Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

My first Kafka!

And now I am a bit less clueless as to what it means when they call a piece of art 'Kafkaesque'.

No wonder the likes of David Lynch and Co. consider him their source of inspiration.

The story begins with our protagonist, Gregor Samsa (a metaphorical representation of Franz Kafka​ himself, if I am not mistaken), waking up one fine morning to find that he is not able to get out of bed as he has transformed into a large bug. Worried that he will be late for office- where he is employed as a travelling salesman- Gregor then makes several attempts to come to terms with his new body and get on with his routine before his father or his boss's chief clerk- who has come to his house to check why he is late today- will get a chance to reprimand him for being tardy and ungrateful.

Yes. That is how surreal it is.

And, to top it all, by never giving an explanation as to why the metamorphosis actually happened in the first place, Kafka ensures that the physical deformity does not take centre-stage in the plot even if it is precisely what triggered the conflict.
Kafka, in its stead, maintains a firm grip on the telling, ensuring that the focus remain on presenting it as an absurdist commentary on authoritarianism and the impact it has on an obliging mind.

Gregor, despite facing the misfortune of having metamorphosed into an insect-like creature, is never shown to rise above thinking about how the people around him will react; whether his family will forgive him for the burden that he has become by losing his source of income; whether his father will notice the little acts of obedience he is still displaying undeterred by the loss of his ability to communicate; whether his sister is aware of how grateful he is for trying to make life a little less miserable for him by clearing out the furniture so he be able to crawl around freely and by putting out stale food in his room, twice a day.

By setting the scenes inside closed rooms till the very end and by describing them in a bleak, claustrophobic manner, Kafka makes the reader experience better the unintelligent and over-complaisant mindset of the main character. Gregor never reaches a point where he can starts believing that he, and not his family, is the one who is suffering. Neither does he understand the selfish nature of the people who rule his life.

And that, I believe, holds true for any person who chooses to remain co-operative and accommodating of a society- or the few who govern it- that is ever ready to impose on anyone and everyone willing to bend.

The writing is 'German' stern, yet packs quite a few moments of absurdist hilarity that makes one smile, cringe and ponder- all at the same time, if you will believe me- at the silly little travelling salesman whose life has been turned upside down and yet whose first thought is, 'Heck, I'm going to be late for work!'

Certainly worth a read.