From man to bug – a surreal portrait

Franz Kafka: Die Verwandlung (English title: The Metarmorphosis) ISBN 80-85938-46-4 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ A classic of German literature, the first book by Kafka that I read, a bizarre experience. It took me some time to identify the lack of self-esteem of the main character, Gregor Samsa, a man transformed without any apparent reason into a bug, as the central theme along with the sudden change of relationships within a family triggered by an singular and surreal event. Throughout his entire life, Kafka was  totured by a feeling of inferiority, unsure  about his talent, his choices in life, even unsure about his own right to live. This novel, like most of his works, has strong autobiographic traits.

The brutal change of the status of Samsa – from active to helpless, from respected to perceived as a nuisance – and the fact that Samsa gradually resignates, accepts his own decline and becomes indifferent towards others is for me a useful reminder to periodically check how I perceive others: as a means or as an end in itself. The human psyche becomes easily unhinged, man quickly looses his inhibition and disregards accepted norms of social behaviour.

A violin piece, played by Samsa’s sister is one of the few things that triggers a positive emotion in Samsa, and the surreal character of the plot fits well with Arnold Schönberg’s music, his String Quartet No. 3 Op. 30:

A democratic revolution – all notes are equal