Book Journal: The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
Read on April 29 2017
I absolutely loved this book: the title, characters, transformation they all go through as a family after Gregor’s illness which transforms him from a useful bread winner to a burden to the family.
I can easily picture the whole flat where this story takes place (I just need to reorganise the furniture a wee bit, that’s all), Mr Samsa’s polished gold buttons, even the swishing sound Mrs Samsa’s skirt makes. Not many authors can paint a vivid picture like this.
Here’s some of my favourite lines from the book:
As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.
I cannot make you understand. I cannot make anyone understand what is happening inside me. I cannot even explain it to myself.
Was he an animal, that music could move him so? He felt as if the way to the unknown nourishment he longed for were coming to light.
He was a tool of the boss, without brains or backbone.
What a fate: to be condemned to work for a firm where the slightest negligence at once gave rise to the gravest suspicion! Were all the employees nothing but a bunch of scoundrels, was there not among them one single loyal devoted man who, had he wasted only an hour or so of the firm’s time in the morning, was so tormented by conscience as to be driven out of his mind and actually incapable of leaving his bed?
But Gregor understood easily that it was not only consideration for him which prevented their moving, for he could easily have been transported in a suitable crate with a few air holes; what mainly prevented the family from moving was their complete hopelessness and the thought that they had been struck by a misfortune as none of their relatives and acquaintances had ever been hit.
The door could not be heard slamming; they had probably left it open, as is the custom in homes where a great misfortune has occurred.
I only fear danger where I want to fear it.
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.
His biggest misgiving came from his concern about the loud crash that was bound to occur and would probably create, if not terror, at least anxiety behind all the doors. But that would have to be risked.
However, Gregor had become much calmer. All right, people did not understand his words any more, although they seemed clear enough to him, clearer than previously, perhaps because had gotten used to them”
Then his head sank to the floor of its own accord and from his nostrils came the last faint flicker of his breath.
Gregor’s serious wound, from which he suffered for over a month – the apple remained imbedded in his flesh as a visible souvenir since no one dared to remove it – seemed to have reminded even his father that Gregor was a member of the family, in spite of his present pathetic and repulsive shape, who could not be treated as an enemy; that, on the contrary, it was the commandment of the family duty to swallow their disgust and endure him, endure him and nothing more.
A man might find for a moment that he was unable to work, but that’s exactly the right time to remember his past accomplishments and to consider that later on, when the obstacles has been removed, he’s bound to work all the harder and more efficiently.
The main thing holding the family back from a change in living quarters was far more their complete hopelessness and the idea that they had been struck by a misfortune like no one else in their entire circle of relatives and acquaintances.
The next train left at seven o’clock, and in order to catch it he would have to rush around like mad, and the sample collection was still unpacked and he was not feeling particularly fresh and energetic. And even if he caught the train, a bawling out from the boss was inescapable, because the office messenger had arrived by the five o’clock train and reported his absence long ago; he was the boss’s creature, mindless and spineless.
Sometimes he mulled over the idea that the next time the door opened he would take control of the family affairs as he had done in the past; these musings led him once more after such a long interval to conjure up the figures of the boss, the head clerk, the salesmen, the apprentices, the dullard of an office manager, two or three friends from other firms, a sweet and fleeting memory of a chambermaid in one of the rural hotels, a cashier in a milliner’s shop whom he had wooed earnestly but too slowly- they all appeared mixed up with strangers or nearly forgotten people, but instead of helping him and his family they were each and every one unapproachable, and he was relieved when they evaporated.
“I hope it is nothing serious. On the other hand, I must also say that we business people, luckily or unluckily, however one looks at it, very often simply have to overcome a slight indisposition for business reasons.”
Calm consideration was much better than rushing to desperate conclusions.
And for a little while he lay still, breathing lightly as if he expected total repose would restore everything to its normal and unquestionable state.
The door could not be heard closing; they must have left it open as is usual in houses visited by great misfortune.
For now he must lie low and try, through patience and the greatest consideration, to help his family bear the inconvenience he was bound to cause them in his present condition.