The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
Attempting to review a classic always comes with a lot of baggage as you have read the book now. But the critical analysis has passed through your eyes many a time. Many interpretations have clouded your mind and built up an expectation. I tried reading The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka as neutrally as possible. But the introduction of the life and times of Franz Kafka sets the backdrop, where the protagonist is a minority German speaker in Prague. My huge connection with Kafka though was the fact that I have seen his house in one of the by lanes emanating out of Prague Castle. House no 22 is preserved even today. And the guides will promptly tell you his story there.
The protagonist of the story is a salesman who works hard. And travels a lot. His family does more or less nothing and lives off his money. One fine morning he finds out that he has become an insect. The reaction to his new state and his life after this transformation is the story of the book. It is told in a very matter of fact manner. When his employer figures out his state, he just turns away, never to come back again. Somewhere highlighting the relationship between an employer and an employee. And probably nothing has changed since the days of Kafka. The family goes through a shock. And does not know how to deal with it. The young sister is sympathetic, to begin with, and she tries to make things easy for him.
But over a period of time, she gets tired. And finally, she is the one who suggests that they should get rid of the insect. And stop believing that it is a family member and must be accepted and taken care of. Meanwhile, all three members have to start working to sustain themselves. Both mother and sister work from home. While father tries to work outside. They also put up some parts of their house as a lodge to earn some extra money. The biggest challenge that they face is that they cannot go out together. As one person must remain at home to look at him. Slowly, all the attachment weans out. And the necessities and hardships of the life take over for the family. Once the insect dies, they actually feel a sense of relief.
The interpretations of the book link it to the suffocation that Kafka faced as a minority in Prague. But to me, it was a tale of human relationships where time and circumstances play a big role. Transformation to insect may be a metaphor of the person losing his usefulness to others. Or transforming from a role of provider to that of a dependent. We all face such transformations in some form and shape, through our lives, to a different extent. Parents go through it when their kids outgrow them and do not need them anymore. Employees go through this as ecosystems change. And politicians probably see it every day.
The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka is a story well told, very precise, yet as open to interpretation as the reader wants. The language, of course, belongs to the translator but there are no loose ends in the story. There is nothing that is said that is not required to convey the story. That is probably the mark of good storytellers. Tell everything that the listener or reader needs to know but nothing more or nothing less.