A review of “The Metamorphosis And Other Stories” by Franz Kafka

In my early 20s, I read all three of Kafka’s novels – “America”, “The Trial” and “The Castle” – as well as some of his short stories including “The Metamorphosis”. I had thought that this would be the end of my Kafka phase but, some 50 years later, a Czech friend bought me a handsomely-bound collection of a new translation of no less than 38 short stories, so I was back in the world of the Czech Jew who wrote in German and created an inimitable vision somewhere between dream and nightmare. 

Kafka spent almost all of his life in his native city of Prague but, as a member of the small German-speaking Jewish community, he was doubly isolated from the Czech/Christian majority and in addition had a contentious relationship with his father. All these factors profoundly influenced his writing.

The most striking works in this anthrology are “The Metamorphosis”, “In The Penal Colony” and “A Hunger Artist” which are among the few longer narratives. Most of the other stories are really short – often a page, a paragragh, even a sentence, but always intriguing and usually unsettling.

The stories are opaque and open to many interpretations but common themes are a lack of control and justice, a sense of anquish and menace, and a illusionary search for meaning. Not for nothing has the word “Kafkaesque” gone into so many languages.


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