Meditations over Metamorphoses
Now it may be frowned upon to cherry-pick your way through a book full of numerous stories but this is just what I’ve done with ‘Metamorphosis and Other Stories’ by Franz Kafka. I particularly wanted to read Metamorphosis and so resolved to read all the stories up to and including that one, but to leave the ones that came after that.
Why, I hear you ask? I can’t really justify my reasoning, just because I have other books which I wanted to read too!
Overall I enjoyed Metamorphosis as I found it a really interesting yet absurd exploration into alienation and change, focusing on a young man, Gregor Samsa, who inexplicably turns into a giant insect one day.
Sound totally bizarre?
It is but it is also genuinely fascinating to see how this transformation affects him and his family in this relatively short story.
Gregor changes psychologically as well as physically, his father seems to find a new lease of life after his son becomes a bug and Gregor’s sister undergoes a process of metamorphosis herself. It’s certainly worth a read.
However, although this may be the story that is most strongly associated with Kafka, some of the ‘Other Stories’ in the book, I actually preferred.
The section of the book entitled ‘Meditation’ has a number of short stories in it (in some cases very short) which I really admire because of their concision and ability to communicate such thought-provoking themes. All of them were written between 1904 and 1912 and were published together in 1913. Perhaps because they were written over such a long period, each story does seem markedly distinct, however overall they tend to present the themes of isolation, rejection and frustration.
Here are three in this collection that I recommend in particular:
- Clothes is one of my favourites in the section because of its brevity. It sounds like I don’t like it but it is just so concise and I like its directness. It explores the theme of the futility and fragility of beauty and how it seems pointless to be beautiful when it will not last forever. The clothes could be used to be an analogy for life in general.
- The Way Home, to me, adopts a different tone compared with the other stories in the section as it seems almost triumphant. It is an exploration into that feeling of achievement and power that I think we all get sometimes, even though this feeling is not really prompted by anything in particular.
- Unhappiness is another of these stories that intrigued me. It is about a man who is visited by an apparition which can be said to be himself as a child. The child questions why the man must act on show all the time and highlights his forgotten youth but disappears, leaving the man very isolated and confused.
I can’t help but thinking that Unhappiness is a little like A Christmas Carol by Mr Dickens, but then that could just be because of the time of year that is and general festivities going on around me. Either way, this collection of Kafka’s works is certainly a thought-provoking one to read!
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all those that happen to stumble upon this blog or have taken the clever move to follow it!
And I wish a happy new year to all as well!
“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language. And next year’s words await another voice. And to make an end is to make a beginning.” – T.S. Eliot
Beetle image taken from: http://openclipart.org/detail/17182/scarabe-by-laurent, uploaded by Laurent, 2008-05-30