Friday, November 4, 2016

"The Metamorphosis" by Franz Kafka

I can't bring myself to fully discuss the ending of this book. It's wayyyyyyyyy too big of a spoiler; it would ruin everything. So, no huge spoilers today.

My sister Dot loves Kafka but I always associated him with long boring English classes where we spent hours and hours discussing characters and plots forced upon us. I had a vague notion that he was some kind of German surrealist from the 20th century, and somehow stored thoughts about Kafka in the same place in my brain as thoughts about Freud. Well, turns out my subconscious is pretty clever: they are both Czech!

The BEST statues in Prague - and there are many, many, many statues to choose from - are inside jokes celebrating Kafka’s brilliant mind.

So now that I'm devouring everything that I can possibly find that is Czech fiction, and especially seeking audiobooks, I find myself facing Kafka.

And I love him. He's hilarious. It would probably be more hilarious in German, with the sentence construction, flexible word order, and syntactical differences. Plus, there are many ambiguous idioms that lose some of their humor when they are explained.

The Metamorphosis was a very satisfying short story/novella. I listened to it in one day while working around the house. It was so funny, and not just the ending.

My husband asked what this book was about and when I told him, “On the first page, in the first sentence, the protagonist wakes up and discovers he has turned into a giant cockroach,” a huge smile of pleasure spread across his face and I knew for sure that he would read it. “That sounds awesome.” Apparently it jives perfectly with Danny's dark sense of humor (could it be inherited? 75% of his lines are English. I only recently realized that dry British humor is a “thing” - Danny assured me, “Everybody knows that!!”)

Als Gregor Samsa eines Morgens aus unruhigen Träumen erwachte, fand er sich in seinem Bett zu einem ungeheuren Ungeziefer verwandelt. (original)

As Gregor Samsa one morning from restless dreams awoke, found he himself in his bed into an enormous vermin transformed. (literal word-for-word translation)

The crazy way the whole family obsessed over the opinions of the boss was actually more absurd than the idea that Gregor would wake up one morning as a nasty cockroach. I thought that was pretty hilarious, too.

Kafka is a master at euphemism. If you watched this story as a movie, you would miss out on almost all the best parts, which take place inside the heads of the characters.

I thought the ending would be completely different. But it was even more satisfying than expected.

I would recommend this book, but it would be a škoda to foist it on bored, unintelligent, high schoolers who lack the life experience and subtlety to appreciate it. I know reading this book in high school would have been a miserable, not pleasurable experience for me, especially having to dissect all its possible interpretations under a microscope :::shudder:::

I want to read all of Kafka's published surviving stories. Or maybe a biography. His Wikipedia page is fascinating.

Somehow it is kind of like the gods of Czech lit are putting their hand on my shoulder and assuring me that it is completely OK that I found this little corner (reading and writing about Czech lit) of my obsessive hobby, “don't worry, be happy. Keep your goals away from the trolls. If you want to write, just do it. Don't worry about the audience so much. Kafka was never extensively published during his lifetime and look how loved he is now.”

Now I "get" the running inside joke in this YA series, where the hero is named Gregor who goes on adventures in the "Underland" where there are tons of cockroaches.

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