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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Metamorphosis


“As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.” Thus opens Franz Kafka’s 1915 short novel, The Metamorphosis, a bizarre account as riveting as it made me stop and think. 

    Samsa is a hardworking man selflessly taking care of his parents and sister. But all that is forgotten following that queer and unforeseeable morning when he finds he has changed into a bug! 

   Now his family can hardly come to terms with his odd condition, and poor Samsa is isolated and fed on garbage as he begins a new life of desperation and inescapable doom. The outrageous treatment reflects contemporary society where individuals who lead lives of sacrifice and self-denial for the benefit of their communities oft times end up being betrayed, alienated and left to die alone. 

     That’s why Eric Santner calls “The story of Gregor Samsa an initiation into a universe of abjection.” The beauty about it however is that Samsa, in spite of the unfair treatment from his family, accepts his plight with admirable equanimity. In fact, he can be very ironically humorous. Somewhere in the novel, when he is attracted by his sister’s music, Samsa, now an insect, crawls nearer to enjoy it in close proximity but stops to wonder if he “was an animal that music moved him so!” 

     In a style as lucid as it is ludic, the author movingly captures the loneliness, frustration, helplessness and all the psychological torment connected with individuals that find themselves entrapped by forces beyond their control, all made the worse by an indifferent world. 

    This Austrarian-Czech masterpiece is one every lover of literature should read before their death, if you ask me. As Nobel-Prize winning author Elias Canetti is quoted on the back cover, “In The Metamorphosis, Kafka reached the height of his mastery: he wrote something which he could never surpass, because there is nothing which The Metamorphosis could be surpassed by—one of the few great, perfect poetic works of this century.” 

--Sunday Monitor (Sunday Life Magazine, page 16), August 22, 2010