Metamorphosis and Other Stories

Travelling salesman Gregor Samsa awakes one morning to find himself transformed into possibly the most famous insect in literary history. Characteristically, the entomologist Vladimir Nabokov devotes part of his lecture on Kafka’s story to a consideration of exactly what it was that Samsa had turned into: Kafka’s original ‘Ungeziefer’ is unspecific, a term used for bugs and vermin in general. ‘Commentators say “cockroach”, which of course does not make sense,’ Nabokov writes. ‘A cockroach is an insect that is flat in shape with large legs, and Gregor is anything but flat: he is convex on both sides, belly and back, and his legs are small. He approaches a cockroach in only one respect: his coloration is brown. That is all. Apart from this he has a tremendous convex belly divided into segments and a hard rounded back suggestive of wing cases. In beetles these cases conceal flimsy little wings that can be expanded and then may carry the beetle for miles and miles in a blundering flight. Curiously enough, Gregor the beetle never found out that he had wings under the hard covering of his back. (This is a very nice observation on my part to be treasured all your lives. Some Gregors, some Joes and Janes, do not know that they have wings.)’

Other Titles of Interest