You’ve probably heard of Franz Kafka. He is regarded as one of the foremost twentieth century writers, despite most of his material being posthumously published. My first extended encounter with Kafka’s work was during my stay at university. We dealt with his notable story entitled The Metamorphosis. We were not to read the entire text and instead handled only the first few pages in the lecture. I was intrigued both by the rather unconventional story as well as by the author. I attempted to read the said discourse later down the road but was forced to cease due to time constraints. I finally finished the entire bit a couple of weeks ago.
I would say that the language itself is on the lighter side. The structure of the linear narrative flows smoothly although there were some footnotes that added colour rather than distracted. I enjoyed the presentation, the dilemmas the characters had to face, although Gregor in particular gets bogged down at times by descriptive prose. In other words, The Metamorphosis is not a dense read. This may be attributed to the date of its publication, a time not that far removed from our own. I was quite encouraged by this ease of access, a welcome respite from the other literature that isn’t as reader-friendly. I became quite taken by the story and perhaps because of this quality, I managed to conclude after a couple of sittings.
The story tackles family politics while blending with the surreal. Imagine one day waking up as an over-sized insect and getting all your life’s momentum dashed in an instant. Such is the fate that befalls the novel’s protagonist, Gregor Samsa. The tragedy for Gregor and his immediate family compounds in time. Gregor’s sea change and the impact this carries on the entire household are navigated therein. His fate becomes crueler as his folks come to grips with his condition. The text’s impact resonates in profound fashion, overstepping the terrain of absurdist fiction and leaves a telling imprint. The bug that Gregor becomes, his monstrous appearance, can be a metaphor for some individual snag that produces great familial tension. This could be anything from having chilling maladies to unfavourable relationships unapproved by the family. The question thus posed is: what would you do when things cannot get any worse?
What happened to Gregor was nothing short of a disaster. Personally, I was appalled by the way the family members reacted in this instance, with the possible exception of the mother. Can an animal only be seen as inhuman and as an annoyance? Kafka’s quirky tale is very much alive in this day and age, a nod to its timelessness and simplicity. We live in a world perhaps more volatile than ever and one rundown of the news will betray the chaos of our time. The uncertainty that is tomorrow is matched only by the hustle of the present. More and more we see people lose everything. One need not look too far for this to set in. What will one have done when faced with this predicament? If someone close to you gets dealt a bad hand, how would you react? These questions speak of values, and moral fibre is far from being cookie cutter. The story’s beauty lies in this inspirational tone. Kafka’s voice calls upon the reader, questioning their humanity. Seeing the influence that this work has had the world over, I have been keen on checking out Kafka’s other stuff in the future. I would count this as a heartwarming tale, despite its tragical underpinning. As a seasoned reader, The Metamorphosis is a must-read. I found that I was utterly moved by the whole saga in the end and you can’t blame me. So get reading. Take it from a Kafka convert.