“This fine version, with David Cronenberg’s inspired introduction and the new translator’s beguiling afterword, is, I suspect, the most disturbing though the most comforting of all so far; others will follow, but don’t hesitate: this is the transforming text for you.”—Richard Howard Franz Kafka’s 1915 novella of unexplained horror and nightmarish transformation became a worldwide classic and remains a century later one of the most widely read works of fiction in the world. It is the story of traveling salesman ...
“This fine version, with David Cronenberg’s inspired introduction and the new translator’s beguiling afterword, is, I suspect, the most disturbing though the most comforting of all so far; others will follow, but don’t hesitate: this is the transforming text for you.”—Richard Howard
Franz Kafka’s 1915 novella of unexplained horror and nightmarish transformation became a worldwide classic and remains a century later one of the most widely read works of fiction in the world. It is the story of traveling salesman Gregor Samsa, who wakes one morning to find himself transformed into a monstrous insect. This hugely influential work inspired George Orwell, Albert Camus, Jorge Louis Borges, and Ray Bradbury, while continuing to unsettle millions of readers.
In her new translation of Kafka’s masterpiece, Susan Bernofsky strives to capture both the humor and the humanity in this macabre tale, underscoring the ways in which Gregor Samsa’s grotesque metamorphosis is just the physical manifestation of his longstanding spiritual impoverishment.
“Bernofsky is one of the finest translators of German working today, and her new English version of Kafka’s most famous tale—of Gregor Samsa, the horrifying and helpless human-sized insect—distinguishes itself from previous translations in its first sentence.”
Andrew Hultkrans - Bookforum
“This welcome new edition of The Metamorphosis was translated by Susan Bernofsky in a smoother, less Germanic, more contemporary voice than the Muir version most Anglophone readers remember from school, and is introduced by the master of biological horror, director David Cronenberg.”
Arlice Davenport - The Wichita Eagle
“Susan Bernofsky’s new, exacting translation shows just how ingenious the structure of [Metamorphosis] is, and just how difficult it is to render Kafka’s German into English. She succeeds brilliantly, however, with a vivid fidelity to Kafka’s vision, driving home the way he makes us at once sympathetic to his anti-hero, Gregor Samsa, and repulsed by him.”
Paul Constant - The Stranger
“Bernofsky has performed an act of magic with her translation. She's found the human inside Kafka's words—imploring and beseeching and begging, in his own quiet way, for help—and delivered him to us, in flesh and blood. It's a letter that comes more than a century too late, but it's finally been delivered. That, in a quiet and bookish way, is some kind of small act of hope.”
Franz Kafka (1883-1924) was born of Jewish parents in Prague. Several of his story collections were published in his lifetime and his novels, The Trial, The Castle, and Amerika, were published posthumously by his editor Max Brod.
Susan Bernofsky is the acclaimed translator of Hermann Hesse, Robert Walser, and Jenny Erpenbeck, and the recipient of many awards, including the Helen and Kurt Wolff Prize and the Hermann Hesse Translation Prize. She teaches literary translation at Columbia University and lives in New York.
Franz Kafka was born in 1883 to a well-to-do middle-class Jewish family. His father, the self-made proprietor of a wholesale haberdashery business, was a domineering man whose approbation Franz continually struggled to win. The younger Kafka's feelings of inadequacy and guilt form the background of much of his work and are made explicit in his "Letter to His Father" (excerpted in this volume), which was written in 1919 but never sent.
Kafka was educated in the German language schools of Prague and at the city's German University, where in 1908 he took a law degree. Literature, however, remained his sole passion. At this time he became part of a literary circle that included Franz Werfel, Martin Buber, and Kafka's close friend Max Brod. Encouraged by Brod, Kafka published the prose collection Observations in 1913. Two years later his story "The Stoker" won the Fontaine prize. In 1916 he began work on The Trial and between this time and 1923 produced three incomplete novels as well as numerous sketches and stories. In his lifetime some of his short works did appear: The Judgment (1916), The Metamorphosis (1916), The Penal Colony (1919), and The Country Doctor (1919).
Before his death of tuberculosis in 1924, Kafka had charged Max Brod with the execution of his estate, ordering Brod to burn the manuscripts. With the somewhat circular justification that Kafka must have known his friend could not obey such an order, Brod decided to publish Kafka's writings. To this act of "betrayal" the world owes the preservation of some of the most unforgettable and influential literary works of our century.