The Metamorphosis, the Penal Colony, and Other Stories (Schocken Classics)
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The Metamorphosis, the Penal Colony, and Other Stories (Schocken Classics)

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3.98 of 5 stars 3.98  ·  rating details  ·  9,677 ratings  ·  188 reviews

This collection brings together the stories that Kafka allowed to be published during his lifetime. To Max Brod, his literary executor, he wrote: “Of all my writings the only books that can stand are these.”

Paperback, 317 pages
Published November 14th 1995 by Schocken
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Mike Puma
An amazing collection of shorter works by Kafka. For my money, “In the Penal Colony” is the entry that will, likely, prove the most memorable—perhaps, it’s due to my recently reading Christopher Hitchens’ God Is Not Great or it might be owing to my being midway in Sam Harris’ The End of Faith, but I kept picturing an Inquisitor in the role of the ‘officer’ and wishing that the story had been true. I’m likely to have appreciated the entire collection more had I taken more time to read it—spread t...more
Sophia
His works are often ambiguous and vague in defining purpose or moral meaning. Instead, there's a cacophony of events, images, and multifaceted characters that you learn to love and hate, relate to, and at the same time feel compelled to distance yourself from.

He presents emotions, situations, and characters, which no matter how foreign in behavior, or state of mind, retain an unmistakable and comical resemblance to human nature. He takes what we all already “know” somewhere in our subconscious...more
Kim
I have often been told I should read Franz Kafka. I've been told by people I know, or by introductions in other books, or from lists of classics I should read. So one day not long ago as I was browsing in a bookstore I came across "The Metamorphosis and Other Stories" and I bought it. Now I've read my first Kafka. The amount of stars it is getting is still up in the air for now. The first story in the book is "The Metamorphosis", of course it would be first, and as I start reading the first line...more
Ami
Interesting set of psychological thrillers. Anne Rice's foreword proclaims them "the first horror stories", but if that's true, they're certainly not the blood & gore type of horror stories. The premises are dark twists on reality, but the (re)actions of the characters are real enough to be the scary part.

From reading some of the other stories in the book (namely "In the Penal Colony", "Conversations with the Supplicant", "The Hunger Artist", and some pieces from the collection of "Meditati...more
Lucas
Aside from the introduction by Anne Rice, which should be skipped, this is a good collection and great introduction to Kafka.

"The Metamorphosis," "In the Penal Colony," and "The Judgment" are worth it alone. But Schocken includes three collections of short stories in this volume, all of them filled with amazing moments. "A Hunger Artist" might be my favorite, but there are many others that left me a little in awe of Kafka's abilities.

Reading Franz isn't particularly difficult, at least not most...more
Cameron
Striving to understand the frequent usage of "Kafkaesque" to describe a proliferation of things literary, I found a nice bargain copy of this translation of Kafka many moons past. I'm unsure if I accomplished my goal, being left wondering if I need to read The Trial to solidify that understanding, yet having no desire to engage anymore with his works. This collection of stories left me repulsed ("The Metamorphosis"), disgusted ("In the Penal Colony"), irritated ("The Stoker"), or bored (all incl...more
Tim Weakley
Superior! For me the best aspect of Kafka is the attitude of the stories. It's not "imagine one day that this happened..." it's "one day..this happened..." It makes the stories so much more bizarre! My favourite was The Metamorphosis. I think the story of Gregor Samsa is definitive for Kafka's style of writing. In the Penal Colony was horrific and very good as well. The only other story that stood out in the book was The Hunger Artist. The rest were really just filler, and not engaging.
Adriel
Say what you will about Kafka - he's flowery, bombastic, difficult, surreal, incomprehensible - he still retains a unique and incredible style unlike any writer who's ever lived. His German is notoriously difficult to translate, and before finding this translation I often found his writings tedious overall to read. Neugroschel does an unbelievably fantastic job translating nearly all of his minor works, and brings out the painstakingly descriptive method of Kafka's writing style, as well as his...more
Gabriel
Ok, I haven't read every story here. I plan on picking this up every so often and reading a story once in a while.

What I did read, though, and what I want to comment on is the classic "Metamorphosis" novella.

First off, this translation (in comparison to the bit that I read off of the Gutenberg website) is much more vibrant and humorous. I remember standing reading the first page and laughing at the situation and the character's reactions. This is truly a wonderful introduction to what is current...more
Kurt
Hey, Goodreads, why can't I find the version of this book that I read, here, the one published by Schocken? Not sure if this is the same translation.
Anyway, I love Kafka, and I can sort of understand how he makes some people feel icky and squishy, although that makes me wonder what books those people enjoy reading...Kafka makes points about the human condition and politics withe subtlety and metaphor, in ways that you need to think about and ponder, to allow layers of meaning to sink in. Just li...more
Sophie
Cette évaluation se base sur un facteur très simple: je n'ai pas senti qu'il y avait quelque chose à retenir de cette lecture.Certes, La Métamorphose peut être analysée, mais encore. Ça demeure vaguement l'histoire d'un homme qui se réveille du jour au lendemain transformé en punaise (!). On pourrait en tirer la conclusion que l'auteur a tenté de démontrer qu'une famille peut s'écrouler sous le poids de la tragédie d'un de ces membres. Tout de même, l'histoire est tellement farfelue qu'il devien...more
Chris
This collection begins with a quite a few early, very short stories. They have their moments, but whether because of their length or the lack of experience, they fail to open up. The transition to longer stories is jarring, neither The Judgement or The Stoker are particularly inventive, but we're immediately caught up in the running hopes, fears, doubts, and other thoughts of the narrators. It's a style that shouldn't work. The Metamorphosis and In The Penal Colony usher in more blatant surreali...more
Julia
i've been in a rotten mood all day so i'm not really up to writing the usual rambling notes, but i'll say that kafka is good reading when you're in a rotten mood, a weird mood, a despairing mood, etc (uh, i'm not one of those people who watches romcoms when they're in a bad mood to try to feel better). now, if you ~really know me~ you would be surprised that i even read kafka because my fear of the inadequacies of translation have kept me from numerous writers for years—kafka, flaubert, proust,...more
Helynne
The adjective "kafkaesque" has come to connote anything that is weird, creepy, anomalous, surrealistic, etc., and this collection of stories certainly testifies to that definition. "The Metamorphosis" is the most comprehensible of the stories, in my opinion, although the premise is pretty bizarre: A young German salesman wakes up one morning and finds he has inexplicably become transformed into a giant cockroach. The way his family reacts to his plight is unexpected and distressing. My interpre...more
Matt DeCostanza
Pushkin famously said of Gogol that "behind his laughter you feel the unseen tears," and the same could easily be applied to Kafka. Reading The Metamorphosis or The Trial, one imagines the author gesticulating wildly as he hysterically documents the entrapment and humiliation of a good man by an uncaring society. Although the words are slow and measured, the writer is outraged, in a deep sadness.

Kafka adopted this technique from, among others, the 19th century realist writers: Dickens, Dostoevsk...more
Sal
This is a collection of the short writings and stories that Franz Kafka authorized to be published during his lifetime. As there are alot of writings here, some of the material here is hit or miss. However, I'm giving this collection four stars based on the three excellent works that have really resonated with me:

The Metamorphosis - Perhaps Kafka's most famous work, this story of a young man's physical transformation from man into insect saddened me more than anything. Depicting the man's forced...more
Matt
This is supposedly an improved translation compared to earlier Kafka books. Joachim Neugroschel, the translator of this volume, claims to have the direct line to Kafka's prose style and intentions. Things like this are one of the reasons that I approach all translations of non-English writers with a bit of skepticism. My opinion is that readers of the translation will never be able to read a writer as intended because of subtle nuances in each language that are often untranslatable. Translations...more
David
Some of my favorite authors (like Haruki Marukami) and other creative people seem to love Kafka and I was excited to finally read his stories. They are much stranger than I expected. Kafka writes with such spare and careful descriptions his stories are entirely plot based and characters are quite neutral or archetypal. They read like fables with futuristic morals.

Which connects well to the psychological significance illuminated by Gilles DuLeuze and Felix Guattari- it is their interpretation th...more
Brian
I must not be sophisticated enough to appreciate, cause I found these bizarre

I had wanted to read "The Metamorphosis" for a while now, and figured a collection of Kafka's short stories would be even more fun. Little did I know that he liked writing (and somehow publishing) lots of short, short short stories. Like one or two sentences. Many of them were just contemplations or observations, like a prose haiku or something. But often there is no difference in the world of the story from beginning t...more
Joshua
Jan 18, 2008 Joshua rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Someone who often wonders, "what is it all for?"
Shelves: classics
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kirk
Kafka has been on my reading list for a long time, how many authors have their name turned into an adjective? This was my first - and likely my last - exposure to Kafka. Kafka doesn't really do anything for me. My favorite works are the ones that are the most popular: In the Penal Colony, The Metamorphosis, The Stoker, Conversation with the Supplicant. But even these to me are just interesting and not classics of literature.

It's unlike any other literature I've read, and I think I might have li...more
Andre
3 stars seems a bit low but it corresponds to 'liking it', which is true. I borrowed this book because I heard the adjective 'Kafkaesque' applied a LOT of times to other authors' works (Murakami included), so I wanted to see what he was all about.

Macabre at times, but the underlying themes and ideas he is trying to get at are quite amazing.
Brian
Wow, not too many books do I just outright don't care for. This one fell into that for me. I guess my brain is just not wired to understand story's that have little by way of plot. The ambiguity through out was baffling. Two stars only because I seldom ever feel that a book would hold no useful purpose for, at least, a few folks who are deeper thinkers.
Eric
The metamorphosis has been on my radar for the long time and
the impetus for getting and reading this set of short stories
came from David Foster Wallace's essay about Kafka's sense of
humor.

I have to agree on this aspect. Kafka poses a very subtle and
dark humor that is more in line with every day life. Bad things
happen sometimes or the way a life is lived can be depressing
but such that you can't help but laugh at the futility of worrying.
The humor aside, his Meditations really do capture some int...more
Fatemeh
The stories are amongst the best of the surreal literature. Typical of such style, one cannot merely rely on the literal sense of the words, and a correct interpretation requires the concepts to be analyzed in an abstract and metaphorical air. The metamorphosis can be viewed as the writer's self portrait in response to his earlier work "The judgment", though the latter is a more positive piece with high expectations from the author. "In the penal colony" can be viewed as a political piece of wor...more
Gillian
I love Kafka's protagonists, especially in the longer short stories like The Metamorphosis and The Stoker. It feels to me like Kafka put a great deal of himself in these characters as they are always passionate young men who must succumb to whatever magical realism throws at them. I don't know much about Kafka personally, but it just feels like him, or some universal young man, when I read the stories. While some stories were complex enough that I just appreciated being able to grasp a few level...more
Dan Ruprecht
Kafkaesque

A fantasy/absurd/nightmarish world of parables. Captures the solitary extreme alienation of existence, the fear of death, and a dark humor that is strangely hopeful.

"A Message from the Emperor" was a particular favorite.
Corbitt
This was a hard one to get through. I actually would consider it more 2.5 Stars but that is not quite an option on Goodreads.

Most of the stories descended into some kind of strange madness that I could see appealing to some and would have a great influence on them. However, this just fell out of my taste. I found it hard to follow the intention of the narrator on many of the stories and the sentences drove me a little bit mad.

That being said there were a few stories that stood out to me, In The...more
Katie
These short stories are uncomfortable and difficult to read at times. The highly symbolic language of religious symbolism make these short stories read more like religious allegories. They are not for everyone. If you extremely zealous and unable to accept another's view point on the nature of God. . . probably best to skip. Kafka clearly does not resonate with the idea of a benevolent creator, and at times he takes on an accusatory tone towards religion and god. One of my favorite bits of symbo...more
Lauren
It's taken me three tries to get through this. Kafka just doesn't grab hold of me. What can I say? I was thoroughly enjoying Metamorphosis and then it was over and (spoiler ahead!) he was dead before I knew it. I was not expecting that. I guess it's better he died than having him awake with a fresh epiphany upon his head about his life and understanding everything that he had been doing wrong. In the Penal Colony was too long but interesting and wonderfully gruesome. It's difficult for me to fin...more
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5223
Franz Kafka (German pronunciation: [ˈfʀants ˈkafka]) was one of the major fiction writers of the 20th century. He was born to a middle-class German-speaking Jewish family in Prague, Bohemia (presently the Czech Republic), Austria–Hungary. His unique body of writing—much of which is incomplete and which was mainly published posthumously—is considered to be among the most influential in Western lite...more
More about Franz Kafka...
The Metamorphosis The Trial The Metamorphosis and Other Stories The Complete Stories The Castle

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