‘Metamorphosis’ by Franz Kafka, translated by Michael Hofmann

Readers might get bored three-quarters of the way through The Trial. Readers might not finish The Castle (I hear some of you thinking even Kafka couldn’t). But there’s no excuse not to read ‘Metamorphosis.’ Surely, you’ve read it? Shame on you if you haven’t. Kafka makes Gregor Samsa more human the more Gregor transforms into a bug. The scene of Gregor with an apple lodged in him! If Kafka had an ounce of arrogant motherfucker in him he could have dropped his pen right then and there.
A few errant Kafka thoughts. I was with a group of writers talking about ‘Metamorphosis’ and all of them agreed that the ending was a complete mystery. What does Grete stretching at the end mean? they kept asking. I wanted to say that the Samsas looked pretty happy to be rid of Gregor but there was such a passion amongst those writers for understanding Kafka solely as an unknowable puzzle I sadly kept my mouth shut. Later, one of the writers said they had a friend who spent ten years reading only Kafka and that after ten years announced, “The meaning of Kafka is that there is no meaning.” I’ve worried about that writer’s friend far more than is necessary.

First published in German, as ‘Die Verwandlung’, in Die Weißen Blätter, 1915. Widely translated in English. The translation I read is from Metamorphosis & Other Stories, Penguin Classics, 2015

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