When Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from troubled dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a monstrous insect.
I read a lot of Kafka last year and liked very, very little of it. But I decided to revisit this novella, which is both the most famous of Kafka’s work and also the first of his work that I read. I read the Malcolm Pasley translation for Penguin, if you’re interested. It’s been a good decade or more since I last ready this story, but I think it worked on my nerves and my soul even more this time than it did before. The premise is to die for: a guy wakes up and discovers that he’s been turned into, essentially, some kind of cockroach or beetle. But the story is just very oppressive in atmosphere. The premise could lend itself to inadvertent comedy and there are a few moments of dark comedy, but overall I found re-reading this to be basically sort of feverish and unpleasant in the best of ways. It’s really dark, really bleak, quite hopeless and, ultimately, just really, really sad. I feel like Kafka reaches a level of real pathos in this story that one rarely finds. For all the negative things I had to say about Kafka’s other work last year, he certainly turned out one undeniable masterpiece. 4 stars.
tl;dr – short novel is grim and unflinching, but also filled with pathos and sadness; Kafka at his best. 4 stars.