Book reviews

The Metamorphosis, by Kafka

The Metamorphosis, by Kafka
Book Review for Back to the Classics, 2016

Published in 1915. (And this book has NO SPOILERS)

My Rating, ★★★✫✫ 3 out of 5

Books, classics, are almost never what we think of them. Many of you may not be willing to read Kafka, thinking he is too dark, depressing, obnoxious. Look at that photo of young Kafka. He lived in World War I times. He was a Jewish boy in a christian neighborhood, a solitary young man who did not fit in. He loved writing and the arts in a family who cared not for them. Son of an authoritarian (maybe abusive), father. His life was not easy. He died of tuberculosis at 40. He never had a comfortable life, he had to work jobs he did not enjoy, and always risk poverty because of his love for writing.

I’m not one for over-analyzing the authors, and explaining their books through their lives. OK, I admit I  do that, but only because I love doing that (knowing about the authors), not necessarily as my first approach to the books. I try to approach them as unbiased as I can. 

What makes me, then, read a book that doesn’t look that appealing? The Back to the Classics challenge has categories, one of them is to read something you read in your young years. When others read books that initially don’t seem appealing, and they review them, I consider them and give them a second chance.

This is one of the books I read as a young adult and now again in my forties. It’s interesting to revisit books. I listened to this book in audio. It’s short, a novella. If you have not read Kafka, this title is a good starting point. (I’m sounding like an expert! when I’ve only read this title too, ha! I mean that it’s nice to have short works by classic authors, so one doesn’t feel as preparing for a marathon we didn’t want to run). I don’t think we should read books and authors that violate our consciences, nor just to be able to say “I’ve read such and such”. It’s just that our literature, and music, and art, represent the “age of times” (as Karen Canon told us this past weekend), and that means we can understand so much of the world by reading certain authors, by participating from certain culture.

It surprised me that I remembered much of the plot of the book. I was disappointed to see how few connections (none durable) and thoughts I had from it compared to the ones that came to my mind this time. Here it’s when I think how different things would have been if I had been brought up as a narrator. But, even if not, age has not only new ailments, but a powerful bonus, it gives you an enhanced experience as a reader, with more reference points and deeper thoughts. And that made this book even though a sad one (Kafka is talking to us about hard topics), such a worth one to read. 

Kafka does not engage us morbidly but candidly instead. It’s just that it confronts us with that sad reality he was living, a world when man was viewed coldly, inhumanly, a world after a war, a world of solitude and painful lack of understanding. Kafka reminded me of Nabokov. I’m sure there’s other authors who also write exposing authoritarian regimes, and who do so through captivating stories, short tales, novellas.

I’d take these books with caution (I’m talking about books that deal with hard topics, books that are ‘dark’ or depressing, as most of war literature is. It’s good to read some, but we should not drawn in the slough of despond they present. It’s healthy to come back to the surface. We are reading the second of the Flavia de Luce’s series, The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s BagMy girls and I are loving the breath of air that Alan Bradley represents.  Once I took a course on radio and writing for it, and our instructor told us in radio they want us to write with layers, to reach children at their level, but to make it engaging for grown ups too. One may say good children authors are grown up authors. This is the case with Alan Bradley. His allusions and references come natural to the story, and delight us all at different levels (even when we don’t “get them all”).


Many say that Gregor Samsa truly became a beetle. Others say it may have been a dream. The book tells us he experiences that transformation (whether in real life or as part of a nightmare, and that won’t change the book much).
In retrospect, I could see, as many comment, the denounce of authoritarian governments, and parents, done by Kafka. But what hurt me the most, what I kept thinking (since he cannot wake up, or talk and be understood, or be heard, or move with ease), was the rejection he gets from all his family. It was painful to me to see how the ‘other one’, the different, the handicapped or needed,  the ugly (and a long list of afflictions humans can suffer), is neglected, despised, and, finally, left behind and pushed to hate/kill himself.


1 thought on “The Metamorphosis, by Kafka”

  1. I'm always interested in the author's life, too. I just finished Brideshead Revisited but I really don't know how I feel about it & I haven't read anything by Kafka yet. Interestin review, Silvia.


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