metamorph“One morning, as Gregor Samsa was waking up from anxious dreams, he discovered that in bed he had been changed into a monstrous verminous bug.”

We’ve covered this before – I am not one for the classics. Someone who is, however, is my friend David who prefers his reading matter to be untouched by modernity and, ideally, originally written in another language.

So when I found myself finishing up this one hundred year old book, he was the person I turned to about it.

The Metamorphosis is the story of Gregor Samsa who wakes up one morning to find that he has turned into an insect. His family are now disgusted by him, his boss doesn’t want to know, and he must now live in his old bedroom and wonder what has become of himself. That is literally all there is to the plot.

“Is there some kind of massive allegory I’m missing here?” I asked David, hoping he could shed some light on it. His reply: “Yes. But I have no idea what it is. I mean,” he continued, “it’s Czech, written by a Jew, in German, lost to the mists of one hundred years of lost socio-economic context. Whatever that allegory was, it has no relevance to your reading it.”

So with my most literary competent friend stumped, I am left scratching my head and wondering how to get a review of any length out of such a short book in which so little happens. Especially when I didn’t like it much. There is hardly anything that could be considered a plot, not much character development, no moral, no explanation as to what is going on, and no real ending. Some classics I understand why they’ve lingered, and some have just left me scratching my head. This is one of those. I don’t think it’s helped by the fact that, apparently, in the original text, the first sentence goes on for pages, and it’s never specifically stated that it’s an insect that Gregor turns into. How much has that changed what Kafka really meant? Books need more than this, but I fear I’ll never understand exactly what was going on here.

David had one final thought: “What’s good about Kafka is that even though you don’t really like the story or the writing, it stays with you forever.”

In that, I fear he’s completely right.