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Friday, April 05, 2013

Reader's Diary #978- Franz Kafka: The Metamorphosis

Franz Kafka's "The Metamorphosis" has been recommended to me so often on this blog, that I eventually ended up thinking I'd read it anyway. Turns out I hadn't and so I rectified that last week.

Like many others before, when Gregor Samsa wakes up to find he's a giant vermin, one that eventually can climb the walls and ceiling, I took him to be a cockroach. Somewhat like the egg that everyone presumes Humpty Dumpty to be. Turns out that the particular type of insect is never specified, but the cockroach idea led me astray momentarily.

I have to confess that I read this while I was in New York so maybe I had cockroaches on the brain. I've never actually seen one in person, other than in insectariums, and since New York supposedly has a lot, a teeny perverse part of me wanted to see one. When you read about cockroaches, it's hard not to respect the little buggers, even if you are repulsed by them. Think of how long they've been around, how capable they are. I was kind of thinking that "The Metamorphosis" would be Samsa's survival story. Alas, as many would surely point out to me, that wouldn't exactly be Kafka's style.

Apparently Kafka suffered insomnia and a few other ailments that hindered his work, his sister became a caretaker, and he did in fact turn into a giant bug. Okay, maybe not, maybe that's where the autobiography becomes more fictional.  I think this the story is a good metaphor for depression as well. Not wanting to go to work, worried over the burden on your family, feelings of deprecation, you'd probably feel like a pest. Taking it further we see how the parents mistreat, fear, and resent him; how the sister tries to help at first until it takes its toll on her and she eventually loses her patience with him, and it's not a far stretch to say such unfortunate misunderstandings and fear of most mental illnesses are still common today.

Yes, it's dark. It should also be more depressing than it is. There's a quirky, goth sort of charm to the story, despite the bleak outlook.

1 comment:

Melwyk said...

I agree, there is that charm to it, even if I hate bugs. Yes, I do.

But you might like to watch this short film called Franz Kafka's It's a Wonderful Life, if you have read this book it is particularly amusing.