by Franz Kafka

Hardcover, 1946




[New York] The Vanguard Press, [1946]. Second printing.


The Metamorphosis is the story of a young traveling salesman who, transformed overnight into a giant, beetle-like insect, becomes an object of disgrace to his family, an outsider in his own home, a quintessentially alienated man. It is a harrowing--though absurdly comic--meditation on human feelings of inadequacy, guilt, and isolation.

User reviews

LibraryThing member MariaSavva
A man wakes up one day to find he has been changed into a large insect/beetle. The story follows his efforts to deal with this, and his family's reaction to the change. But it's not just a story about a man turning into a beetle, it's a clever way of writing about how a family would deal with the
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main breadwinner in the house becoming unable to work, and also on a wider scope, the way a family (and the world at large) reacts to someone who is disabled, or terminally ill. It could also be an analogy for how a family treats a member of the family who is now old and needs to be cared for. The man who is now a beetle, is forced to live in his room, shut away from the world, for fear that he will frighten anyone who enters the house. The man who once provided for the family, and thought of them above himself, has now become a burden on them, as they are now short of money, and have to find employment. The once able and hard-working man, transformed into a beetle, is now rejected, and his family blame him for their financial situation and the fact that they cannot move to a smaller house, because they need to have a room to keep him in.
The descriptive quality of the writing is excellent, and although it is a sad and gruesome tale, it is also very funny in parts; I couldn't help laughing out loud a couple of times.
The main thing that struck me, was that even though this story is nearly 100 years old, it is still totally relevant to today's world (and I'm not sure that's something we should be proud of).
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LibraryThing member Britt84
A very realistic story about a completely unrealistic event. I love how Kafka describes an absurd occurrence like it's a very natural thing and nothing to be surprised at, and how he gives a completely realistic account of the consequences and behaviour of the people involved.
LibraryThing member bonniemarjorie
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Source: BBC Radio 4 Extra

'I cannot make you understand. I cannot make anyone understand what is happening inside me. I cannot even explain it to myself.'

Imagine you go to bed one night with nothing out of the ordinary occurring only to wake up to find you have transformed
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into a monstrous insect overnight. Your family can no longer communicate with you, they no longer can even stand to look at you. You've become repulsive and abhorrent for seemingly no apparent reason. What do you do?

Everyone has heard of The Metamorphosis, Kafka's literary masterpiece, a book that is obviously more than meets the eye. The story possessed a dream-like quality where nothing is ever considered appropriately, as Gregor accepted his transformation into insect form a lot more readily than one might normally. Many have attempted to form their own interpretations of the story but I personally can't see it being anything other than a metaphor. While there are bound to be several different opinions on this, this is what I came up with:

Up until that life altering morning Gregor led an uneventful life where he worked constantly to support his family and in turn they steadily grew unproductive the more they began to depend on him. Gregor travels so often for work that communication between him and his family begins to cease and most importantly his family stops being appreciative of all he does for them and instead begins to simply expect it. That fateful morning he woke and began to contemplate his job and how terrible he finds it and if he didn't have his parents to worry about he would have "given in my notice a long time ago, I'd have gone up to the boss and told him just what I think, tell him everything I would, let him know just what I feel." The more and more he dwells on this the more he realizes what he does for them, what they don't do and how his work ethic in order to support his family has in turn alienated them from him. By becoming the sole breadwinner of the family he transformed himself into an outsider, the transformation only becoming a physical interpretation when he realizes that himself.

I've never read Kafka before having always found myself intimidated by his works. When I discovered that the BBC Radio had produced a recording of this being read by Benedict Cumberbatch I jumped on the opportunity and I am so glad I did. I had listened to a clip of the audiobook that was released by Blackstone Audio and narrated by Ralph Cosham... that audiobook sat on my phone for so long I forgot about it because it sounded dreadfully dull. Benedict Cumberbatch truly brought this story to life and made this a real treat for me.
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LibraryThing member LisaMaria_C
This is a hard book to nail down. That despite the fact that the basic (infamous) premise is revealed in the first sentence. It was about all I knew about Kafka or The Metamorphosis when I started the book--that the "hero" wakes up as a cockroach:

As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy
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dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect. He was lying on his hard, as it were armor-plated, back and when he lifted his head a little he could see his domelike brown belly divided into stiff arched segments on top of which the bed quilt could hardly stay in place and was about to slide off completely. His numerous legs, which were pitifully thin compared to the rest of his bulk, waved helplessly before his eyes.

I'd read this work published in 1915 was a seminal work of the early 20th century. I'd read it was important to the Existentialist movement, surreal and absurdest and despairing. So what surprised me about this short novella--it's only about 22 thousand words--is how funny it is. I just found this all pretty hilarious. Is that bad, and wrong? It has been described as horror--but I mean, just the way Kafka describes poor Gregor trying to get around on his little legs--or trying to squeak out explanations to his supervisor or his family... I found nothing very heavy in this--or anything all that philosophical--at least not in any ponderous or pedantic way. It felt more light humor than anything--and really, an engaging introduction for me to this writer who'd I'd definitely read again.
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LibraryThing member benuathanasia
A perennial favorite. Frustrating, sad, and fascinating. It begs to be dissected and analyzed, while at the same time, it just needs to be accepted as is.
LibraryThing member ricardob
Metamorphosis is a novella written by Franz Kafka. It's a tragic parable about a man who wakes up as an insect and the subsequent exclusion from society and eventually, his family.
This is so wonderfully written and paced and the message, so strong in its dark tones, is very balanced with the
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narrative, making it a pleasure to read.
In trying to find a similar work, I can think only of Orwell's "Animal Farm", with its strong message also perfectly intertwined with it's narrative. The difference is I find Kafka's writing style more alluring, more poignant.

I opened it, planning to read only a bit of the beginning and ended up reading all of it without getting up from the chair.
I suspect I'll be reading this many more times.
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LibraryThing member edgeworth
When Gregor Samsa woke one morning from uneasy dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a monstrous insect.

This is one of the most famous opening lines in literature, and the general concept of The Metamorphosis, which hovers on the borderline of being a short story or a novella, is one
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of literature’s most famous and fascinating stories. No explanation is given for Gregor Samsa’s terrible fate; he and his family must simply endure it. Almost the entire novella takes place within the Samsa family’s apartment, and over a mere 61 pages Kafka develops an overwhelming sense of claustrophobia, alienation and sheer misery at the unjustness of the world.

This is a book many students are forced to read in high school, probably because of its short length, like The Great Gatsby, with no consideration for the fact that high school students probably aren’t yet equipped to appreciate the themes it explores (again like The Great Gatsby). There are dozens if not hundreds of scholarly interpretations as to what The Metamorphosis is allegorising; mental illness and depression are popular ideas. If I had to throw my hat into the ring I’d suggest it’s about the struggles of adulthood, the sometimes crushing sense of responsibility, the loss of innocence; much is made of the fact that Gregor, in his early twenties, has been working as a salesman to support his recently impoverished family, and following his transformation his inability to work and provide for them leaves him with a terrible sense of guilt. On the very morning of the metamorphosis the head clerk arrives from his office, demanding to know why he has not turned up for work, and it’s almost a scene of black comedy as Gregor attempts to leave the bed and open the door, to reassure his superior that he is fit and able and enthusiastic. The fact that he has turned into a monster is of secondary concern to his job security.

This particular edition has a couple of Kafka’s other short stories at the back, presumably because the publisher wanted to pad the length out. None of them struck me as particularly memorable. The Metamorphosis, on the other hand, deserves its status as a literary classic – an enduring symbol of alienation in human society.
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LibraryThing member iHalo
“This was my first time reading Franz Kafka’s ‘The Metamorphosis’. My particular course of study did not encompass works of a philosophical nature, so this is new to me. For those of you that have not read The Metamorphosis, I don’t want to get into too much detail, as I think it would
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spoil the impact that the book would have on you from the get go. Further to that, try not to Google it or read too much about it prior to picking it up- I promise you, the result will definitely be thought provoking, at the very least. In fact, I read that Kafka insisted that the main subject matter not be printed on the cover of the book- so as not to spoil the effect.
After I finished reading it I wasn’t really sure what I thought about it but after having a couple of days to ponder it- I’ve decided that I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed Kafka’s writing style; it was very simplistic and straight forward. Another aspect of the story that I liked was that the climax was at the beginning of the novel and the story develops from there. The protagonist’s reaction to ‘the metamorphosis’ itself was interesting to me, in the sense that there was no apparent alarm there and ‘the metamorphosis’ was seen in the most pragmatic terms, all things considering. I think ‘Metamorphosis’ was Kafka’s view of human nature, how we tend to deny or bury unpleasantness and excuse our bad behaviour, especially with the support of others within our group or circle that happen to be guilty of the same bad behaviour and how society will come to terms, and even to accept injustices done to others. I think also, it could be symbolic of Kafka’s own family experience? It’s a quick little novella that would take you no time at all to read
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LibraryThing member Cecrow
My understanding of the grand metaphor at play here is Kafka's feelings of alienation in his being absorbed by the creative act of writing. Thanks to this use of metaphor rather than a literal telling, this story could represent anyone's abruptly becoming their family's black sheep (or 'monstrous
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vermin', rather) for any reason - a new religious or philosophical conviction, a homosexual who comes out of the closet, or any other event that causes a sudden rift between oneself and one's family, to the extent the people you love and live with feel like they scarcely know you anymore. The stages are there: their initial reaction of horror and the shutting down of communication, grudgingly giving way to the family's sense of duty to acknowledge even its strangest family member, and then ... I'd imagine there's a few different paths after that. Maybe they can reconcile and accept, or maybe not.

From Gregor's perspective there's the problem of his no longer being able to communicate with his family in return. He can no longer explain his wants or desires in any language they will understand because he has become entirely alien to them, and so he discovers his own ebbing of empathy for their perspective as well, like a memory in the act of being forgotten.

This might be a good classic for adolescents, who so often feel isolated or misunderstood by their family (assuming it's properly introduced.) I read it while ill, an event that tends to skew one's priorities and values and so gave me my own way of relating - the sick invalid who temporarily lacks the same cares as his family around him, shut up in his room and not to be disturbed. Some parts were darkly humorous, but I can't say I found it comforting.
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LibraryThing member benjamin.duffy
I’ve spent the last couple of years catching up on famous pieces of literature that, for whatever reason, I never got around to before, especially those that are ubiquitous cultural touchstones. A lifetime of making casual references to Sherlock Holmes, Jekyll and Hyde, The Last of the Mohicans,
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and so forth, without actually having read the works in question, always left me feeling like a bit of a poser each time I caught myself doing so. And for some reason, that guilty feeling was never stronger than when I would refer to something as "Kafka-esque," knowing I had never read any Kafka. It made me feel like such a huge poser that I actually crossed over into being a poseur, which, as everyone knows, is far worse.

So I finally sat down to read Kafka’s most famous work, the short novel Metamorphosis, and it’s everything I had ever meant to express by invoking the man's name: absurd, dark, grotesque, and humorous only in the blackest possible sense of the word.

I was, of course, already familiar with the very famous first line of the book, translated in my edition as, "One morning, when Gregor Samsa woke from troubled dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a horrible vermin." I think I had imagined, before reading, that the book would jump from that absurd beginning immediately in some other direction, but it doesn’t. It’s a good 10% of the way into the book (I read it on the Kindle; no page numbers) before Brundle-fly - sorry, Gregor-roach - even manages to flip over and get out of his bed, and it sets the tone for the rest of the book: unflinching, matter-of-fact in its depiction of surreal things, and compulsively readable at the same time that it’s psychologically uncomfortable and viscerally repelling.

I won’t spoil the ending for anyone reading this who is as big a poseur as I was, but I will say this: if Dan Savage woke from troubled dreams one morning to find himself transformed in his bed into Franz Kafka, he’d have started a viral video campaign called "It Gets Worse."
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LibraryThing member Davidgnp
I was inspired to read Kafka by listening to and unexpectedly enjoying 'Kafka the Musical' on BBC Radio 4. I downloaded the David Wyllie translation of 'The Metamorphosis' onto my Kindle for free from Project Gutenberg, and I'm very glad I did. The situation - man wakes up to find himself
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transformed into a giant beetle - must have seemed even more bizarre one hundred years ago than in these strange times; but from this unlikely premise, and in the space of a modest novella, Kafka provides a wealth of satirical comedy and pathos. The selfless and ultimately tragic hero Gregor Samsa leaves an indelible impression on the reader. The great sadness of the story lies in the fact that his family seem more concerned with the indelible stains left by his spoor on the bedroom wall. If, like me, you are late in coming to this great story I recommend you put it at the top of your to-read pile.
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LibraryThing member ChristopherTurner
Like all great books there's something for everyone - in that I mean the many layers that exist can be pentrated (or not) depending upon your entry point, perspective or state of mind at the time of reading the novel. A bad dream, a schizophrenic nightmare you cant wake up from, the viscereal
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reaction of the community to a misunderstood or feared disease or the simply the sense that most people suck. The fact that the "the great one's" are thought to have found inspiration in this novel should tell you everything.
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LibraryThing member Smiler69
I generally dislike reading translations, but I decided after some deliberation that learning German just to read Kafka was more work than I was willing to put in. This short story seemed like a good entry into this famous writer’s world. From the first sentence, I was surprised, not by the fact
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that Gregor Samsa, a traveling salesman, wakes up to find himself transformed into a bug—something I already knew about—but rather by Michael Hofmann’s (the translator of this Penguin edition) choice of words: “When Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from troubled dreams, he found himself changed into a monstrous cockroach in his bed.” As I understand it from the research I’ve done, Kafka used a German word that was much more vague and certainly did not specify what kind of bug Gregor had become. As it happens, cockroaches happen to be the most despicable type of bug while beetles are much more benign to me, this description therefore coloured my entire reading of the story.

Before reading the story I thought that the storyline was that Samsa discovers himself transformed into a bug and is completely horrified but then his family, coworkers and strangers aren't the least bit perturbed by his monstrous appearance and he carries on his life “as usual” except he’s a giant bug. I suppose this too would have made a good story—if it hasn’t already—but one quite different from Kafka’s original tale. My erroneous expectations took nothing away from the experience for me and in fact, I found this story could be read on many different levels. For instance, one could easily conclude that this book was a commentary on antisemitism, which was rife in 1915, the year this book was first published, and/or that Kafka was perhaps working out issues of self-hatred or that it was an omen of things to come with the rise of Nazism in the 1930’s when the depiction of Jews as monstrous vermin became ubiquitous in Nazi propaganda. Then again, maybe Kafka didn’t mean to convey anything else than the story itself at face value, which still leaves us with plenty to ponder.

An entertaining story with profound impact.
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LibraryThing member joeteo1
We all undergo transformations throughout our lives which changes our perspective, our behavior and the way we see others. It can also radically change the ways in which our friends, family and acquaintances see us. This Kafka novella takes this premise to the extreme, and asks what would happen if
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one were to transform into the most hideous thing possible- a giant repulsive bug. One could substitute almost anything for the bug analogy and the story would seem just as relevant. This is a remarkable experiment in creative fiction that has not aged one bit.
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LibraryThing member sparklegirl
Pretty crazy book. Guy turns into giant cockroach, nearly tears his family apart, grosses out readers across the world.
LibraryThing member bohemiangirl35
Strange, not quite what I expected. I felt so sorry for poor Gregor - so selfless and yet, unappreciated by his family as a person. Then despised and seen as a burden once he can't support them all. I was disappointed that his parents and sister could so quickly forget that he was their son and
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brother and sole provider for years. Especially since he was beholden to the company he worked for only because of his parents' debt.

Although Gregor didn't grasp how little his family thought of him through most of the story, I was glad he didn't or his feelings would have been even more hurt.

I don't like bugs, especially roaches, so parts of the story grossed me out. But is was well worth the read!
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LibraryThing member Joybee
Not the kind of story I usually read, but it kept my interest. I found this story to be funny in places, and a little sad.

Gregor Samsa "woke up one morning from unsettling dreams" and "found himself changed in his bed into a monstrous vermin". This is how the story starts, with its climax. The rest
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of the story goes on to tell about Gregor's new life as a bug, and how he and his family react.

I am glad I read this story.
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LibraryThing member cdeuker
Better than I remembered. Gregor transformed from a miserable drone working for an unappreciative family and an unappreciative employer into a miserable bug who is forced to hide in his room from his family. This family, little by little, transforms themselves into actual living creatures. All get
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jobs, all "come out" of their shells (bad pun), all improve. Only Gregor declines and dies, never once feeling any resentment toward those who transformed him from a person into a bug by their parasitic dependence. Fantastic story, incredible matter-of-fact narration.
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LibraryThing member Laurenbdavis
One of the most famous opening lines in literature: "As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect."

Well, this will certainly be a day unlike all others.

A classic work of expressionism. A metaphor for what happens to an
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individual when he lives a life he loathes, for extreme alienation and rebellion. What the reader brings to the text will inform his or her interpretation, and that makes the work all the more extraordinary.
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LibraryThing member NickConstantine
Franz Kafka was an amazing German author. Highly influential and discussed even today, Kafka had a wild talent that was manifested mostly in the many hours he spent in his home every day. The Metamorphosis is considered by many to be one of those texts that everyone should read to be a cultural
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human being. It is a very strange story about Gregor who wakes up one morning before work and he realized he has gone and transformed into a giant bug. The transformation has rendered him useless for work and thereafter unable to support his family. They begin to resent him for it during the months they have to hide him and also fend for themselves. Eventually, they lose hope in Gregor ever being the same again. It is very funny at times and very sad at times, but as a whole it is an imaginative and dark piece of literature. It is a voice from another culture and time that gives readers a chance to see the world through a perspective completely different than their own.
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LibraryThing member krizia_lazaro
At first, I can't bear reading this book. It was about a person who turned into a bug. It was disgusting. I hate bugs. But towards the middle and end part you begin to feel sympathy for Gregor. Who wants to be a bug? It was something he did not choose. i just felt bad for him and how his family
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treated him. It actually made me cry in the end. This one classic book everyone should read.
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LibraryThing member ashishg
I came across this book by accident, having learned that it was considered classic, and having missed it during my schooling days, and on whim finding it free on Project Gutenberg, and realizing that it's small story worth reading in few sittings.

Opening premise in first line sends a shock wave.
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It's strange, mildly amusing, and not yet clear where the story will go. However, story is captivating from get-go. For once, this classic lives up to its such designation. For another, despite my surprise at myself, I wasn't bothered about reason of this metamorphosis nor did absence of that took anything away from the story. Usually, ridiculous hypothetical premise of story which is not resolved till end is buzz-kill for me, but Kafka's work transcends that feeling, perhaps by not pretending to be anywhere close to science fiction and by tugging heart at right places. It is science fiction in its premise, but it is not, otherwise.

Of course, somethings in story bother you. I am amazed that rest of world wasn't throbbing Samsas' house to see the transformation, and that they could keep it as mildly horrifying novelty, despite their maid, Gregor's senior clerk, and their tenants having observed themselves. How could neighbors, police, scientists, and crowd be kept at abeyance from such rare happenstance? Another convenient coincidence was Gregor's end, brought out without much premonition.

What's most amazing is that while story isn't really fast paced, it just seems to keep you on hook. Story from perspective of vermin, of course, helps a lot. Challenges of adjusting to new life, phases of grief displayed by family in handling him, poignancy of whole situation tugs your heart and brought tear drops in my eyes near the end. I am tempted to be angry at his family, but I cannot be seeing what they did under such extraordinary circumstances. I cannot be unsympathetic to Gregor though, for he is such a gentle soul, struggling himself yet always keeping his virtues and noble character to guide his actions.

It's simple story, with multiple interpretations, all likely wrong, but which will keep you haunting long after you have read it.
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LibraryThing member Cygnus555
A classic read - I really didn't know what to expect, but I'm glad I read it. Clever and unique.
LibraryThing member atomheart
the family of Gregor provide a morbid, yet griping view of the human souls' capacity for compassion.
LibraryThing member revslick
perfect read for late at night creepy and a great allegory for those in 12-step recovery (AA, NA, Alanon, etc.).


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