My ratings – 3.8/5.
Metamorphosis is the first book by Franz Kafka that I have recently read and there is no doubt that I am planning to read all books ever written by Kafka in the coming months. This is the influence Kafka had on me just after reading Metamorphosis.
There is much to the imagination of reader while reading this book. It is full of unexpected and unusual stuff brought into world of realization without any proper rationalization or justification. One morning, when Gregor woke from troubled dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a horrible vermin. The story starts with this sentence. Interesting, isn’t it?
Metamorphosis literally means the physical development in an animal’s structure after birth or hatching, some abrupt changes which can be defined as part of the process of growth. As a caterpillar grows to become a butterfly, transformation of a maggot into a fly, and a tadpole grows into a frog, it is called metamorphosis.
The story is full of major conflict within Gregor, and his external conflicts while adjusting with his family in a shared flat, after the abrupt physical changes in his otherwise perfect body.
During the first read, it appears to me as if the story is full of hidden meanings those answer can only be located when looked carefully into Kafka’s personal life. Many people say “Metamorphosis” is an autobiographical account, much influenced by Kafka’s personal struggles and internal conflicts. But, it is difficult to judge a writer’s mind, and thinking process. As far as I can comprehend Kafka’s personal life, and the novella “Metamorphosis” written by him in 1912, there is much to relate between the two accounts and the story compels you to take a peek into what all he went through in his personal life.
Kafka had an influential and authoritarian father, so does Gregor, whose father even tried to kill him once with the heavy and fatal shower of apples towards him after he became a large insect, considering him as a threat to the whole family. Kafka’s mother was submissive to his father, as is Gregor’s mother, always under the influence of her husband’s decisions and never really standing up for her own wishes. Kafka also had a sister whom he was most close to, so does Gregor. And Gregor was most hurt and even contemplated suicide when his sister lost all her patience and love for him, and asked her father and mother to get rid of him to live a peaceful life ahead.
It appears to me as if Gregor is an exaggerated version of Kafka to the point of ultimate self-destruction.
One can also easily infer by the book that Kafka was most negative in his life, especially because of the final treatment he gave to his character, Gregor, as if there was no hope left for him.
In Metamorphosis, Kafka tells a moving tale of how family decisions, circumstances which cause those decisions, and family’s social status can make you suffer the most as an individual and as a part of the family.
There are always two ways to judge a novel. I judge a novel first by the influence the writing style of the novelist had on me, and second by the story, and if the story could make me forget the aberrations, glitches, and inconsistency in the writing pattern.
Metamorphosis is one such story. It runs heavy on your imagination. The story gives the insect tiny, but many legs, a shell on the back, and a fragile face. But nowhere Kafka mentions if the face is that of a human or an insect, he doesn’t say if the legs are that of an insect or there are numerous tiny human legs. He doesn’t mention anywhere if he is talking about a large cockroach, or a turtle, or a homo-cockroach. Every reader will have a different image of the verminous monster as per the reader’s personal experiences and fears. I believe this aspect of the story, the free run to the reader’s imagination, must have given this novella a status of a much-celebrated book, and a classic of 20th-century literature.
Guardian terms Franz Kafka as ‘One of the greatest writers of the twentieth century’ on the back cover of the novella, Metamorphosis. The words stand true, Kafka was truly a great story teller.
But I am still doubtful about his writing, perhaps, I need to read the book again. Perhaps, I must give more points to the story, plot, and characterization within this short 100-page novel, than the writing style of the writer. Perhaps, I need to read other books of Kafka before becoming a judge of his work. Nevertheless, this is one wonderful read, it takes the reader to a realistic world full of unexplained mysteries. Ironical. Isn’t it?
Go ahead and buy the book today.