Sunday, January 24, 2016

The Re-Education of a Book Lover - Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

I have loved to read for as long as I can remember. Recently, however, it has come to my attention that there are some G A P I N G holes in my literary education. For example: I have read every Austen and Bronte you can get your hands on, but somehow had never, until 4 years ago, managed to read a Charles Dickens novel in its entirety. So, with a little help from my mom, the English Teacher, and a couple of good friend, the English Majors, I am setting a course to re-educate myself by filling in some of those gaps.

The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

(first published 1915)

44 pages

Synopsis -

"As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect. He was laying on his hard, as it were armor-plated, back and when he lifted his head a little he could see his domelike brown belly divided into stiff arched segments on top of which the bed quilt could hardly keep in position and was about to slide off completely. His numerous legs, which were pitifully thin compared to the rest of his bulk, waved helplessly before his eyes." 

With this startling, bizarre, yet surprisingly funny first opening, Kafka begins his masterpiece, The Metamorphosis. 
It is the story of a young man who, transformed overnight into a giant beetle-like insect, becomes an object of disgrace to his family, an outsider in his own home, a quintessentially alienated man. A harrowing -- though absurdly comic -- meditation on human feelings of inadequacy, guilt, and isolation, The Metamorphosis has taken its place as one of the most widely read and influential works of twentieth-century fiction. 

Thoughts -

The choice of reading this short work came about after a conversation with my husband - "What do you mean you've never read Metamorphosis?" I realized it was less than 50 pages and couldn't think of a good reason not to, so here we are.

Knowing this was a work of absurdist fiction (and understanding what that means) made this much easier for me to digest. I'm not sure I would have had any idea what the author was trying to do if I'd read it in middle school or high school. As an adult, the symbolism is easy to grasp and fairly overt - as a tween, I'd probably have needed a fair bit of direction from my teacher to figure this whole thing out.

I was surprised at how easily the story flowed - for some reason I expected it to be "harder" to read. I also, honestly, didn't realize quite how depressing the story was. There are no happy endings here, folks. None.

I would say I'm satisfied I read this. It's a good work to be familiar with, and it was quick and easy enough that I'm glad I didn't put it off for another 20 years. 

Finished - 1/23/16
Source - Kindle
MPAA rating - PG-13, I guess, because they make kids read it in junior high apparently?
My rating - 3/5

1 comment:

Carolynn said...

sorry J, I never have read it either. Maybe it was on WRBA's internally banned books list? :)