miercuri, 21 octombrie 2009

Metamorphosis..



Peter Capaldi reveals the inspiration (and Christmas miracle) behind Kafka's 'The Metamorphosis'.

The Metamorphosis  Verwandlung is a novella by Franz Kafka first published in 1915.  It is often cited as one of the seminal works of short fiction of the 20th century and is widely studied in colleges and universities across the western world; Elias Canetti described it as "one of the few great and perfect works of the poetic imagination written during this century". The story begins with a traveling salesman, Gregor Samsa waking to find himself transformed into an insect.

(...) Gregor Samsa awakes one morning in his family's apartment to find himself inexplicably transformed overnight into a gigantic pest. Gregor does not immediately recoil from his insect form, but instead chooses to lament his job by saying, "How am I going to get to work?" and the general misery of the rainy weather outside. Indeed, the narrative establishes the poor conditions as the cause of his bed-ridden state. Gregor works as a traveling salesman, and, as it is usual for traveling salesmen to move constantly from place to place, he is accustomed to waking up in unfamiliar surroundings and various circumstances.

The true reality of his metamorphosis is complete when he sees his many legs waving in the air. But from then on he resists any conscious recognition regarding his change or the fact that a change indeed happened—everything but the recognition of his separation from the others. The problem Gregor has at the beginning of the story is that his family and a messenger from his boss are knocking at the door, concerned for him, and he's unable to flip off his back onto the floor.

The weight on Gregor’s life is that he is the financial head of the household; nobody else apparently works in his family (or is able to work); their whole present and comfortable existence relies upon Gregor’s employment at the "firm." Most of the weight is the debt which his father owes to the employer for whom Gregor now works.

Gregor becomes progressively unable to communicate with his family, and even before his physical appearance is revealed to them, his voice becomes completely unintelligible. He retains his cognitive faculties, though his family remains unaware of this.

Curiously, his condition does not arouse a sense of surprise or incredulity in the eyes of his family, who merely despise it as an indication of their impending burden. However, most of the story revolves around his interactions with his family, with whom he lives, and their shock, denial, and repulsion whenever they are confronted with his physical condition. 

Horrified by his appearance, they take to shutting Gregor into his room, but Grete, his sister, tries to care for him by providing him with food and water. In his new form, he rejects his erstwhile favourite food (milk and bread), preferring stale, rotten food, but later loses his appetite completely. He also develops the fears of an insect, being effectively shooed away by hissing voices and stamping feet. Because of the effect that his appearance has on the rest of the family, Gregor decides to hide underneath a sofa when somebody has to come into his room, later going to the extent of draping a sheet over it to hide more effectively.

Because Gregor can't provide financially any more, the other family members get jobs: Gregor's father comes out of retirement to work at a bank, his mother sews fine underwear for a fashion house and his sister works in a shop and gets a position on a secretarial course. One day, when Gregor emerges from his room, his father chases him around the dining room table and pelts him with apples. One of the apples becomes embedded in his back, causing an infection.

While he is confined to his room, Gregor's only activities are looking out of his window and crawling up the walls and on the ceiling. Financial hardship befalls the family, and Grete's caretaking deteriorates. Over the course of the story, Gregor’s vision grows dimmer, and his physical size shrinks: where he is initially about the size of a human, and can't get through a single door without trouble, he later becomes small enough to crawl up the wall and sit over a picture frame. Due to his infection and his hunger, he is soon barely able to move at all, though. Later, his parents take in lodgers to supplement their income, and his room gets used as a dumping area for unwanted objects, and is seldom cleaned. Gregor becomes dirty himself, covered in dust and old bits of rotten food.

Although he imprisons himself within his room voluntarily at first, his family later become the jailers, locking Gregor in from the outside, partly to hide him from their new lodgers. Devoid of human contact, Gregor alternates between concern for his family and anger at them for neglecting him. One day the door is left open, and Gregor's sister plays the violin to entertain the lodgers. Gregor is attracted to the music, and slowly walks into the dining room despite himself, entertaining a fantasy of getting his much-loved sister to join him in his room and play her violin for him. He imagines telling Grete of his plans to send her to the conservatory to study the violin. The lodgers see him and give notice, refusing to pay the rent they owe, even threatening to sue the family for harbouring him while they stayed there. Even Grete's rejection of Gregor is total when she says to the family, "We must try to get rid of it. We've done everything humanly possible to take care of it and to put up with it, no one can reproach us in the slightest."

The sister then determines with finality that the insect is no longer Gregor, since Gregor would have left them out of love and taken their burden away. Gregor returns to his room and collapses, finally succumbing to his wound and to his starvation.

The point of view shifts as, upon discovery of his corpse, the family feels an enormous burden has been lifted from them, and start planning for the future again. The family discovers that they aren't doing financially badly at all, especially since, following Gregor's demise, they can take a smaller flat. The brief process of forgetting Gregor and shutting him from their lives is quickly completed. The final sentence echoes the first: while the opening lines document Gregor's physical metamorphosis, the novella ends with mention that Grete too has changed, having become a "good looking, shapely" girl who will soon be old enough to marry.(...)
 

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