Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽'s Reviews > The Metamorphosis

The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
Rate this book
Clear rating

by
8734459
's review

it was amazing
bookshelves: classics, wallowing-in-misery-and-angst, the-shorts, made-me-think

description

"Als Gregor Samsa eines Morgens aus unruhigen Träumen erwachte, fand er sich in seinem Bett zu einem ungeheueren Ungeziefer verwandelt." ("One morning, as Gregor Samsa was waking up from restless dreams, he discovered in his bed that he had been changed into a monstrous verminous bug.")

This novella starts with a shock, but ignores the "why" and "how" (I don't think anyone in the book ever asked either of those questions) in favor of exploring Gregor's and his family's reactions to the change and how it affects their relationships and their lives. Franz Kafka had a fraught relationship with his father, a butcher and a loud, overbearing, self-satisfied man who was critical of Franz. I can see Kafka's internal feeling of insufficiency giving root to this story where it is externalized into the physical appearance of a loathsome bug, alienated from all around him.

Interestingly, the number three plays a repeated role: three parts to the story, three family members, three servants, three bearded lodgers... It's debatable what this means, but I tend to think Kafka was referencing the number three's popularity in folk and fairy tales (three wishes, three brothers, three billy goats Gruff, etc.) to give his story additional heft and a more timeless feel, rather than, say, it being used here a religious symbol. But Kafka, who was Jewish, did use some religious and even Christian symbols. Note the symbolic apple and the crucifixion imagery here:
An apple thrown without much force glanced against Gregor's back and slid off without doing any harm. Another one however, immediately following it, hit squarely and lodged in his back; Gregor wanted to drag himself away, as if he could remove the surprising, the incredible pain by changing his position; but he felt as if nailed to the spot and spread himself out, all his senses in confusion.
My main thought after finishing this is that the family relationships being dissected here are incredibly sad, and disturbing. In an essay on The Metamorphosis, Vladimir Nabokov stated that "Gregor is a human being in an insect's disguise; his family are insects disguised as people." I've gone back and forth on whether I agree with this, but it certainly has given me a lot of food for thought: There's the originally loving sister who turns on him, the frail and helpless mother who lets him be mistreated, and the father who attacks him physically in the only two interactions they have. They betray him repeatedly, and Gregor always accepts it meekly and even makes excuses to himself for their mistreatment of him. His father stashing away Gregor's wages while Gregor was working at a horrific job to pay off the father's bankruptcy, was awful to read about, and Gregor simply rationalizes it. It's particularly chilling how in the end they all brush off (view spoiler).

I ended up reading about 30% of this in German and the rest in English, going back and forth between two side-by-side versions. Some of the German dialogue and expressions don't translate well into English. For example, Gregor's boss is called "Herr Prokurist" -- literally, Mr. Manager (which was the name used for him in one translation I looked at), but it sounds very lame in English. So I appreciated the additional level of authenticity and even insight that reading parts of this in the original German gave to me.

The more I think about this and pick it apart, the more impressed I am with it. There are so many layers to this story. I started out with 3 stars based on my college memories of reading this, upped it to 4 stars when I finished it the other day, and, after spending more time analyzing it for this review, am finally winding up with 5.

Reread with the Non-Crunchy Cool Classic Pantaloonless Buddy Readers group.

I highly recommend taking a look at Vladimir Nabokov's lecture and notes on The Metamorphosis, here at the Kafka Project website.

Initial post:I didn't care for this when I studied it in college but I'm hoping it will grow on me this time. I've found a cool website with side-by-side English and German versions of the story: http://bilinguis.com/book/metamorphos...

So my intention is to try to work through this novella in German. Wish me luck! <---ETA: this was a semi-successful experiment. See above.
116 likes · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read The Metamorphosis.
Sign In »

Reading Progress

February 7, 2014 – Shelved
December 4, 2015 – Shelved as: classics
December 4, 2015 – Shelved as: wallowing-in-misery-and-angst
December 4, 2015 – Shelved as: the-shorts
December 4, 2015 – Shelved as: made-me-think
December 14, 2015 – Started Reading
December 14, 2015 –
19.0% "His father looked hostile, and clenched his fists as if wanting to knock Gregor back into his room. Then he looked uncertainly round the living room, covered his eyes with his hands and wept so that his powerful chest shook."
December 16, 2015 –
55.0% "An apple thrown without much force glanced against Gregor's back and slid off without doing any harm. Another one however, immediately following it, hit squarely and lodged in his back; Gregor wanted to drag himself away, as if he could remove the surprising, the incredible pain by changing his position; but he felt as if nailed to the spot and spread himself out, all his senses in confusion.\n \n -Apple and nails. Hm."
December 16, 2015 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-35 of 35 (35 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

Vicky Thanks for the link Tadiana!


Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽ ✘✘ Sarah ✘✘ (former Nefarious Breeder of Murderous Crustaceans) wrote: "Good luck, Tadiana!;)"

I will need it! :D


✘✘ Sarah ✘✘ (former Nefarious Breeder of Murderous Crustaceans) Tadiana ✩ Night Owl☽ wrote: "✘✘ Sarah ✘✘ (former Nefarious Breeder of Murderous Crustaceans) wrote: "Good luck, Tadiana!;)"

I will need it! :D"


Do you speak German fluently?


message 5: by cloudyskye (new)

cloudyskye Good luck from me, too! I read this in school, and I'm afraid none of my classmates appreciated it, myself included. Kafka seems to be an acquired taste, certainly wasted on 16-year-olds! ;)


Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽ ✘✘ Sarah ✘✘ (former Nefarious Breeder of Murderous Crustaceans) wrote: "Tadiana ✩ Night Owl☽ wrote: "✘✘ Sarah ✘✘ (former Nefarious Breeder of Murderous Crustaceans) wrote: "Good luck, Tadiana!;)"

I will need it! :D"

Do you speak German fluently?"


I used to be fluent in German, but it's gotten rusty. This will be good for me.


message 7: by Matthias (new)

Matthias Viel Erfolg!


✘✘ Sarah ✘✘ (former Nefarious Breeder of Murderous Crustaceans) Tadiana ✩ Night Owl☽ wrote: "✘✘ Sarah ✘✘ (former Nefarious Breeder of Murderous Crustaceans) wrote: "Tadiana ✩ Night Owl☽ wrote: "✘✘ Sarah ✘✘ (former Nefarious Breeder of Murderous Crustaceans) wrote: "Good luck, Tadiana!;)"

..."


I'm pretty sure your German won't be so rusty after diving into Kafka!;)


Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽ I'll let you know. Maybe I'll be up to an erudite discussion in German with Matthias by the time I'm finished. ;)


message 11: by Anne (new) - added it

Anne German? Good luck, lady! My (imaginary) hat is off to you.


Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽ Anne wrote: "German? Good luck, lady! My (imaginary) hat is off to you."

Well, I had envisioned reading the whole thing in German but it was just taking me too long. I figure when all was said and done I read about a third of it in German and the rest in English. I was going back and forth between the two versions (sometimes three, since I had two different English translations I was looking at). I tried to read almost all of the dialogue in German because sometimes idiomatic expressions people use in conversation are hard to translate well.

Anyway, it was a fun exercise and good for helping me brush up on my German.


message 13: by Anne (new) - added it

Anne *bows to Tadiana's greatness*
It's nice to know all the smarty-pants people on this site.


Jeff Anne wrote: "*bows to Tadiana's greatness*
It's nice to know all the smarty-pants people on this site."


Then there's your short bus friends like me.


message 15: by Anne (new) - added it

Anne You make me feel smart, Jeff!


Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽ Anne wrote: "*bows to Tadiana's greatness*
It's nice to know all the smarty-pants people on this site."


*blushes* For what it's worth, I think some of your reviews are genius. I wish I were that funny!


Forrest Viel Gluck!


message 18: by Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽ (last edited Dec 17, 2015 03:50PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽ Forrest wrote: "Viel Gluck!"

Ich bin schon fertig, aber leider habe ich das ganze Buch nicht auf Deutsch gelesen, nur einen Teil davon. :)


Andrea (Catsos Person) is a Compulsive eBook Hoarder That's a cool picture, but it gives me the willies.


message 20: by Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽ (last edited Dec 18, 2015 07:34AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽ Andrea (Catsos Person) is a Compulsive eBook Hoarder wrote: "That's a cool picture, but it gives me the willies."

At least it's better than the picture Anne picked out! <---- Warning: this is gross! (I think it's from the Goldblum version of The Fly)


message 21: by Parthiban (new) - added it

Parthiban Sekar Your review is a nudging reminder to me to read this book. Thanks Tadiana :)


Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽ Parthiban wrote: "Your review is a nudging reminder to me to read this book. Thanks Tadiana :)"

I hope you like it! It's an odd, fascinating work.


Cecily Brilliant review, and it makes me wish I knew German. In particular, I'd never noticed the significance of three.

But the link to Anne's picture?! Eurghhhh.


message 24: by Matthias (new)

Matthias Great review Tadiana! It's amazing what this book has engendered in terms of insightful reviews and yours is definitely one of those. An amazing tale that's been done great justice with your review. I also like the idea of reading a book in two languages simultaneously. I was wondering whether I should read "The Stranger" by Camus in English or in French, you just provided me with the answer on what to do :-)


Jess ❈Harbinger of Blood-Soaked Rainbows❈ Great review Tadiana! I'm glad that you got more out of it this time around:)


message 26: by Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽ (last edited Dec 18, 2015 07:37AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽ Cecily wrote: "Brilliant review, and it makes me wish I knew German. In particular, I'd never noticed the significance of three.

But the link to Anne's picture?! Eurghhhh."


Thank you, Cecily! I also have you to thank for the link to Nabokov's lecture. That was what really jump-started my thinking about what this story means.

And I'm sorry about Anne's picture - I should slap a warning on that link! D: (ETA: Done!)

Thanks also, Jess and Matthias! And yes, Matthias, I definitely recommend having both language versions by you for The Stranger. There's nothing like reading a work in its original language, but if you're not really strong in that language, the side-by-side thing is the next best option, I think.


Ɗẳɳ  2.☊ Interesting theories. I still need to think things through some more, before/if I attempt a review.


Licha I know my review is going to be sucky. After reading your great review, I don't even want to attempt sucky.


Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽ Licha wrote: "I know my review is going to be sucky. After reading your great review, I don't even want to attempt sucky."

Just go for it! I'd really like to see your thoughts on it, even if (or maybe especially if) we totally disagree. :)


Licha I have pretty much the same experience as yours. I remember liking something about it in high school, even though all I remember is that the guy turns into a cockroach. Based on that, I also gave that two stars. Read the graphic novel about a year or so ago and really liked it. Read the book now and really liked it also. I have to say I found the graphic novel showed the sadness and loneliness a lot better than the book itself.


message 31: by Jon (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jon Nakapalau Wow! This picture is going to stay with me for a long time!


Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽ Jon(athan) wrote: "Wow! This picture is going to stay with me for a long time!"

There are some even scarier ones out there on the internet if you Google "metamorphosis kafka." I was pretty restrained. Just sayin'. ;)


message 33: by Jon (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jon Nakapalau Thank you Tadiana...(I will wait till after lunch).


message 34: by Abigail (new)

Abigail Bok Such an insightful review, Tadiana! Almost you make me want to give it another try. But I've never been a symbolist.


Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽ Abigail wrote: "Such an insightful review, Tadiana! Almost you make me want to give it another try. But I've never been a symbolist."

Lol, and I am totally intrigued by symbolism. It can make or break a literary read for me.


back to top