I recently was given a book that is a collection of short stories written by Franz Kafka. It’s a Barnes & Noble Classics version published by Barnes & Noble Books, Copyright 2003. The Introduction, Notes and Further Reading were all done by Jason Baker while the translation of the short stories from their original German was done by Donna Freed. Like I did with my version of Candide, I skipped over the incredibly long Introduction section as well as the World of… section.
Franz Kafka was born in Prague, Germany in 1883. He was not well known until close to his death and defying his last request, Kafka’s friend, Max Brod spent the rest of his own life getting the rest of Kafka’s work published, including three novels, The Trial(1925), The Castle(1926) and Amerika(1927).
I’ll review each short story in the collection starting today with Metamorphosis – just because it’s the first story in the book.
I was caught by this story and couldn’t stop reading it. It’s a sad story about a young man named Gregor Samsa, a traveling salesman and his family: Herr Samsa, his father who later becomes an employee of a bank, Frau Samsa, his mother who later begins sewing lingerie for private clients and his sister, Grete, who becomes a salesgirl at a store.
Poor Gregor, after spending many years slaving away at a job he hated all so he could help the family – he was the only one employed at this time – wakes up one morning as a giant creature. The way he’s described, I’d say he’s a doodlebug, but a charwoman calls him a dung beetle so I’ll go with that.
Kafka shows most of the action from Gregor’s POV as well as using 3rd person narrative to tell the story. The story tells you what happens to poor Gregor and his family once it is discovered he is no longer human.
I won’t give away the story, but I will caution you to take it like it is. Jason Baker says his fiction doesn’t make sense. I see it as a vignette – a snapshot of something that happened to a man and his family – like a scene from a one act play. Sorry, it’s hard to explain. I was confused by the story – it’s just a story. But it does show how familial obligation and self identity were treated during Kafka’s time.
In short, I liked the story. It’s not very long so reading it wouldn’t be a major waste of time if you don’t end up liking it. Me, I’m going to read another short story soon.
See you on the flipside and don’t forget your towel and sonic screwdriver!