Kafka’s alluring simplicity

The MetamorphosisThe Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read the translation by Ian Johnston; this was the first book the entirety of which I read on my NOOK eReader, and it went well.

I came to Kafka’s The Metamorphosis expecting it to be more obviously philosophical or moody or existential or something. Thankfully, it’s not. In Johnston’s translation, at least, it is one of the most amazingly straightforward and matter-of-fact works of speculative fantasy I’ve met.

Kafka does not dwell upon how Gregor got into the plight of being a giant insect. It is simply the defining fact of the novella — and the great complication to be overcome. Through the different events that transpire because of Gregor’s condition, there is no extensive analysis or description. It is simply stated plainly.

And young Gregor Samsa’s psychology is also very matter-of-fact. The questions are simply what to do in order to survive. No seeking a solution, no speculation about the fate of the world. How to eat, how to sleep, how to keep from creeping out his family. A certain amount of guilt over no longer being able to provide for his family, I suppose.

There is a practicality to this story’s approach to the fantastic.

This straightforwardness of the novella is its appeal. It draws the reader in and leaves so much of the analysis and thinking up to him or her. It strikes me as stereotypically German (yes, I know that Kafka was a citizen of the Autro-Hungarian Empire from what is now the Czech Republic — but he is a great author in the German language which shows you how new and narrow our nation-states perhaps are) to be so practical, plain, and matter of fact.

Since it’s a novella, it’s quite short. I recommend it.

Now I plan to read China Miéville’s Embassytown, an implicit sequel to an alternate vision of Kafka.

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