Book: Metamorphosis and other stories


Franz Kafka’s metamorphosis are words I have often heard. Considered one of the most influential authors of the 20th century, I can finally understand why. His writing is powerful.

Metamorphosis

 

This collection contains many of his short stories as well as some of his longer work like The Stoker, Metamorphosis and In the Penal Colony. The sheer range and variety in just one collection is mind-boggling. Some of his short stories are just a paragraph long which, for me who enjoys long novels, is hard to appreciate. Yet his longer works will probably stay with me for a long time. I cannot say that I understand them in their entirety, but they instill a sense of awe. A sense of immense respect. This review will concentrate on Metamorphosis, In the Penal Colony and my favourite short story: A hunger artist.

Metamorphosis is Kafka’s most famous work and it blew my mind. In it the main character Gregor Samsa, wakes up one morning to find that he has transformed into a monstrous vermin. The premise sounds ridiculous and you can imagine my surprise, yet the entire novella paints the most realistic and poignant story about Gregor and how he and the world around him copes with the transformation. It’s so simple, yet so complex. The story explores how Gregor learns to cope with his transformation, the alienation that he goes through and how he watches and his family moves on with him as a burden. It’s (for lack of a better work) powerful and moving and just brilliant.

In the Penal Colony is a novella that has also been published separately as a standalone book under the Penguin Mini Modern Classics. It tells of an unamed visitor visit to the Penal Colony and his witnessing of an execution. It questions the idea of judgement and punishment and on a whole I found it so gruesome that had to stop reading at certain points. I don’t like it because of the pain it inflicts from the detailed description of the entire process of the execution. It’s makes my stomach churn.

A Hunger Artist is exactly what the title says. To me it best represents Kafka’s abilities. He tells you exactly what he’s going to write about in the title and yet the story never fails to surprise you. The whole concept of a hunger artist is ludicrous, yet the way he talks about the art form and the performance makes it seem like the most normal thing in the world. I love his ability to normalize the strangest things. It makes many of his stories really interesting, albeit difficult to understand.

I have to admit that his genre of writing is not my favourite, but his ability as a writer has impressed me and I would suggest that everyone read metamorphosis at least once. I personally would like to read more of his works in time to come.

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