Book Journal: The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

Metamorphosis

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.

Visiting Franz Kafka Museum in Prague

In early June last year, I had the opportunity to visit Prague and Franz Kafka Museum. Visiting Prague was something I have been wanting to do for a very long time. And I absolutely loved it! We rented an apartment in a building which dates back to 13th century, located in the heart of Old Town Square and only 100 metres away from Astronomical Clock.

Franz Kafka Museum PraguePrague is full of history, art and Franz Kafka. Our apartment was right opposite House at the Minute (see photo above), a historic home from the 1400s where Kafka and his family lived from 1889 to 1896. Kafka’s three younger sisters Gabriele (Elli), Valerie (Valli) and Ottilie (Ottla) were born there.  From this house, as a child, he walked to the elementary school, accompanied by their family cook. House at the Minute is an interesting looking building with its façade displaying many Italian renaissance-style sgraffito frescoes. Today, there is an Italian restaurant on the ground floor called Ristorante Italiano A Minuto where we had one of the best Italian dinners alongside to a stunning red wine.

Franz Kafka Museum PragueOn the opposite corner of the Old Town Square, there is Kafka Café (see photo above) under a large building located on the corner of Kaprova Street and Maiselova Street. This is where Franz Kafka was born. He and his family lived there until 1885.

Franz Kafka Museum Prague

Visiting Franz Kafka Museum in Prague

I saw the sign of Franz Kafka Museum from St Charles Bridge and immediately wanted to go and visit. It’s located on the other side of Vltava River, an area called Malá Strana (Lesser Town). When we got there, a weird looking old woman with a slipping make-up greeted us. It looked like her face was trying to catch up with the make-up and failing miserably. Even though, we told her that we were from Australia, she carried on talking to us in Czech. Still, we miraculously understood that we had to go back to the gift shop to buy our tickets for the museum.

It was dark inside. I didn’t know what to expect from the museum but when I stood in front of the first page of Kafka’s letter to his father, the one starting with “Dearest Father, You asked me recently why I maintain that I am afraid of you.” I felt an immediate connection with this remarkable author although I hadn’t read any of his books before I visited Franz Kafka Museum.

The exhibition consists of two sections: Existential Space and Imaginary Topography. Existential Space is all about how Prague shaped Kafka. His diaries, letters to family members, lovers, friends and editors are all part of this section. Imaginary Topography, on the other hand, is all about how Kafka recreated this imaginary Prague in his books.

Franz Kafka Museum Prague

On November 1, 1907, Franz Kafka was hired at the Assicurazioni Generali –an Italian insurance company where he worked for nearly a year. His correspondence, during that period, witnesses that he was unhappy with his working time schedule which made it extremely difficult for him to concentrate on his writing but at the same time he felt more like a sketch artist than a writer. In a letter to Felice Bauer he wrote: “I was, in another time, a great sketch artist, but I learned to draw in a scholastic system, under the direction of a mediocre woman painter, causing the loss of all of my talent.” Today, some fifty small sketches and illustrations remain and some of them are on display at the museum.

As a tribute by Franz Kafka Museum, Kafka’s drawings were used to produce and animation called The K Animation. It represents the daily descent of Kafka’s soul into the abyss of the blank page. You can watch a part of it here.

Museum shops are my thing and I so wanted to buy one of Kafka’s books from the gift shop but they didn’t have anything in English. So I had to wait until I came home.

Pissing fountain just outside Franz Kafka Museum. Enjoy!