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Metamorphosis and Other Stories (Penguin Modern Classics) [Paperback]

Franz Kafka , Michael Hofmann
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
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Book Description

25 Jan 2007 Penguin Modern Classics

Franz Kafka's Metamorphosis and Other Stories is translated from the German with an introduction by Michael Hofmann in Penguin Modern Classics.

This collection of new translations brings together the small proportion of Kafka's works that he thought worthy of publication. It includes 'Metamorphosis', his most famous work, an exploration of horrific transformation and alienation; 'Meditation', a collection of his earlier studies; 'The Judgement', written in a single night of frenzied creativity; 'The Stoker', the first chapter of a novel set in America; and a fascinating occasional piece, 'The Aeroplanes at Brescia', Kafka's eyewitness account of an air display in 1909. Together, these stories reveal the breadth of Kafka's literary vision and the imaginative depth of his thought.

Franz Kafka (1883-1924) was a Czech-born German-speaking insurance clerk who despised his job, preferring to spend his time writing. Nevertheless, Kafka published little during his lifetime, and ordered his closest friend to burn the mass of unpublished manuscripts, now familiar to us as some of the most influential novels and short stories of the twentieth century, after his death. Kafka's novels, all published posthumously, include The Trial, The Castle, and Amerika.

If you enjoyed Metamorphosis and Other Stories, you might like Kafka's The Trial, also available in Penguin Modern Classics

'What Dante and Shakespeare were for the ages, Kafka is for ours ... His relevance is absolutely unbroken'

George Steiner

'One of the few great and perfect works of poetic imagination written during the twentieth century'

Elias Canetti on 'Metamorphosis'

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Metamorphosis and Other Stories (Penguin Modern Classics) + Woman on the Edge of Time (A Women's Press Classic) + The Effect (Modern Plays)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; New Ed edition (25 Jan 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 014118812X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141188126
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 7,945 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description


aI think of a Kafka story as a perfect work of literary art, as approachable as it is strange, and as strange as it is approachable.a
aMichael Hofmann

About the Author

Franz Kafka (1883-1924) Czech-born German-speaking writer. His major novels include The Trial (1925), The Castle (1926), and Amerika (1927).

Michael Hofmann is a poet. His most recent collection is Approximately Nowhere (Faber). As a translator his work includes Kafka's The Man who Disappeared (Amerika). He is the translator of six books by Joseph Roth and was awarded the PEN/Book-of-the-Month Club Prize for his translation of Roth's The String of Pearls. His latest book is Behind the Lines, a collection of essays.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
I heard the carts going past the garden fence, and sometimes I could see them too, through the shifting gaps between the leaves. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Imaginative writing, good reading 27 May 2009
If you are considering reading this book, it is made up of a composition of small, and some fairly larger, stories. In order to write a helpful review I will not review every story; this is simply because there are 43 of them!

The main stories are, if anything, a reason to get this book. 'The Stoker' is a story about the prospects of America to a foreigner, only to get sidetracked; 'In the Penal Colony' concerns a traveller judging the means of justice in the eyes of one officer on a penal colony; and 'The Judgement' is about a son's confidence to take advantage of his father's old age, only to be surprised.
The most famous work amongst these is 'Metamorphosis', a story about Gregor Samsa waking one morning to find himself transformed into a cockroach. His initial ambivalence is turned into despair when he finds the very people who he is closest to-his family-isolate him, in their insecurity about what to do with him.

The whole book-including the short stories-are written incredibly creatively and imaginatively; I've never come across a writer with the depth of thought as Kafka exhibits in his stories (the translation flows very well). It's hard to describe the tone of Kafka's writing, it's sombre but vaguely amusing in a way, and very creative, penetrating and reflective.

I gave the book 4 stars because the short stories didn't quite impress me as other parts of the novel. Although I liked the insights into the diverse topics (each short story follows an idea) I generally do not like short stories because of their brevity and having to read each one in a completely different frame of mind. I enjoyed the longer stories because the message is deeper and more interesting.

This is only my opinion though, and if you like short stories, you will enjoy them more than I did. This book is worth getting though, for the longer stories if not anything else.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The collections of a Genius 20 Feb 2011
By mwhp20
I bought this book primarily to read the Metamorphosis, which it has to be said is one of the greatest stories ever written - it was my first experience of Kafka and it certainly lived up to my expectations. This book has a huge collection of short stories, segments of novels, and very short texts, all of which give you a real insight into Kafka's thoughts. His observations, imagination, and writing ability all come together perfectly to create what is outstanding literature. Highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Desperation and hopelessness 26 April 2011
By Olga
Start reading and you will probably find a lot of about yourself, your thoughts and fears hided deeply inside. Sometimes it is scary, but anyway you will never remain the same person after reading Kafka. I dont want to go over his stories but Franz Kafka is still my favourite writer. He saw this life same strange way as i am seeing.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An unforgettable novella.... 10 Feb 2011
By John P. Jones III TOP 500 REVIEWER
Yes, literally. First read it around 40 years ago, and have since ever carried the image of poor Gregor, basically minding his own business, pitiful though it might have been, in what was once the Austro-Hungarian empire, and is now the Czech Republic, awaking one morning as a cockroach. It is a work of an incredible, macabre imagination. It is truly a unique scenario, and therefore a "page-turner," as you wonder how Kafka will play this story out. First, there is the reaction of Gregor himself, whose thoughts concerned the early morning train he missed; then he realized he had more serious problems. Then there are the reactions of the family members, the maids, his boss, and three boarders. How do people cope with radical changes - and few could be more radical that this - in their circumstances?

I had an immense sense of relief as I re-read this book. No, it didn't concern my luck at escaping Gregor's fate; it was my good fortune that I did not have to read this as an assignment for some AP high school English course, knowing that I'd be required to write a paper about the symbolism, with lots of Freudian psycho-babble about how this was a reflections of Kafka's alienation from his family, and that his sister's love of music really meant... No wonder the book received so many 1-star reviews; it was not entomophobia; it was a fear that one selected the wrong "scholarly" theory about what all this meant.

In reality, Kafka died young, and it is unlikely that anyone will really know his true motives and intentions. It remains an arresting story of the imagination; one that is enjoyable to speculate about, provided a grade is not at stake.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bitingly Insightful 7 Feb 2010
Franz Kafka is one of the most celebrated authors of the 20th century. Metamorphosis and Other Stories contains English language translations of 42 short stories and 1 novella - Metamorphosis. Some of the stories such as Looking Out Distractedly are just a few lines long and clearly represent a thought that had crossed the mind of this genious while others including the acclaimed In The Penal Colony represent longer dialogues loaded with allegorical critique. For anyone new to Kafka like this reviewer, it might be a bit of a surprise to find the tales definitively not "Kafkaesque" but that may speak more to the inappropriate label Kafka is tagged with than anything else.

Of Kafka's most famous work, the one translated by Michael Hofmann in this ensemble is Metamorphosis. As with most of the tales, it is an interpretive piece and no doubt a reader could take a range of differing perspectives away from the text. At the heart though is alienation, a theme that runs through so many of the writings Hofmann presents. It is a particular kind of alienation though, it is not true divorce from the society in which the characters find themselves nor is it the selfish alienation of youth that expects the world to conform to the individual, this alienation is that of entirely understanding the world and society that surrounds but being unable to access it correctly.

The Rejection is a classic case in point. Kafka describes his feelings on seeing a pretty girl and the development of an inner monologue that was never intended by the girl in her gentle rebuttal. Kafka imagines the implications of the slightest of comments or actions and builds a plausible but self-damaging description of what he supposes others are thinking.
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