A year ago I listened to the audio book recording of The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka. It was read by Benedict Cumberbatch, and as noted in my review that was the best part about the audio book. Kafka got a single star. Now, I am here to make some amends.
When I went through the novel for the first time I had no understanding of the concept of literary theory. I knew something like that existed somewhere, but further than that my mind could not conceive what it was or how it related to anything I’ve read.
Presently, the future-me is laughing at the young and naive past-me. Well, more like cackling.
I am just beginning to delve into the universe of literary theories, and the first one I happened to learn is — drum roll, please — existentialism. Big words, we like them here. And of course, I still do not comprehend what existentialism is in all of its entirety, but I have a much better understanding of how to approach novels, like Metamorphosis, from an existentialist perspective. Which just might be the reason why I am willing to give the novel another try and read the words through a huge lens with a large ‘E’ engraved on its side. (Since then, I have collected two more — ‘M’ and ‘F’ — on Marxism and feminism sometime later.)
Past-me listened to the book and thought: “Wow, boring. German dude transforms into an insect, family hates it and cannot cope. Kafka wasted paragraphs telling us how poor Gregor cannot flip from his back onto his stomach. Bleh.” That is a pretty accurate account of my initial opinion, with some exaggeration sprinkled on top.
Present-me thinks back on the book and ponders: “Hmm, perhaps through Gregor’s transformation Kafka was trying to make his readers aware of some glitch in the human condition. Is our frame just a shell, or does it define who we are? Post-metamorphosis Gregor’s mind and conscience remained relatively the same for a while (if I remember correctly), yet his family treated him with fear and disgust. Why is that? Through the transformation Gregor was able to gain free will and take on a different perspective on his life. His mundane job was no longer the epicenter of his existence, he had a choice. Through a battle with himself Gregor able to arrive at the meaning of life…” Ok, that last one might be a stretch.
The point is: this novel is an educational milestone for me. And while I do not want this post to turn into a brag, I am a little proud of the fact that Metamorphosis is getting a second chance. Although, to add some fuel to the fire, my original one star review wasn’t challenged at all, and so I’m assuming Kafka is not a favourite around here…