Since 1997, you’ve been coming to BarnesandNoble.com to discuss everything from Stephen King to writing to Harry Potter. You’ve made our site more than a place to discover your next book: you’ve made it a community. But like all things internet, BN.com is growing and changing. We've said goodbye to our community message boards—but that doesn’t mean we won’t still be a place for adventurous readers to connect and discover.

Now, you can explore the most exciting new titles (and remember the classics) at the Barnes & Noble Book Blog. Check out conversations with authors like Jeff VanderMeer and Gary Shteyngart at the B&N Review, and browse write-ups of the best in literary fiction. Come to our Facebook page to weigh in on what it means to be a book nerd. Browse digital deals on the NOOK blog, tweet about books with us,or self-publish your latest novella with NOOK Press. And for those of you looking for support for your NOOK, the NOOK Support Forums will still be here.

We will continue to provide you with books that make you turn pages well past midnight, discover new worlds, and reunite with old friends. And we hope that you’ll continue to tell us how you’re doing, what you’re reading, and what books mean to you.

Reply
Blogger
IlanaSimons
Posts: 2,223
Registered: ‎10-20-2006
0 Kudos

The Metamorphosis: Question 1: Holes in the Text

[ Edited ]
Question 1: Holes in the Text

Our story opens on one of the most famous lines in literature:
"As Gregor Samsa awoke from unsettling dreams one morning, he found himself transformed in his bed into a monstrous vermin."

It is important that this word is translated as “vermin,” and not, as it sometimes is, as “cockroach,” “insect,” or “bug.” Kafka wanted the word to be slightly abstract. Why do you think he wanted an open-ended word here?

A starter idea:
The theorist Wolfgang Iser described the “gaps” that exist in a book. Good literature, Iser said, does not fill in all the details; the resulting “gaps” are the prod for a reader’s imagination. Well-modeled “gaps” can propel us to think in dynamic, new ways. In Kafka’s deadpan narration and minimalist physical descriptions, he leaves us plenty of “gaps.” Describe some places in which he opens up new territory for the reader’s thinking. How does he do it?

How does Kafka pull off his absurdist voice or his humor?

Message Edited by IlanaSimons on 12-26-200612:06 PM




Ilana
Check out my book, here and visit my website, here.


Contributor
howietam
Posts: 7
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: The Metamorphosis: Question 1: Holes in the Text

Hi! I'm Tammy from Kentucky. I've read Kafka's Metamorphosis x 2, the most recent with my two teen aged sons whom I homeschool. They weren't as impressed with the book as I had hoped. Perhaps as one of the other participants had mentioned, it is relevant to your current situation in life???

I believe Kafka achieves his absurdist voice by describing absurd situations in a very unemotional, "dead pan" manner. I mean, he seems totally unimpressed with the fact that he has awakened as a bug!
Contributor
howietam
Posts: 7
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: The Metamorphosis: Question 1: Holes in the Text

Perhaps these "gaps" allow you to insert what is significant for you. For example, what type of "vermin" would be YOUR worst nightmare? It allows for some personal identification, as well as perceptions.
Blogger
IlanaSimons
Posts: 2,223
Registered: ‎10-20-2006
0 Kudos

Re: The Metamorphosis: Question 1: Holes in the Text



howietam wrote:
Perhaps these "gaps" allow you to insert what is significant for you. For example, what type of "vermin" would be YOUR worst nightmare? It allows for some personal identification, as well as perceptions.




Nice comment, Howietam.
I think what you're saying is true. This is a method used in horror films, too. Or...it used to be. Directors wouldn't show _all_ the detail, because then people wouldn't be able to insert [their biggest private fears, here.] The extremes gain drama when people insert their own ideas.



Ilana
Check out my book, here and visit my website, here.


Blogger
IlanaSimons
Posts: 2,223
Registered: ‎10-20-2006
0 Kudos

Re: The Metamorphosis: Question 1: Holes in the Text



howietam wrote:
Hi! I'm Tammy from Kentucky. I've read Kafka's Metamorphosis x 2, the most recent with my two teen aged sons whom I homeschool. They weren't as impressed with the book as I had hoped. Perhaps as one of the other participants had mentioned, it is relevant to your current situation in life???

I believe Kafka achieves his absurdist voice by describing absurd situations in a very unemotional, "dead pan" manner. I mean, he seems totally unimpressed with the fact that he has awakened as a bug!




yes. Does letting someone else feel the drama _for_ you give them more reign in feeling it?



Ilana
Check out my book, here and visit my website, here.


Scribe
Laurel
Posts: 5,747
Registered: ‎10-29-2006
0 Kudos

Re: The Metamorphosis: Question 1: Holes in the Text

Correct me if I'm wrong, but have I just been taken in by an enormous shaggy dog story?
"Truth must of necessity be stranger than fiction, for fiction is the creation of the human mind, and therefore is congenial to it." ~~G.K. Chesterton
New User
Alex2007
Posts: 1
Registered: ‎01-03-2007
0 Kudos

Re: The Metamorphosis: Question 1: Holes in the Text

1- Gregor has a bright picture frame, which he cut from an illustrated magazine, of a lady in sumptuous attire. Who is the lady? Maybe the wife of his employer or the prototype of the powerful woman that he desires. (Page 1 of the book)

2- Why the Samsa’s has a debt with Gregor’s employer? In various pages Kafka talks about the precarious economy situation of the Samsa’s, but doesn’t explain the reasons that conduct Gregor to work for his employer (selling fabrics?) in order to settle the debt. In these circumstances Gregor is a slave of his employer. Maybe Gregor’s father had been a business partner or a retailer of the employer of Gregor.
Frequent Contributor
LizzieAnn
Posts: 2,344
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: The Metamorphosis: Question 1: Holes in the Text



Alex2007 wrote:
2- Why the Samsa’s has a debt with Gregor’s employer? In various pages Kafka talks about the precarious economy situation of the Samsa’s, but doesn’t explain the reasons that conduct Gregor to work for his employer (selling fabrics?) in order to settle the debt. In these circumstances Gregor is a slave of his employer. Maybe Gregor’s father had been a business partner or a retailer of the employer of Gregor.




In addition - why is it that Gregor has to pay off the debt? Why doesn't the father do so? Is there any reason why either parent cannot also work. Gregor seems like an indentured servant.
Liz ♥ ♥


Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested. ~ Francis Bacon
Contributor
jeffcampbell7
Posts: 7
Registered: ‎01-07-2007
0 Kudos

Re: The Metamorphosis: Question 1: Holes in the Text

[ Edited ]
On the surface, the genre of fantasy/horror/sci-fi seem like a low-brow version of the genre of surrealism/dada/magical realism. (I see Kafka as a member of the latter camp.)
On a deeper level, though, there's an important difference. The fantasy/horror/sci-fi authors seems to think that they owe the reader an explanation of how things come to be. This explanation might not be plausible or realistic. But there's an emphasis on how things come to pass.

The Kafka-esque crowd isn't interested in such explanations. Perhaps such an explanations would even get in the way... they'd reduce the stories to the level of speculation of what might come to pass, or what could come to pass; I think maybe Kafka didn't want to say "This could literally happen" I think he wanted to say "in some important (symbolic) way, this very thing is happening all around us."

So the holes in the text, I think, are for the most part, quite necessary to what it is he was doing. The point about the opening sentence is an interesting one. I was unaware it's a mistranslation to render that phrase as "cock roach." I think the point in the question, around the intentional vagueness is quite right: Kafka would not have wanted to tell a story that traced precisely how Gregor was transformed into one specific kind-of nasty creature. I think he wanted to tell a wider story than this.



This message has been edited to reverse a filtering mistake.

Message Edited by Kevin on 01-07-2007 09:27 PM

Inspired Contributor
Choisya
Posts: 10,782
Registered: ‎10-26-2006
0 Kudos

Re: The Metamorphosis: Question 1: Holes in the Text

Thanks Jeff - yes I think that 'Kafka's crowd' are leaving much more to our own imagination, rather as abstract art does.



jeffcampbell7 wrote:
On the surface, the genre of fantasy/horror/sci-fi seem like a low-brow version of the genre of surrealism/dada/magical realism. (I see Kafka as a member of the latter camp.)
On a deeper level, though, there's an important difference. The fantasy/horror/sci-fi authors seems to think that they owe the reader an explanation of how things come to be. This explanation might not be plausible or realistic. But there's an emphasis on how things come to pass.

The Kafka-esque crowd isn't interested in such explanations. Perhaps such an explanations would even get in the way... they'd reduce the stories to the level of speculation of what might come to pass, or what could come to pass; I think maybe Kafka didn't want to say "This could literally happen" I think he wanted to say "in some important (symbolic) way, this very thing is happening all around us."

So the holes in the text, I think, are for the most part, quite necessary to what it is he was doing. The point about the opening sentence is an interesting one. I was unaware it's a mistranslation to render that phrase as "cock roach." I think the point in the question, around the intentional vagueness is quite right: Kafka would not have wanted to tell a story that traced precisely how Gregor was transformed into one specific kind-of nasty creature. I think he wanted to tell a wider story than this.



This message has been edited to reverse a filtering mistake.

Message Edited by Kevin on 01-07-200709:27 PM



Blogger
IlanaSimons
Posts: 2,223
Registered: ‎10-20-2006
0 Kudos

Re: The Metamorphosis: Question 1: Holes in the Text

[ Edited ]

Choisya wrote:
Thanks Jeff - yes I think that 'Kafka's crowd' are leaving much more to our own imagination, rather as abstract art does.



jeffcampbell7 wrote:
On the surface, the genre of fantasy/horror/sci-fi seem like a low-brow version of the genre of surrealism/dada/magical realism. (I see Kafka as a member of the latter camp.)
On a deeper level, though, there's an important difference. The fantasy/horror/sci-fi authors seems to think that they owe the reader an explanation of how things come to be. This explanation might not be plausible or realistic. But there's an emphasis on how things come to pass.

The Kafka-esque crowd isn't interested in such explanations. Perhaps such an explanations would even get in the way... they'd reduce the stories to the level of speculation of what might come to pass, or what could come to pass; I think maybe Kafka didn't want to say "This could literally happen" I think he wanted to say "in some important (symbolic) way, this very thing is happening all around us."

So the holes in the text, I think, are for the most part, quite necessary to what it is he was doing. The point about the opening sentence is an interesting one. I was unaware it's a mistranslation to render that phrase as "cock roach." I think the point in the question, around the intentional vagueness is quite right: Kafka would not have wanted to tell a story that traced precisely how Gregor was transformed into one specific kind-of nasty creature. I think he wanted to tell a wider story than this.



This message has been edited to reverse a filtering mistake.

Message Edited by Kevin on 01-07-200709:27 PM








Nice post, Jeff. Malcolm Gladwell wrote a great article in the New Yorker this week in which he discriminated between Mysteries and Puzzles. Puzzles, he said, have solutions--we just need to gather all the missing information. In contrast, mysteries, Gladwell writes, don't have clear answers. We might have all the information possible; a clear answer simply eludes the situation. (I don't know if you'd agree with the terms he uses for those oppositional definitions, but with that terminology, you're point makes great sense: Kafka writes mysteries and not puzzles. No amount of additional information will provide a "solution." )

Message Edited by IlanaSimons on 01-08-200709:04 AM




Ilana
Check out my book, here and visit my website, here.


Contributor
jeffcampbell7
Posts: 7
Registered: ‎01-07-2007
0 Kudos

Re: The Metamorphosis: Question 1: Holes in the Text

I quite like the puzzles/mysteries distinction. I think maybe Kafka is writing mysteries, not puzzles, because he'd suggest life is a mystery, not a puzzle. We run around acting as if it's possible to solve the great questions, but the whole enterprise of finding mean is wrong-headed from the get go.
Kafka's Trial seems a fine example of a story about someone acting as if life is a puzzle and finding out that it's all in fact a mysery-- unsolvable from the get go?

On that subject, I find it interesting that there are no specific questions or strings dealing with The Trial. With the obvious exception of the metamorphis, it's perhaps his best known work... and it seems to me that the fact that it went unfinished actually gives us a little peek into Kafka's rather strange workings.
Blogger
IlanaSimons
Posts: 2,223
Registered: ‎10-20-2006
0 Kudos

Re: The Metamorphosis: Question 1: Holes in the Text



jeffcampbell7 wrote:
I quite like the puzzles/mysteries distinction. I think maybe Kafka is writing mysteries, not puzzles, because he'd suggest life is a mystery, not a puzzle. We run around acting as if it's possible to solve the great questions, but the whole enterprise of finding mean is wrong-headed from the get go.
Kafka's Trial seems a fine example of a story about someone acting as if life is a puzzle and finding out that it's all in fact a mysery-- unsolvable from the get go?

On that subject, I find it interesting that there are no specific questions or strings dealing with The Trial. With the obvious exception of the metamorphis, it's perhaps his best known work... and it seems to me that the fact that it went unfinished actually gives us a little peek into Kafka's rather strange workings.




Hi Jeff--
The reason why we're not doing The Trail is because we're basing this reading group on the Barnes & Noble book The Metamorphosis and Other Stories. But you're right--the Trail is a great work. One thread here is on "Before the Law," which is a parable that comes from The Trial.

I'll soon be posting questions for some of the other stories in that book



Ilana
Check out my book, here and visit my website, here.


Contributor
Rune_Kristoffersen
Posts: 6
Registered: ‎01-07-2007
0 Kudos

Re: The Metamorphosis: Question 1: Holes in the Text

[ Edited ]
He wanted an abstract word, its true, but then when he develops the story, the "bug" behavior is described as the behavior of a cockroach (him self in the eyes of his father if i may insist on that).
He liked dark places, and how he starts to change, that was also the brilliant part of the story to me, he cant eat fresh food, he feels attracted to the rotten cheese, slowly he starts acting like a bug, he resigned himself to his appearance.
And by the way thanks Llana for your nice message of welcome.

Message Edited by Rune_Kristoffersen on 01-09-200709:41 PM

There are two ways of doing things : my way and the right way.
And they are both the same!
Contributor
Rune_Kristoffersen
Posts: 6
Registered: ‎01-07-2007
0 Kudos

Re: The Metamorphosis: Question 1: Holes in the Text

 
There are two ways of doing things : my way and the right way.
And they are both the same!
Contributor
Rune_Kristoffersen
Posts: 6
Registered: ‎01-07-2007
0 Kudos

Re: The Metamorphosis: Question 1: Holes in the Text

A good example of Kafka's "gaps" is "The trial"
There are two ways of doing things : my way and the right way.
And they are both the same!
Blogger
IlanaSimons
Posts: 2,223
Registered: ‎10-20-2006
0 Kudos

Re: The Metamorphosis: Question 1: Holes in the Text



Rune_Kristoffersen wrote:
He wanted an abstract word, its true, but then when he develops the story, the "bug" behavior is described as the behavior of a cockroach (him self in the eyes of his father if i may insist on that).
He liked dark places, and how he starts to change, that was also the brilliant part of the story to me, he cant eat fresh food, he feels attracted to the rotten cheese, slowly he starts acting like a bug, he resigned himself to his appearance.
And by the way thanks Llana for your nice message of welcome.

Message Edited by Rune_Kristoffersen on 01-09-200709:41 PM






Hi Rune_Kristoffersen,
I see some really interesting things in your post.
One is that we can read Gregor as being a bug "in his father's eyes." Someone else just posted a suggestion on this board that we have to read Gregor's transformation as delusion or metaphor: Gregor simply _feels_ like a bug, and Kafka makes that feeling clear by making it physical.
I'm wondering if you're saying a parallel, really interesting thing: that Kafka is describing what it feels like to be judged, and not truly seen by people around you.

I also like the second part of what you say: that being judged shuttles someone down a single road, because the roleplay snowballs. Gregor feels ostrasized, and the role grows into its own thing. Eventually, he can't eat the food his father likes. He "likes" the rotten. This is the effect of role play that happens, for instance, to anorexic adolescents whose family keeps seeing them as "anorexic." The role takes on a force of its own. Then the adolescent plays the role of "the sick one" simply because she's seen that way. The role determines her "likes" and "dislikes."



Ilana
Check out my book, here and visit my website, here.


Inspired Contributor
Choisya
Posts: 10,782
Registered: ‎10-26-2006
0 Kudos

Re: The Metamorphosis: Question 1: Holes in the Text

That is a very interesting observation on Rune's post Ilana and fit wells with the bad relationship Kafka is supposed to have had with his father. I also think I have read somewhere about the possibility of him being anorexic. So Gregor's plight is perhaps a projection of Kafka's own condition - written from the heart maybe.




IlanaSimons wrote:


Rune_Kristoffersen wrote:
He wanted an abstract word, its true, but then when he develops the story, the "bug" behavior is described as the behavior of a cockroach (him self in the eyes of his father if i may insist on that).
He liked dark places, and how he starts to change, that was also the brilliant part of the story to me, he cant eat fresh food, he feels attracted to the rotten cheese, slowly he starts acting like a bug, he resigned himself to his appearance.
And by the way thanks Llana for your nice message of welcome.

Message Edited by Rune_Kristoffersen on 01-09-200709:41 PM






Hi Rune_Kristoffersen,
I see some really interesting things in your post.
One is that we can read Gregor as being a bug "in his father's eyes." Someone else just posted a suggestion on this board that we have to read Gregor's transformation as delusion or metaphor: Gregor simply _feels_ like a bug, and Kafka makes that feeling clear by making it physical.
I'm wondering if you're saying a parallel, really interesting thing: that Kafka is describing what it feels like to be judged, and not truly seen by people around you.

I also like the second part of what you say: that being judged shuttles someone down a single road, because the roleplay snowballs. Gregor feels ostrasized, and the role grows into its own thing. Eventually, he can't eat the food his father likes. He "likes" the rotten. This is the effect of role play that happens, for instance, to anorexic adolescents whose family keeps seeing them as "anorexic." The role takes on a force of its own. Then the adolescent plays the role of "the sick one" simply because she's seen that way. The role determines her "likes" and "dislikes."


Blogger
IlanaSimons
Posts: 2,223
Registered: ‎10-20-2006
0 Kudos

Re: The Metamorphosis: Question 1: Holes in the Text



Choisya wrote:
That I also think I have read somewhere about the possibility of him being anorexic. So Gregor's plight is perhaps a projection of Kafka's own condition - written from the heart maybe.






Absolutely. In one of his love letters Felice, before he broke off their marriage plans, he wrote that skinniness is a sign of dissatisfaction--and "I'm the skinniest man I know."



Ilana
Check out my book, here and visit my website, here.


Contributor
Rune_Kristoffersen
Posts: 6
Registered: ‎01-07-2007
0 Kudos

Re: The Metamorphosis: Question 1: Holes in the Text

I couldn't agree more with you guys, the bug is supposed to be metaphorical, or maybe that was Kafka's initial idea when he wrote the story, but then he got trapped in the character of the cockroach and that's where he made it physical, if you remember in the very beginning of the story, it's very unreal, almost to the point that you dont understand what the guy tried to do, and then he starts to modify the conduct of Gregor and turn him into a bug, making him act like one, but the changes are very subtle, its actually BRILLIANT!! ( I'm a Kafka fan, in case you didn't notice, LOL).
And i would like to know what 's you opinion (Llana and Choisya) about Gregor even looking like a bug, totally repulsive to the sight of his family, he still tries to be liked by his father. And thats when he blows it, he gets his father throw apples to him.
I hope you excuse my lousy English.
There are two ways of doing things : my way and the right way.
And they are both the same!
Users Online
Currently online: 4 members 657 guests
Please welcome our newest community members: