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Insect Dreams: The Half Life of Gregor Samsa
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Insect Dreams: The Half Life of Gregor Samsa

3.75 of 5 stars 3.75  ·  rating details  ·  105 ratings  ·  20 reviews
It seems the Samsas' chambermaid only claimed to sweep into the dustbin the twentieth century's most remarkable contemplative. Instead, having spirited him from his bedchamber, she apparently sold the metamorphosed Gregor to a Viennese sideshow, where-it being 1915-he could earn his living lecturing carnival crowds on the implications of Rilke and Herr Spengler.

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Hardcover, 480 pages
Published February 18th 2002 by Blue Hen
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Ron Charles
I will never kill another cockroach. Neither will anyone who reads Marc Estrin's brilliant debut novel about Gregor Samsa. And that's just the beginning of this book's audacious intentions.

Jumping off from Franz Kafka's famous novella, "Insect Dreams" describes an even stranger metamorphosis. In the original, poor Gregor, a salesman in Prague, found himself transformed one day into an enormous bug. In Estrin's continuation, that bug mutates into the savior of humanity.

The story opens as the fire
Wm. A.
You would think a man who has turned into a giant cockroach would be an interesting character. Maybe in Franz Kafka's book he is, but in Estrin's quasi-sequel, he's tedious. Aside from the trials of dealing with insect physiology in a human world, he's just boring. On the principle that there are more good books than anyone can read in one lifetime, I abandoned this one halfway through.

Which brings up this aside: so many Goodreads reviewers say things like "I almost never abandon a book before f
This beyond unique endevour requires a little fore-knowledge of literature. While the author introduces us to Gregor in a unique manner in the most unique of places, a side-street "freak" exhibition in Vienna. Unless one has at least some passing knowledge of Franz Kafka's "The Metamorphosis" also known as "The Transformation" there must be some head-shaking as to who or what Gregor is. I love the way the author acts like this is no big deal, a Man sized Cockroach shows up on a door-step most da ...more
I grabbed this book because the title grabbed me. I have long been intrigued by Kafka's Metamorphosis. This lengthy continuation of Gregor Samsa's cockroach life was too good an idea to pass up.

Whereas Metamorphosis is a short story, Insect Dreams is one long novel, spanning almost half a century. And in that time, Samsa manages to meet a number of public figures and have quite a bit of influence on each of them. In this his life bears some small similarity to that of Forrest Gump. But don't be
If you didn't like Forrest Gump because the idea of someone bumbling along into that many historical moments and events was too much for you to swallow, then this is not the book for you.

However, if you can suspend your sense of reality for a bit, it's an interesting ride getting to know Gregor Samsa. The fabric salesman-turned-cockroach spends the first part of his second life as a member of a circus/freak show, then flies with his own wings to America, meets Alice Paul, testifies at the Scopes
Read this book (or at least the first third) for my library book club. Although the book, whose main character is a human size cockroach, was not quite my taste, it was well written and was a romp through much of twentieth century history in the U.S. Wish I had budgeted my reading time better and finished the book.
Started this book in 2014 and wasn't interested enough to finish. After 100+ pages of various adventures and attempted romances this erudite insect from kafka's Metamorphosis began to wear on me and I started to drift to other books.
Imagine that when Kafka's cockroach was swept out with an apple in his back that he wasn't dead. Let's say he went off and joined the circus freak show, and then proceeded to have more historically significant adventures than Forrest Gump. A cockroach as presidential advisor to FDR? A roach who helps Oppenheimer with the bomb?

This book was a pretty funny and sometimes poignant read. Worth a look, assuming it's still in print (probably not).
Mar 19, 2011 Paul rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: novel
Uses the character of Gregor Samsa from the Kafka story, "Metamorphosis" as its main character. Deals with the themes of music, alienation, antisemitism, sexuality, ethics, and nuclear war within the context of life as a cockroach from the beginnings of WWII till the end of the war. Although an odd mixture of themes, the author is able to draw it altogether to create a life-like character rather than just a vehicle to address a multitude of issues.
John Simmons
Kafka's Gregor Samsa continues on as a giant cockroach in a human society. He travels the world, holds various odd jobs, and along the way meets famous people from the early 20th century.

This book is very intelligent - you almost have to have your Wittgenstein and Schopenhauer on hand to fully get some of the references - but it flows very well. It is a well-written, engaging, more cerebral Forrest Gump (plus insects). A good find.
J Simpson
I have just started this, but it is really wonderful so far. I was expecting it to be dry and claustrophobic like Kafka, but its actually rather witty and emotional. Kind of quirky. The book details what happens to Gregor Samsa, the cockroach hero of the Metamorphosis. He runs off with a sideshow in Prague, and precedes to have historically significant adventures, at least so i've heard. Can't wait to get further into it. Recommended.
AJ LeBlanc
This book is not funny. Several reviews said it was funny, witty, brilliant. It is not funny. Not chuckle funny. Not tongue in cheek funny. Not hysterical funny.

It is clever, but not in a funny way.

Maybe I didn't like it because of the historical context that Gregor lives through. I didn't *hate* it, but I did have to force myself to finish it in the hopes that I'd find the humor or figure out what was going over my head.
David Peters
What if Kafka’s Metamorphosis met Forrest Gump met a history text book; that is the basis of this book. Gregor is a salesman who became a cockroach and lived. The book follows his travels as he interacts with famous people and situations of the day (1914 to 1945), but I can sum it up pretty easily. Too many details, not enough story; and regardless what this Frederick Reuss on the cover says, it wasn’t that funny either.
This took a couple of reads as it felt a little like I needed a tour guide - funny, twisty and heady; worthy of the sojourn. I think I will try it again with some years under my belt... I am proud to say that my copy was gifted to me by the author.
Calla Mcnamee
This book is odd. It is about the metamorphosized Gregor Samsa, living through historic events in the early 20th century.... yes as a giant cockroach. I actually really enjoyed the historical aspect of the book.
Wendy Crittenden
smartly entertaining, follow a cockroach through historical events in a fictional weaving, not unlike forrest gump, but actually worth your time.
Kafka's cockroach lands in FDR's White House and ends up in Los Alamos with the guys who built the "Gadget". Estrin rocks this story
gregor learns to use his wings and flies to america!!
anybody who likes offbeat novels should read this
Aug 30, 2007 M rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone.
*sigh* loved it.
Nathan marked it as to-read
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Aaron Ingram
Aaron Ingram marked it as to-read
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May 03, 2015
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Marc Estrin is an author, cellist, and political activist living in Burlington, Vermont. He has published four novels, and a memoir of his thirty-five years of working with the Bread & Puppet Theater."
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