cockroach, as I once thought, because he has the wrong number of legs.) I read this novella in high school and I remembered being delighted with it then, and being surprised at how laugh out loud funny it was in moments. On revisiting the book, I was astonished and entranced by how Kafka grounds his surreal concept in the utmost reality. Samsa’s situation is described with an immediacy with an awareness of the physical realities of what it would be like to be a giant bug, that are extraordinary. In classic tales of metamorphosis, one never is concerned with the practical problems of sudden transformation, we never really find out what it’s like for Arachne to be transformed into a spider. But Samsa is not a larger than life mortal who dares to challenge the gods. He is an ordinary man with ordinary concerns, living with an ordinary family, and reading a story of transformation that is written in such a pragmatic, realistic way is absolutely mind-boggling. Really an amazing achievement.