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A Powerful Tale
on 22 December 2015
Franz Kafka it has to be admitted has become a much read author, much more so since his death than in his own lifetime, and has been highly influential on a number of other authors. This particular novella although published in 1915 was actually written in 1912 and is nowadays widely regarded as a masterpiece and a seminal piece of work, and quite rightly so.
We meet here Gregor Samsa, a normal male who has to work to keep his parents and sister in their home and with enough provisions to live. But for Gregor his life is about to change in a dramatic way. As he awakes one morning Gregor feels that something is slightly wrong, as he tries to get out of bed, and he soon realises that this isn’t a hallucination or a half dream, but all too real, for he has transformed into a bug. To all intents and purposes Gregor has become what can only be described as some type of beetle. And so this story begins, with a surreal idea that it has to be admitted is quite absurd, but in Kafka’s hands this becomes much more.
As we read of Gregor’s misfortune (to put it kindly) Kafka digs into the human psyche showing us how Gregor was and felt compared to his new self. We see the effect that this change in him affects his family, and how they have to both adapt and come to terms with the new Gregor. Kafka makes us dwell and think upon intolerance, the ideas of bigotry and coming to terms with illness and unforeseen circumstances, and shows us how a family adapts to problems. Ironically and very sadly Kafka unknowingly saw the future, where fellow Jews had to act like Gregor if they were lucky enough to be hidden from the Nazis.
So, what starts off as a fantasy as such takes us into a very deep and dark place, where Gregor and his family have to cope with new circumstances, and how this can lead to resentment and neglect. I will admit that I have never tired of reading this story, as it is just so thought provoking and you can find so many subtexts to the plot. Although perhaps a bit short for reading groups it has to be admitted that there is a lot to discuss here if you were to decide to pick it.