I guess most people have at some point heard the words:
“When was the last time you did something for the first time?”
Well, I read The Metamorphosis, my very first Kafka book. I know, I know, hundreds of thousand of people have done this before me.
If we’d refrain from doing something cause many people did it before, where would we be :-)
It was my first time, and I am very glad I did.
For those of you who haven’t read it: Gregor Samsa wakes up one day no longer human. He turned into a gigantic insect-like creature. It is a short story, yet it haunts the mind for quite awhile. At least it did with mine.
Gregor is a fine, kind hearted man. He works relentlessly to support his family, doesn’t need much for himself. He is very dutiful.
Why would someone like that transform in such a way? He never questions it. He accepts it for what it is. Without trying to understand how and why it happened. That’s remarkable as his mind is very clear and sane. He doesn’t go mad, and he isn’t even angry.
The entire family is robbed of nearly every way of communication. When Gregor speaks, whimsical animal-like sounds come out. He strives to display what he believes to be “comforting” behavior. Wishes not to scare anyone, nor to add to the distress.
We get to know each of the family members a little better and no doubt their behavior isn’t flawless all the time, yet week after week they try to somehow accommodate.
The situation is muddled and frankly quite hopeless, and as may come to no surprise, it doesn’t end well.
Leaves us wondering what it was the author wanted to convey. The world wide web contains numerous reviews and explanations. I read like a dozen, then I paused.
I thought; “What do these words do to you, rather than to anyone else?” I went for a long walk. Strolling and thinking.
What would I do, if I woke up transformed into something abstrusely horrible? What would I do, if it happened to someone close to me? If that person just wasn’t any longer, the person I had known before.
One can say, ignore the outside; it’s merely a shell. It’s the inside that counts. In theory, these words very much resonate with me. Let’s be honest though with ourselves. Most likely we’d respond as humans tend to respond. With a particular revulsion for things we intuitively know to be yukky and fear for things, we’ve simply never encountered.
It’s so easy for the reader to be “on Gregor’s side.” After all, we as a reader are granted access to his thoughts. His family though has no way of accessing those. All they see is that monstrous creature that once used to be their son and brother.
So there is this shell and no easy way to see what’s inside the shell. It is one of those lose, lose situations. Which makes one sad, as no one loves those.
I’m somehow wired to look for positives. Even in the bleakest situations, one can find bright spots.
The book hints that the other family members are finding a renewed appreciation for one another. The situation, even when not gloriously dealt with, brings them closer together. They are there for each other. Coping. Together.
There is beauty in that.
Thinking of Gregor, and how he must have felt, words from Frida Kahlo, an extraordinary Mexican painter, come to my mind. She said:
“I used to think, I was the strangest person in the world, but then I thought, there are so many people in the world, there must be someone, just like me, who feels bizarre and flawed in the same ways I do, I would imagine her, and imagine that she must be out there, thinking of me too.
Well, I hope that if you are out there, you read this and know that yes, it’s true, I’m here, and I’m just as strange as you.”
I wish everyone to carry these words in their heart, knowing that they are never alone, even when everything seems to speak against it.
Wish you all a good day