Author : Franz Kafka
Published : January 1st, 1915 Originally / May 13th, 2002 by Project Gutenberg Ebook
201 pages paperback / 51 pages in Project Gutenberg Ebook
This is one of those books I had read ages ago for school, didn’t remember much beyond that a guy gets turned into a bug and that we were told there were some pretty important philosophical thematic elements we needed to analyze and study.
But I was a high school(or maybe freshman in college) student.
To say my ability to “philosophically analyze” at that age was mostly non-existent is an understatement. Sure there were the fun discussions with friends about random stuff we THOUGHT was deep, but upon first reading this it went mostly over my head.
I wish I could tell you that suddenly in my 40’s as I revisit this book I have some sort of magical clarity about all the thematic lessons learned from Kafka’s work. But honestly, it’s one of those stories that makes me feel dumb. Like I’m missing something.
Sure, at my age now, I certainly appreciate the story more. I understand the impact of just how lost Gregor(and his family) must be to have this event not phase them as anything more than an inconvenience.
But this book doesn’t speak to me on a core, philosophical level.
For me, there is ONE big take-away from this book
The fact that Gregor is so wrapped up in his job, the money, making his bosses happy, and feeling upset that his work ethic is not noticed by his peers or superiors or even his family to a large degree, makes his first reaction to waking up and finding himself changed into giant bug that much more startling.
He isn’t concerned about WHAT happened. Doesn’t seem at all worried about IF he’ll be able to change back?
Gregor is simply curious about his new “condition” and concerned about how long he’ll have to miss work, what people will say about him if they see him like this, and how he’ll never get promoted now.
It’s a pretty sobering thought to realize that Gregor isn’t alone in this thought. His family, aside from a few breakdowns and outbursts, largely take it all in stride. NO ONE IS CONCERNED! And that’s the most insane and also the saddest part of this book.
It speaks to us today in part because of the pressure of the grind, the hustle culture, the “always on, only focused on gains and goals culture”.
I’m not going to attempt to get into the deeper philosophical meanings in this story because frankly, I don’t feel qualified and I’m not here to ANALYZE anything.
I’m here to give you my thoughts on this book as I explored through another story on my journey.
Bottom line… This book is DEPRESSING
I didn’t hate this book, in fact there are some things to like.
- Kafka’s writing has a wonderfully apathetic feel that paints such a bleak picture you feel in your non insect bones.
- I love the concept and I love a book that allows space for you to pause and think about what you just read.
But truth is, I didn’t love this book either.
- Yes, I understand this is a book about a larger existential thought than simply a man being turned to a bug. But frankly, as weird and strange as it is… it’s kind of boring.
- There’s not much happening in this book aside from inner monologues and descriptive paragraphs about how Gregor has trouble moving or how little he’s eating.
While I don’t regret reading this book, and fully admit it’s a wonderful set of ideas and concepts that will allow you to spend as much(or as little) time thinking about it’s larger meanings and what it is saying about life, it’s frankly a pretty boring read.
Kafka has an enjoyable way with his prose that evokes a true feeling of melancholy and apathy. There’s a truly hopeless feeling to his words, which is the point of the story. But in aside from that, there isn’t much here from the storytelling stand-point.
It’s great to read(or in this case revisit) the classics. Just understand that often times these classics, while important to the history of literature, just aren’t all that enjoyable as a STORY. And while, much like with The Beatles or The Rolling Stones, I appreciate and respect this books place in the history of literature, there’s only so far that appreciation goes in terms of actual enjoyment. As always, your mileage may vary.
The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka gets 3 out of 5 stars
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