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Metamorphosis
     

Metamorphosis

3.9 49
by Franz Kafka
 

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Often cited as one of the most influential works of short fiction of the 20th century, Metamorphosis is widely studied in colleges and universities across the western world. Nobel Peace Prize winner Elias Canetti described it as "one of the few great and perfect works of the poetic imagination written..."

Overview

Often cited as one of the most influential works of short fiction of the 20th century, Metamorphosis is widely studied in colleges and universities across the western world. Nobel Peace Prize winner Elias Canetti described it as "one of the few great and perfect works of the poetic imagination written..."

Editorial Reviews

Jewish Book World
The only stories published in Kafka's lifetime, this collection contains the best-known novellas and stories from one of the seminal writers of the 20th century. Each work is unique and spellbinding. You don't know what's going to happen and you can't put it down.
From the Publisher
“Kafka’s stoic Euro-alienation meets and merges with Kuper’s thoroughly American rock and roll alienation.”—Jules Feiffer

“The ride from book to comic can be bumpy. Mr. Kuper navigates the transition with precision.”—New York Times

“Kafka’s anguished archetypal characters are easily rendered into visual equivalents and given new life in Kuper’s raw, expressionistic graphic style.”—Publishers Weekly

“Darkly appropriate . . . Kuper’s work rivals that of Art Spiegelman.”—Chicago Sun-Times

“Bubbling beneath the surface is a caustic batch of black humor that is as much unsettling as it is absurd. This is the magic of Kafka. And Kuper gives it a postmodern edge here, with an intriguing dance of picture and text.”—Gannett News Service

“Kuper’s scratchboard style . . . is reminiscent of the German expressionist artists . . . and his cartoony approach accentuates Kafka’s dark humor.”—Booklist

From the Hardcover edition.

The Wichita Eagle
“Susan Bernofsky's new, exacting translation shows just how ingenious the structure of [The 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.””
Slate
“Distinguishes itself from previous translations in its first sentence.”
Times Literary Supplement
“Vibrant . . . preserves the comedy as well as the tragedy of Kafka’s text.”
Richard Howard
“This is the transforming text for you.”

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781627936378
Publisher:
Start Classics
Publication date:
11/08/2013
Sold by:
SIMON & SCHUSTER
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
49
File size:
138 KB

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

One morning, when Gregor Samsa woke from troubled dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a horrible vermin. He lay on his armour-like back, and if he lifted his head a little he could see his brown belly, slightly domed and divided by arches into stiff sections. The bedding was hardly able to cover it and seemed ready to slide off any moment. His many legs, pitifully thin compared with the size of the rest of him, waved about helplessly as he looked.

"What's happened to me?" he thought. It wasn't a dream. His room, a proper human room although a little too small, lay peacefully between its four familiar walls. A collection of textile samples lay spread out on the table – Samsa was a travelling salesman – and above it there hung a picture that he had recently cut out of an illustrated magazine and housed in a nice, gilded frame. It showed a lady fitted out with a fur hat and fur boa who sat upright, raising a heavy fur muff that covered the whole of her lower arm towards the viewer.

Gregor then turned to look out the window at the dull weather. Drops of rain could be heard hitting the pane, which made him feel quite sad. "How about if I sleep a little bit longer and forget all this nonsense", he thought, but that was something he was unable to do because he was used to sleeping on his right, and in his present state couldn't get into that position. However hard he threw himself onto his right, he always rolled back to where he was. He must have tried it a hundred times, shut his eyes so that he wouldn't have to look at the floundering legs, and only stopped when he began to feel a mild, dull pain there that he had never felt before.

"Oh, God", he thought, "what a strenuous career it is that I've chosen! Travelling day in and day out. Doing business like this takes much more effort than doing your own business at home, and on top of that there's the curse of travelling, worries about making train connections, bad and irregular food, contact with different people all the time so that you can never get to know anyone or become friendly with them. It can all go to Hell!" He felt a slight itch up on his belly; pushed himself slowly up on his back towards the headboard so that he could lift his head better; found where the itch was, and saw that it was covered with lots of little white spots which he didn't know what to make of; and when he tried to feel the place with one of his legs he drew it quickly back because as soon as he touched it he was overcome by a cold shudder.

He slid back into his former position. "Getting up early all the time", he thought, "it makes you stupid. You've got to get enough sleep. Other travelling salesmen live a life of luxury. For instance, whenever I go back to the guest house during the morning to copy out the contract, these gentlemen are always still sitting there eating their breakfasts. I ought to just try that with my boss; I'd get kicked out on the spot. But who knows, maybe that would be the best thing for me. If I didn't have my parents to think about I'd have given in my notice a long time ago, I'd have gone up to the boss and told him just what I think, tell him everything I would, let him know just what I feel. He'd fall right off his desk! And it's a funny sort of business to be sitting up there at your desk, talking down at your subordinates from up there, especially when you have to go right up close because the boss is hard of hearing. Well, there's still some hope; once I've got the money together to pay off my parents' debt to him – another five or six years I suppose – that's definitely what I'll do. That's when I'll make the big change. First of all though, I've got to get up, my train leaves at five."

And he looked over at the alarm clock, ticking on the chest of drawers. "God in Heaven!" he thought. It was half past six and the hands were quietly moving forwards, it was even later than half past, more like quarter to seven. Had the alarm clock not rung? He could see from the bed that it had been set for four o'clock as it should have been; it certainly must have rung. Yes, but was it possible to quietly sleep through that furniture-rattling noise? True, he had not slept peacefully, but probably all the more deeply because of that. What should he do now? The next train went at seven; if he were to catch that he would have to rush like mad and the collection of samples was still not packed, and he did not at all feel particularly fresh and lively. And even if he did catch the train he would not avoid his boss's anger as the office assistant would have been there to see the five o'clock train go, he would have put in his report about Gregor's not being there a long time ago. The office assistant was the boss's man, spineless, and with no understanding. What about if he reported sick? But that would be extremely strained and suspicious as in fifteen years of service Gregor had never once yet been ill. His boss would certainly come round with the doctor from the medical insurance company, accuse his parents of having a lazy son, and accept the doctor's recommendation not to make any claim as the doctor believed that no-one was ever ill but that many were workshy. And what's more, would he have been entirely wrong in this case? Gregor did in fact, apart from excessive sleepiness after sleeping for so long, feel completely well and even felt much hungrier than usual.

He was still hurriedly thinking all this through, unable to decide to get out of the bed, when the clock struck quarter to seven. There was a cautious knock at the door near his head. "Gregor", somebody called – it was his mother – "it's quarter to seven. Didn't you want to go somewhere?" That gentle voice! Gregor was shocked when he heard his own voice answering, it could hardly be recognised as the voice he had had before. As if from deep inside him, there was a painful and uncontrollable squeaking mixed in with it, the words could be made out at first but then there was a sort of echo which made them unclear, leaving the hearer unsure whether he had heard properly or not. Gregor had wanted to give a full answer and explain everything, but in the circumstances contented himself with saying: "Yes, mother, yes, thank-you, I'm getting up now." The change in Gregor's voice probably could not be noticed outside through the wooden door, as his mother was satisfied with this explanation and shuffled away. But this short conversation made the other members of the family aware that Gregor, against their expectations was still at home, and soon his father came knocking at one of the side doors, gently, but with his fist. "Gregor, Gregor", he called, "what's wrong?" And after a short while he called again with a warning deepness in his voice: "Gregor! Gregor!" At the other side door his sister came plaintively: "Gregor? Aren't you well? Do you need anything?" Gregor answered to both sides: "I'm ready, now", making an effort to remove all the strangeness from his voice by enunciating very carefully and putting long pauses between each, individual word. His father went back to his breakfast, but his sister whispered: "Gregor, open the door, I beg of you." Gregor, however, had no thought of opening the door, and instead congratulated himself for his cautious habit, acquired from his travelling, of locking all doors at night even when he was at home.

The first thing he wanted to do was to get up in peace without being disturbed, to get dressed, and most of all to have his breakfast. Only then would he consider what to do next, as he was well aware that he would not bring his thoughts to any sensible conclusions by lying in bed. He remembered that he had often felt a slight pain in bed, perhaps caused by lying awkwardly, but that had always turned out to be pure imagination and he wondered how his imaginings would slowly resolve themselves today. He did not have the slightest doubt that the change in his voice was nothing more than the first sign of a serious cold, which was an occupational hazard for travelling salesmen.

It was a simple matter to throw off the covers; he only had to blow himself up a little and they fell off by themselves. But it became difficult after that, especially as he was so exceptionally broad. He would have used his arms and his hands to push himself up; but instead of them he only had all those little legs continuously moving in different directions, and which he was moreover unable to control. If he wanted to bend one of them, then that was the first one that would stretch itself out; and if he finally managed to do what he wanted with that leg, all the others seemed to be set free and would move about painfully. "This is something that can't be done in bed", Gregor said to himself, "so don't keep trying to do it".

The first thing he wanted to do was get the lower part of his body out of the bed, but he had never seen this lower part, and could not imagine what it looked like; it turned out to be too hard to move; it went so slowly; and finally, almost in a frenzy, when he carelessly shoved himself forwards with all the force he could gather, he chose the wrong direction, hit hard against the lower bedpost, and learned from the burning pain he felt that the lower part of his body might well, at present, be the most sensitive.

So then he tried to get the top part of his body out of the bed first, carefully turning his head to the side. This he managed quite easily, and despite its breadth and its weight, the bulk of his body eventually followed slowly in the direction of the head. But when he had at last got his head out of the bed and into the fresh air it occurred to him that if he let himself fall it would be a miracle if his head were not injured, so he became afraid to carry on pushing himself forward the same way. And he could not knock himself out now at any price; better to stay in bed than lose consciousness.

It took just as much effort to get back to where he had been earlier, but when he lay there sighing, and was once more watching his legs as they struggled against each other even harder than before, if that was possible, he could think of no way of bringing peace and order to this chaos. He told himself once more that it was not possible for him to stay in bed and that the most sensible thing to do would be to get free of it in whatever way he could at whatever sacrifice. At the same time, though, he did not forget to remind himself that calm consideration was much better than rushing to desperate conclusions. At times like this he would direct his eyes to the window and look out as clearly as he could, but unfortunately, even the other side of the narrow street was enveloped in morning fog and the view had little confidence or cheer to offer him. "Seven o'clock, already", he said to himself when the clock struck again, "seven o'clock, and there's still a fog like this." And he lay there quietly a while longer, breathing lightly as if he perhaps expected the total stillness to bring things back to their real and natural state.

But then he said to himself: "Before it strikes quarter past seven I'll definitely have to have got properly out of bed. And by then somebody will have come round from work to ask what's happened to me as well, as they open up at work before seven o'clock." And so he set himself to the task of swinging the entire length of his body out of the bed all at the same time. If he succeeded in falling out of bed in this way and kept his head raised as he did so he could probably avoid injuring it. His back seemed to be quite hard, and probably nothing would happen to it falling onto the carpet. His main concern was for the loud noise he was bound to make, and which even through all the doors would probably raise concern if not alarm. But it was something that had to be risked.

When Gregor was already sticking half way out of the bed – the new method was more of a game than an effort, all he had to do was rock back and forth – it occurred to him how simple everything would be if somebody came to help him. Two strong people – he had his father and the maid in mind – would have been more than enough; they would only have to push their arms under the dome of his back, peel him away from the bed, bend down with the load and then be patient and careful as he swang over onto the floor, where, hopefully, the little legs would find a use. Should he really call for help though, even apart from the fact that all the doors were locked? Despite all the difficulty he was in, he could not suppress a smile at this thought.

After a while he had already moved so far across that it would have been hard for him to keep his balance if he rocked too hard. The time was now ten past seven and he would have to make a final decision very soon. Then there was a ring at the door of the flat. "That'll be someone from work", he said to himself, and froze very still, although his little legs only became all the more lively as they danced around. For a moment everything remained quiet. "They're not opening the door", Gregor said to himself, caught in some nonsensical hope. But then of course, the maid's firm steps went to the door as ever and opened it. Gregor only needed to hear the visitor's first words of greeting and he knew who it was – the chief clerk himself. Why did Gregor have to be the only one condemned to work for a company where they immediately became highly suspicious at the slightest shortcoming? Were all employees, every one of them, louts, was there not one of them who was faithful and devoted who would go so mad with pangs of conscience that he couldn't get out of bed if he didn't spend at least a couple of hours in the morning on company business? Was it really not enough to let one of the trainees make enquiries – assuming enquiries were even necessary – did the chief clerk have to come himself, and did they have to show the whole, innocent family that this was so suspicious that only the chief clerk could be trusted to have the wisdom to investigate it? And more because these thoughts had made him upset than through any proper decision, he swang himself with all his force out of the bed. There was a loud thump, but it wasn't really a loud noise. His fall was softened a little by the carpet, and Gregor's back was also more elastic than he had thought, which made the sound muffled and not too noticeable. He had not held his head carefully enough, though, and hit it as he fell; annoyed and in pain, he turned it and rubbed it against the carpet.

"Something's fallen down in there", said the chief clerk in the room on the left. Gregor tried to imagine whether something of the sort that had happened to him today could ever happen to the chief clerk too; you had to concede that it was possible. But as if in gruff reply to this question, the chief clerk's firm footsteps in his highly polished boots could now be heard in the adjoining room. From the room on his right, Gregor's sister whispered to him to let him know: "Gregor, the chief clerk is here." "Yes, I know", said Gregor to himself; but without daring to raise his voice loud enough for his sister to hear him.

(Continues…)



Excerpted from "The Metamorphosis"
by .
Copyright © 2013 Franz Kafka.
Excerpted by permission of Legend Times Ltd.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are Saying About This

Anne Rice
In some ways, there has never been a better time for Kafka's work than now. The last fifty years paved the way for [his] eerie beauty and seeming madness... 'The Metamorphosis,' 'In the Penal Colony,' and 'A Hunger Artist' are among the finest horror stories ever written. Seventy years after his death, art has finally begun to catch up with him.
From the Publisher

“Kafka’s survey of the insectile situation of young Jews in inner Bohemia can hardly be improved upon: ‘With their posterior legs they were still glued to their father’s Jewishness and with their wavering anterior legs they found no new ground.’ There is a sense in which Kafka’s Jewish question (‘What have I in common with Jews?’) has become everybody’s question, Jewish alienation the template for all our doubts. What is Muslimness? What is femaleness? What is Polishness? These days we all find our anterior legs flailing before us. We’re all insects, all Ungeziefer, now.”
—Zadie Smith
 
“Kafka engaged in no technical experiments whatsoever; without in any way changing the German language, he stripped it of its involved constructions until it became clear and simple, like everyday speech purified of slang and negligence. The common experience of Kafka’s readers is one of general and vague fascination, even in stories they fail to understand, a precise recollection of strange and seemingly absurd images and descriptions—until one day the hidden meaning reveals itself to them with the sudden evidence of a truth simple and incontestable.”
—Hannah Arendt 

Meet the Author

Franz Kafka (1883–1924) was one of the most important writers of the twentieth century. His major novels includeThe Trial,The Castle, andAmerika.

Mark M. Anderson is Professor of Germanic Languages at Columbia University. He is the author of Kafka’s Clothes and the editor of Reading Kafka. He has written widely on literary modernism and has edited and translated contemporary Austrian writers Ingeborg Bachmann and Thomas Bernhard.

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.

Brief Biography

Date of Birth:
July 3, 1883
Date of Death:
June 3, 1924
Place of Birth:
Prague, Austria-Hungary
Place of Death:
Vienna, Austria
Education:
German elementary and secondary schools. Graduated from German Charles-Ferdinand University of Prague.

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Metamorphosis 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 49 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I recently read this story for a class and I can honestly say it is the first thing I have actually read this semester. I loved this book, despite the fact it made me ¿absurdly sad¿. Kafka is a genius and the story is a testament to the power that the horrific, weird, funny and tragic elements of being human effect us all. The bottom line is READ THIS STORY!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This story is definitely very original and makes you think about its messages.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is the only Kafka work that I truly liked. It's short, sweet, to the point, with in-depth themes.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka starts off with the climax of the book when Gregor Samsa ¿woke up one morning from unsettling dreams, he found himself changed in his bed into a monstrous vermin¿. The book deals with the family¿s reaction with the traumatizing transformation of their son and brother. The family, who was always taken care of by Gregor, now has to do the same for him. They soon fall under their own metamorphosis as time goes on. The book is heavy in symbolism and has many themes: ranging from learning to let go, living for your soul, proletariats being suppressed by the bourgeoisie, and etc.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Firstly, I must attest that I was quite fascinated with the premise of this book. The setting of your standard, ever day man becoming a huge insect that one would find repulsive originally made me expect a comedy (I didn't look into any genre tags) After completion, I realize how I was mistaken. The book just doesn't go up hill at any point which made the reading almost negatively predictable. On top of the predictability, the story just makes the reader experience overall sadness. If you're looking for a book that instill a feeling of dressing in yiu. Then thus is the book for you!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love Kafka
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love Kafka!
Eric_J_Guignard More than 1 year ago
REVIEWED: The Metamorphosis WRITTEN BY: Franz Kafka PUBLISHED: MONTH, YEAR “The Metamorphosis” is an enjoyable read, not difficult (as is often the expectation of classic literature), and interesting, in a unique, quiet way. It’s also overrated and, in my opinion, unsatisfying. The publisher’s overview is: “Gregor Samsa, a young man who, transformed overnight into a monstrous verminous bug, becomes an essentially alienated man.” That essentially sums up the entire story. There’s no more plot or build-up than that. Gregor hides in his room all day, as a bug, much to his and his family’s dismay. There’s no explanation as to what occurred to transform him as such, nor any great closing revelation; the story is simply Gregor caught up in his thoughts. It’s a book of interior voice, analogy, philosophy, satire, but not much “story.” There are many themes to contemplate, and if you are searching for a better understanding to man’s lot in life, this book may be for you. However, in terms of entertainment, it’s insufficient. Extra points allotted, however, for originality and for being the inspiration to numerous authors and genre movements such as satire and the more-recent bizarro. Three-and-a-half out of Five stars
Man_Of_La_Book_Dot_Com More than 1 year ago
The Meta­mor­pho­sis by Franz Kafka is one of the author’s most famous novel­las. The work was pub­lished after his death. This is the story of Gre­gor Samsa who wakes up one morn­ing and dis­cov­ered he has turned into a giant bug. Gre­gor is wor­ried because he over­slept and missed his train for work. The meta­mor­pho­sis is a metaphor for an ill­ness a per­son is inflicted with which is out­side their control. Gre­gor is the sole bread­win­ner for his fam­ily and their reac­tions to his rad­i­cal trans­for­ma­tion are what makes the book both sad and dis­con­cert­ing. Gregor’s fam­ily goes through grief, endurance, repug­nance and sad of all, blam­ing Gre­gor him­self and detest­ing what he has become. The Meta­mor­pho­sis by Franz Kafka is a dark and dis­turb­ing tale. The story cap­tured me from the first line “One morn­ing, as Gre­gor Samsa was wak­ing up from anx­ious dreams, he dis­cov­ered that in his bed he had been changed into a mon­strous ver­minous bug”. We know noth­ing about Gre­gor, who are what he is, and this strange open­ing sim­ply breeds curiosity. The story is rel­e­vant even today, which is why I believe this sim­ple tale became a clas­sic. The feel­ing of help­less­ness, escap­ing things which are dif­fi­cult and /or beyond our con­trol and make our hum­drum lives easy and sim­ple. It is dif­fi­cult to face the truth, and why would you want to unless you absolutely had to do so? Kafka’s world (in this case a room) is dark and fore­bod­ing, with sit­u­a­tions beyond anyone’s con­trol. The indi­vid­ual bat­tles against the powers-that-be (be they gov­ern­ment, Kismet, G-d or just chance) is lost from the begin­ning and even if you’d won – it still wouldn’t make a difference. I found the rela­tion­ship of the pro­tag­o­nist and his fam­ily to be the most fas­ci­nat­ing. In a short time he goes from being the hum­ble bread­win­ner to a persona-non-grata. Even though his fam­ily looks down on him, Gre­gor still works at a job he doesn’t like sim­ply because oth­ers are more impor­tant to him then him­self. Gre­gor doesn’t have a “life”, sim­ply goes to work, hands over his money to help his debt rid­den fam­ily and thinks that this is the way things are. Gre­gor seems to be the per­son every­one kicks around, his fam­ily is lazy, at his work he is humil­i­ated and even though never miss­ing a day of work he con­stantly feels as if he’ll get fired and now he is turned to a bug. I did not expect this short story to be so deep, there are many themes con­de­scend in a short space and between the lines. I would highly rec­om­mend this novella to any­one who likes to think into the deeper mean­ing of what is not writ­ten rather than a straight out narrative.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
RaiRR More than 1 year ago
This was a really weird book.Is Gregor really a beetle? or Is his metamorphosis metaphorical?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
StevenLuu More than 1 year ago
Franz Kafka uses brilliant symbolism, hilarious tone, and unique characterizations to exemplify the plight and transformation of this unfortunate salesman and it is through these tools that Kafka creates an absurd experience that any reader can relate to. The symbolism throughout this story is for the reader to understand and appreciate Gregor's view towards independence. Gregor was changed over night into a gaint insect, but Kafka uses this change as a symbol for Gregor's metamorphosis towards humanity. Before Gregor's transformation, he only lived life to serve others, but through his metamorphosis Gregor slowly comes to meet his own desires, seeking a more personal independence and even coming to appreciate music and art more.I found this book extremely entertaining. I would recommend it to anyone who likes suspense and drama.In order to see life as it really is, is to see that life is not worth living without people who love you and whom you can love.
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One of Kafka's masterpieces, The Metamorphosis includes an original story and an outstanding understanding of human psychology. Gregor turns into a bug, but doesn't panic about it because he is so entrenched in the desire to please others, as many of us do. Gregor's transformation doesn't merely constructs a creative plot, but also provides insight on reality. Is Gregor's bug-state an escape from his responsibilities? Or is it rather an intensification of his plight and already miserable life? While on the surface a simple and short novella, this book is definitely worth reading if one wishes a literary challenge and get into its themes.