The Metamorphosis and Other Stories by Franz Kafka – Reviewed by Guy Portman
This concise compilation (88 pages) consists of five short, surreal stories, the longest and most famous of which is The Metamorphosis. Its protagonist Gregor Samsa wakes up one morning to find that he has been transformed into a beetle. This awkward situation is exacerbated when Gregor’s boss turns up at his house seeking an explanation for his non-attendance at work that day. To compound matters Gregor’s family, who only ever valued him for his earning ability, now see no use for him.
The Judgment is a concise tale regarding a man’s relationship with his son, whilst In the Penal Colony is about an elaborate execution apparatus, whose greatest exponent is a salesman. A Country Doctor follows a doctor’s hapless efforts to attend a sick boy, and A Report to an Academy sees an ape that embraces humanity in his efforts to fit into his new environment.
Though the meanings of these stories can be interpreted in different ways, they are all bleak, unsettling, existentialist and nihilist narratives that comment on the human condition and the futility of life. Utilising dark humour, long sentences and an abundance of semi-colons, each story is rife with symbolism.