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on May 24, 2004
In the book Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka, the main character Gregor Samsa deals with the trouble of waking up to becoming a dung beatle. I believe that Kafka wrote metamorphosis on a different level then its rather elementary outershell.I believe that Gregor's struggle is an exaggerated form works with differences in people in the world and I believe that that's what Kafka was trying to accomplish in his writing of this sci fi book. Over decades and decades, people have been judged by the way the look or their creed or their color of their skin. I believe this book symbolizes the way people react to unique forms of characteristics of people.
I enjoyed this book because of Gregor's struggle with this change in his life even if it was a bit obtuse. As the story unravels you find out that in a fit of rage his father handicaps him, which is another weakness that he has to deal with. The story deals with coping with a handicap and is not the kind of "happy " stories that we have today. I believe that this book is a bit boring when it comes to its science fiction meanings but when you look at it as an abstract thought the book is well written and sends a great message. I would recommend this book to someone who is interested in taking a book on levels and not for the first level. If you are looking for a great science fiction book I would stay with a Bradbury book.
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on May 19, 2004
Backdrop -
This was my first Kafka story. I only picked it up because (a) There's a lot of mystique surrounding the very sound "Kafka" (b) He's one of the few whose name has been immortalised as a word in the english lexicon ...i.e., "Kafkaesque". I read this story , and others, while on my daily commute to Manhattan.
Thoughts -
I am usually leery of the quality of translated works, and being Teutonically Disadvantaged, cannot compare it to the Deutsch original.
A very original creation - so original that it is thought of as a "novel" although its just a short story. Requires complete suspension of analysis and critical thinking. Requires the reader to possess blind faith in the pen of Kafka.
Kafka, the master of "non-disclosure, non-closure", starts the story on an outlandish note .. that of Gregor Samsa, the protagonist, waking up one day, having metamorphed into a LARGE insect of unclear description.
This discovery is met with different degrees of revulsion from his family, whilst he continues to have kind thoughts of them. He is kept sequestered and fed leftovers and rotting remains (something Gregor the Human would have abhorred, but Gregor the Insect loves).
Gregor's life is one steep descent from here on, and it proceeds within the laws of some unstated logic. The stages that the story goes through seem to flow quite naturally, which is weird because none of us can actually relate to such an experience. The story could be a parable - that Gregor has done something so heinous that he's now an "insect" in the eyes of the world. But nothing in the story actually supports this theory.
Conclusion -
No reasons or explanations are offered, no attempt at placating the readers' curiosity about this usual occurrence. "Incompletion is a quality of his work, a facet of his nobility" said John Updike of Kafka. In Updike's words, Kafka "abjures aesthetic finish and takes asceticism to the next level, where he is kept company by Pound and Salinger".
There's no relief whatsoever in the story - intellectual, moral or emotional. The story rushes headlong to its logical conclusion. At the end there is an obliquely optimistic note, but with Kafka you can never tell. For readers like myself, brought up on more "user-friendly" writers, this kind of writing is quite hard to get down. But its useful in an archeo-literary kind of way - that is, if you want to study the literary layer called avant-gardism.
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on September 26, 2003
When I first saw this graphic novel in the store, my first reaction was confusion. I already owned the print version of the Metamorphosis and I remember reading that Kafka pleaded with the editor that Gregor-as-insect never be drawn (something that's been honored since then. The closest thing I ever saw was one book that's cover had antennae poking up from behind a bed). So now Kuper makes a graphic novel version? It struck me as disrespectful in a way, but then again Kafka also wanted his best friend to burn his works, and his friend never did. So why should we hold Kuper to a higher standard?
In the meantime, after browsing through the book (I didn't read it word for word... or buy the book. I mean, I've read the story before and own it.) I was struck by how powerful it was. Kuper does a wonderful job of conveying Gregor's pain and lonliness, and the flashbacks to his life before the transformation make his struggle all the more heartbreaking.
So all in all, it's a wonderful creation. But I don't give it five stars because I'm still wondering if it should have been made at all.
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on May 8, 2003
The story follows the tale of Joseph K who is awaken on his thirtieth birthday to be accused of a crime that is never told to him. The law court that K goes to be interviewed is hidden in the middle of hoses. Other accused mend spend days awaiting at the law court offices and never get a chance to address their cases. The cases are passed from one unknown judge to another with out any progress to resolve the issue.
At first K is determined to fix the false accusations. With time he learns that he cannot beat the system and that all of the energy was a waste of time because is aware that K has been accused and he is alienated form his society.
It wrecks his life to the point that he can no longer work and brings his status in the community to the ground. As with time goes by he learns to live with the fact that he became like one of the other guys just waiting in the law court.
After his whole ordeal K still was not cleared form the false accusation that ruined his life. At the end of the novel K was killed but I was reminded on how the novel started. He is killed which happen to look like the two guys that started the novel and that arrested K in the begging of the story. The story is intriguing and quite interesting if you understand what is going on during the story.
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on February 6, 2003
A note: I potentially give away a fairly important piece of the story (although I try to keep it as ambiguous as I can), so for those unfamiliar with this work, please be advised that you may want to bypass this review.
I wrote a paper on Kafka's Metamorphosis for a class that focused on "modern" short stories. As the title of this review indicates, I still cannot honestly say whether I like or dislike it.
First, a warning: if you cannot accept the main character -- by the end of the first sentence -- turning into a human-sized insect, with utterly no attempt at an explanation from its author as to why or how, then I can guarantee that you will not enjoy this story. It takes -- nay, demands -- a suspension of one's credulity in order to take anything of value from the piece. This is what Kafka asks of you from the very outset.
Secondly, if you're in a good mood -- or looking for a book to put you in such a state -- don't pick this one up. For whatever you take out of this story, it will not be joy or laughter. That is not to say The Metamorphosis is not without humor; it is indeed. Nonetheless, it is a bitter, sardonic sort of humor that, after expecting the reader to eliminate his skepticism, almost tauntingly asks, "Can you believe such a thing could happen to someone?"
Third, if you can accept the fact that the protagonist of the story is a BUG or insect of some kind (sorry, cannot recall the number of legs Gregor is said to have), you can gain a very different perspective on life. Gregor's inherent altruism -- the lengths he has gone to and goes to in order to make his family happy -- combined with the same family's almost complete renunciation/ignoring of him, leaves one with a deep sense of sympathy -- if nothing else -- for poor Greggie.
Kafka's work asks the question, "Can there be anything sadder than your family not wanting you?" The author, in my estimation, responds at the end with a resounding "Yes!" For not only does Gregor's family not want anything to do with him, by the end of the story, it could be argued that they are better off without him. Now the question becomes, "Can there be anything sadder than your family being better off -- and happier -- without you?" I daresay that most of us don't even consider this question, yet it's a sobering one that has the potential to send us all into a deep depression. That leads into the final point that Gregor's transformation is not in itself the central theme of the story. It's how one acts when confronted with unprecedented adversity, and how that adversity can lead to the most disheartening of consequences.
Love this work or hate it, if you can get past, as I said, the ridiculousness of Gregor's initial state of affairs, this somewhat short story will leave a lasting impression on you.
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on May 12, 2002

The Author

Franz Kafka was born July 3, 1883, Kafka came from a middle-class Jewish family and grew up in the shadow of his domineering shopkeeper father. Kafka did well in the prestigious German high school in Prague and went on to receive a law degree in 1906. He soon found a position in the semipublic Workers' Accident Insurance institution, where he remained a loyal and successful employee until the beginning of 1917 when tuberculosis forced him to take repeated sick leaves and finally, in 1922, to retire. Kafka spent half his time after 1917 in sanatoriums and health resorts, his tuberculosis of the lungs finally spreading to the larynx. Kafka lived his life in emotional dependence on his parents, whom he both loved and resented. Kafka finally pasted away on June 3,1924 of Tuberculosis. His major novels include Der Prozess, The Trial, Das Schloss, The Castle, Amerika, The Metamorphosis and A Country Doctor.
Passages from The Metamorphosis
Gregor Samsa is really hung up on work and essentially is a money maching. Gregor just works a job he hates to provide for his family while having no life, no friends, and no real connection to his family. Gregor turns into a bug because through working Gregor becomes oppressed, alienated, and isolated, as are bugs in our society.
"Oh God" he thought " what a grueling job I've picked! Day in and day out on the road and the upset of doing business is much worse than the actual business of that in the home office..." pg4
His family actually became co-dependent on him because he provided all they needed, so in the big picture, Gregor's devotion to work wasn't really "good" for any of them. This is illustrated most strongly toward the end when his family finally gets off their collective butt and they all get jobs and they are happier that way. Unfortunately this means that Gregor is and never was needed.
"We must try to get rid of it. People who already have to work as hard as we do can't put up with this constant torture at home too." pg51
Gregor soon dies which becomes a relief for the family as they all begin to smile and celebrate.
"Come in with us for a little while, Grete said Mrs. Samsa with a melancholy smile and Grete, not looking back at the corpse, followed her parents into the bedroom." Pg55

Gregor is trapped in his job by his duty to his family, but he dreams of the day when he can finally pay of their debts and quit his job. His need for freedom from the restrictive demands of his work is expressed in his metamorphosis, by means of which he escapes. This escape however, fails to bring Gregor freedom, for he is now imprisoned by his family in his room. Thus when Gregor works, he is enslaved by his job and, when he doesn't work he is enslaved by his family. There is no way of balancing out freedom and duty, and in the end one is always a slave. Gregor escapes the pressures of his job by dying as a human and escapes his selfish family by dying as a bug. The only means of escape turns out to be death.
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on May 9, 2002
The metamorphosis is a story that teaches about human nature. It depicts a family that is more comparable to a colony of ants than a human family. This colony works towards the best interests of the family. Gregor, their only son, is a hard working salesman that gives up all the traits that make himself human by pushing away other people and social interactions. His interest is only to pay off his family's debt. Once he is transformed into a dung beetle he is no longer able to produce for his family and begins to detract from the family's well being. In an attempt to keep their finances under control the family rents a room in their house. Gregor scares the tenants away when he shows himself in the living room. The colony realizes that Gregor is not helping their situation and plan to rid themselves of him. However before they have a chance to take any action Gegor dies from starvation. He had stopped eating months before because he was no longer able to pull his own weight in the family.
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on July 16, 2001
It shows on every page of this book that Kafka was an introverted, obsessive man struggling to come to terms with a world in which he always felt out of place. One should perhaps judge the art without reference to the artist's life, but this novel MAKES the reader ask the question: "who could write this?", or even - in the most frustrating passages - "Kafka, you should've got out more!"
This novel is more like a long short story than a novel. The situations in which Joseph K finds himself seem unreal fantasies of a man who was too preoccupied with himself to embrace the richness of the real world. The real world does not exist in this story, other than by accident when we think about the man who wrote it - and that is where the longevity of his vision comes from. In other words this is not a great novel - it has no life about it, and it is tedious - but one never forgets the stories of Kafka because they reflect the worries of all ordinary thinking people in the modern age.
Nobody in literature has elucidated feelings of alienation like Kafka, and that is why he will always have readers. His work is haunting, lasting, but not always enjoyable. To best see the greatness (however accidental it was) of his writing, with elaborate and horrifying visions rendered somehow mundane, one should read his short stories, such as 'Metamorphosis' and 'In the Penal Colony', which are fascinating and irresistable. But this novel will not be enjoyed by many, for one expects more dimensions from the format, and Kafka had only one crude and frightening dimension to his writing: the horror of alienation.
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on October 7, 1999
This is unquestionably a powerful, enigmatical modern, and even postmodern text, with its sordid portrayal of an urbanized universe. It is also a classic essay on the folly of existence. - "Like a dog!" - For what crime is K. on trial? How can he redeem himself? And who is the face at the window, glimpsed towards the end...? - There are no answers, no causes; life is a glaring, unfathomable absurdity. All are constrained by the necessity of obeying the inscrutable "law" that controls all and has everything in its thrall. Kafka's writing is superb, with acute powers of suggestion. His work, which has been very much overrated,in my view, is a brilliant but unpardonably clever description of the pressures and anxieties of modern industrial life.
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on January 24, 2004
I liked the Trial. In my quest to read the top 100 fiction books of the last century, I picked up what is probably Kafka's seminal work. (this was listed at number 92) I found this book to be a somewhat poignant discussion of how our society judges people, how perception is reality, and how in life, you rarely get a fair trial. I also saw Kafka's work as unique and unlike any of the other books I've read on the top 100 list. Kafka's style is straight-forward and concise and his sentences are packed with meaning. There really isn't a lot of superfluous verbiage or flowery, overly-descriptive prose. As with most of the classics, this book is worthwhile if you're looking to get something out of it beyond the storyline.
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