Wednesday, 25 February 2009


Why have I not read any Kafka until now? Truth be told, I thought he was as literary high-brow and as inaccessible as Proust, Joyce, Dante (not to say that I won't read Proust, Joyce or Dante at some point as I want to but previous attempts have failed); I was, however, wrong.

From the famous opening line, "As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect", Franz Kafka's short story "Metamorphosis" is both accessible, intelligent and enjoyable. First published in 1915 this entomological tale is surprisingly modern and simultaneously timeless. Flippant and simple the short story is tragic from its wonderful opening line above to its cyclical conclusion, where Gregor's sister Grete has also metamorphosed in a young woman.

Gregor Samsa, a travelling salesman who financially supports his parents and younger sister, wakes from nightmares to find he has become the Samsa beetle (coined by Vladimir Nabokov) but retains his own thought processs, which is at casual odds with the phsyicality of the beetle. It is interesting to observe this thought process deterioriate; Gregor remains himself within the grotesque form and his bias does not allow him to understand and appreciate that he is not the same as he was to his family. His perception of his family's words and actions in their shocked, disgusted and mourning state is darkly humorous. Gregor sees them through his own mind's eye, he even closes his eye-lids but beetles have no eye-lids; his family see only the monstrous beetle. It's a very scientific approach: what we see is informed by our brain, not our eyes themselves.

If this is Kafkaesque then I had nothing to be scared of and I am excited to discover such great writing; I look forward to experience more (albeit limited) Kafka in the future.

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