It is rare to read a story that marks an age, but this is certainly one of them. It is a defining work of modernism, that freakish period of creativity that ended before totalitariansism dominated Europe in midCentury, representing something, some presentiment, that Kafka had the genius to perceive and express. Kafka's metaphor - of au unhappy and exploited young man waking up and finding (or thinking) that he has become a giant insect - is so rich and bizarre that it will live forever. The Angst is unbearable, as is the detail of his vision. It can be read on innumerable levels, which I have explored with each re-reading.
He was so proud and ambivalent about this story that, when breaking off his engagement, Kafka is reported to have sent it as an explanation to his bewildered former future father in law, saying simply, "would you want your daughter to marry the person who wrote this?"
Another thing about this story is that it is one of the few longer works that Kafka intended to publish. All of the novels were drafts or exercises. THis one was finished, and if only it survived, Kafka's reputation for greatness would be secure.