A review of Kafka’s masterpiece.
There is no reason you should not read this novella. It is an important work of fiction. It is fairly short so, you can’t bring up the I-have-no-time-for-classics argument. And it is captivating in a sad, sad way.
Gregor Samsa is the lone breadwinner in a household. His father, mother and sister depend on him waking up and going to work every day. One morning, he wakes up and finds himself converted into an Ungeziefer or unclean vermin.
The other characters include his sister, mother and father who are helpless relatives to this monstrous beetle.
It is a well thought out plot. There isn’t much to the metamorphosis (one can easily replace it with any other terminal disease) but the developments after that bring out subtle human emotions. The narrative is detached. It is a probing study into human empathy. You learn to know yourself better as you read the story.
Now much has been lost in translation. As per the article on Wikipedia, the original German version doesn’t allow for the word “insect” but refers to an unclean state where one is cast away from society.
The English version, with its limitations, succeeds in evoking the emotions though.
Reading this book made me immensely sad. Not just for the beetle but for the relatives. There is a lot of helplessness and a lot of frustration. It gets really dark when the relatives start praying for Gregor’s death. His sister even denounces him as her brother. We are not told how Gregor feels about all this. Kafka, in my view, presents the raw emotions and lets you interpret what they are.
The family is tired of caring for the insect. The insect doesn’t mean harm to anyone but it doesn’t really change the fact that their house gets a lot of bad publicity just because the insect lives there.
The book is not a moral lesson. It is social commentary, subtly done.
4 stars of 5