Metamorphosis - Franz Kafka - ebook

As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect. He was laying on his hard, as it were armor-plated, back and when he lifted his head a little he could see his domelike brown belly divided into stiff arched segments on top of which the bed quilt could hardly keep in position and was about to slide off completely. His numerous legs, which were pitifully thin compared to the rest of his bulk, waved helplessly before his eyes.” With this startling, bizarre, yet surprisingly funny first opening, Kafka begins his masterpiece, The Metamorphosis. It is the story of a young man who, transformed overnight into a giant beetle-like insect, becomes an object of disgrace to his family, an outsider in his own home, a quintessentially alienated man. A harrowing — though absurdly comic — meditation on human feelings of inadequacy, guilt, and isolation, The Metamorphosis has taken its place as one of the most widely read and influential works of twentieth-century fiction...

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Franz Kafka







First digital edition 2017 by Anna Ruggieri

Table of Contents





One morning, when Gregor Samsa woke from troubled dreams, hefound himself transformed in his bed into a horrible vermin. He layon his armour-like back, and if he lifted his head a little hecould see his brown belly, slightly domed and divided by archesinto stiff sections. The bedding was hardly able to cover it andseemed ready to slide off any moment. His many legs, pitifully thincompared with the size of the restof him, waved about helplessly ashe looked.

"What's happened to me?" he thought. It wasn't a dream. Hisroom, a proper human room although a little too small, laypeacefully between its four familiar walls. A collection of textilesamples lay spread out on the table - Samsa was a travellingsalesman - and above it there hung a picture that he had recentlycut out of an illustrated magazine and housed in a nice, gildedframe. It showed a lady fitted out with a fur hat and fur boa whosat upright, raising aheavy fur muff that covered the whole of herlower arm towards the viewer.

Gregor then turned to look out the window at the dull weather.Drops of rain could be heard hitting the pane, which made him feelquite sad. "How about if I sleep a little bit longer and forget allthis nonsense", he thought, but that was something he was unable todo because he was used to sleeping on his right, and in his presentstate couldn't get into that position. However hard he threwhimself onto his right, he always rolled back to where he was. Hemust have tried it a hundred times, shut his eyes so that hewouldn't have to look at the floundering legs, and only stoppedwhen he began to feel a mild, dull pain there that he had neverfelt before.

"Oh, God", he thought, "what astrenuous career it is that I'vechosen! Travelling day in and day out. Doing business like thistakes much more effort than doing your own business at home, and ontop of that there's the curse of travelling, worries about makingtrain connections, bad and irregular food, contact with differentpeople all the time so that you can never get to know anyone orbecome friendly with them. It can all go to Hell!" He felt a slightitch up on his belly; pushed himself slowly up on his back towardsthe headboard so that he could lift his head better; found wherethe itch was, and saw that it was covered with lots of little whitespots which he didn't know what to make of; and when he tried tofeel the place with one of his legs he drew it quickly back becauseas soon as he touched it he was overcome by a cold shudder.

He slid back into his former position. "Getting up early all thetime", he thought, "it makes you stupid. You've got to get enoughsleep. Other travelling salesmen live a life of luxury. Forinstance,whenever I go back to the guest house during the morningto copy out the contract, these gentlemen are always still sittingthere eating their breakfasts. I ought to just try that with myboss; I'd get kicked out on the spot. But who knows, maybe thatwould be the best thing for me. If I didn't have my parents tothink about I'd have given in my notice a long time ago, I'd havegone up to the boss and told him just what I think, tellhimeverything I would, let him know just what I feel. He'd fallright offhis desk! And it's a funny sort of business to be sittingup there at your desk, talking down at your subordinates from upthere, especially when you have to go right up close because theboss is hard of hearing. Well, there's still some hope; once I'vegot the money together to pay off my parents' debt to him - anotherfive or six years I suppose - that's definitely what I'll do.That's when I'll make the big change. First of all though, I've gotto get up, my train leaves at five."

And he looked over atthe alarm clock, ticking on the chest ofdrawers. "God in Heaven!" he thought. It was half past six and thehands were quietly moving forwards, it was even later than halfpast, more like quarter to seven. Had the alarm clock not rung? Hecould see from the bed that it had been set for four o'clock as itshould have been; it certainly must have rung. Yes, but was itpossible to quietly sleep through that furniture-rattling noise?True, he had not slept peacefully, but probably all the more deeplybecause ofthat. What should he do now? The next train went atseven; if he were to catch that he would have to rush like mad andthe collection of samples was still not packed, and he did not atall feel particularly fresh and lively. And even if he did catchthe train he would not avoid his boss's anger as the officeassistant would have been there to see the five o'clock train go,he would have put in his report about Gregor's not being there along time ago. The office assistant was the boss's man, spineless,andwith no understanding. What about if he reported sick? But thatwould be extremely strained and suspicious as in fifteen years ofservice Gregor had never once yet been ill. His boss wouldcertainly come round with the doctor from the medical insurancecompany, accuse his parents of having a lazy son, and accept thedoctor's recommendation not to make any claim as the doctorbelieved that no-one was ever ill but that many were workshy. Andwhat's more, would he have been entirely wrong in this case?Gregordid in fact, apart from excessive sleepiness after sleepingfor so long, feel completely well and even felt much hungrier thanusual.

He was still hurriedly thinking all this through, unable todecide to get out of the bed, when the clock struck quarter toseven. There was a cautious knock at the door near his head."Gregor", somebody called - it was his mother - "it's quarter toseven. Didn't you want to go somewhere?" That gentle voice! Gregorwas shocked when he heard his own voice answering, it could hardlybe recognised as the voice he had had before. As if from deepinside him, there was a painful and uncontrollable squeaking mixedin with it, the words could be made out at first but then there wasa sort of echo which made them unclear, leaving the hearer unsurewhether he had heard properly or not. Gregor had wanted to give afull answer and explain everything, but in the circumstancescontented himself with saying: "Yes, mother, yes, thank-you, I'mgetting up now." The change in Gregor's voice probably could not benoticed outside through the wooden door, as his mother wassatisfied with this explanation and shuffled away. But this shortconversation made the other members of the family aware thatGregor, against their expectations was still at home,and soon hisfather came knocking at one of the side doors, gently, but with hisfist. "Gregor, Gregor", he called, "what's wrong?" And after ashort while he called again with a warning deepness in his voice:"Gregor! Gregor!" At the other side door hissister cameplaintively: "Gregor? Aren't you well? Do you need anything?"Gregor answered to bothsides: "I'm ready, now", making an effort toremove all the strangeness from his voice by enunciating verycarefully and putting long pauses between each, individual word.His father went back to his breakfast, but his sister whispered:"Gregor, open the door, I beg of you." Gregor, however, had nothought of opening the door, and instead congratulated himself forhis cautious habit, acquired from his travelling, of locking alldoors at night even when he was at home.

The first thing he wanted to do was to get up in peace withoutbeing disturbed, to get dressed, and most of all to have hisbreakfast. Only then would he consider what to do next, as he waswellaware that he would not bring his thoughts to any sensibleconclusions by lying in bed. He remembered that he had often felt aslight pain in bed, perhaps caused by lying awkwardly, but that hadalways turned out to be pure imagination and he wondered howhisimaginings would slowly resolve themselves today. He did not havethe slightest doubt that the change in his voice was nothing morethan the first sign of a serious cold, which was an occupationalhazard for travelling salesmen.

It was a simple matterto throw off the covers; he only had toblow himself up a little and they fell off by themselves. But itbecame difficult after that, especially as he was so exceptionallybroad. He would have used his arms and his hands to push himselfup; but instead ofthem he only had all those little legscontinuously moving in different directions, and which he wasmoreover unable to control. If he wanted to bend one of them, thenthat was the first one that would stretch itself out; and if hefinally managed to do what he wanted with that leg, all the othersseemed to be set free and would move about painfully. "This issomething that can't be done in bed", Gregor said to himself, "sodon't keep trying to do it".

The first thing he wanted to do was get the lower partof hisbody out of the bed, but he had never seen this lower part, andcould not imagine what it looked like; it turned out to be too hardto move; it went so slowly; and finally, almost in a frenzy, whenhe carelessly shoved himself forwards with all theforce he couldgather, he chose the wrong direction, hit hard against the lowerbedpost, and learned from the burning pain he felt that the lowerpart of his body might well, at present, be the most sensitive.

So then he tried to get the top part of his body out of the bedfirst, carefully turning his head to the side. This he managedquite easily, and despite its breadth and its weight, the bulk ofhis body eventually followed slowly in the direction of the head.But when he had at last got his head out ofthe bed and into thefresh air it occurred to him that if he let himself fall it wouldbe a miracle if his head were not injured, so he became afraid tocarry on pushing himself forward the same way. And he could notknock himself out now at any price; better to stay in bed than loseconsciousness.

It took just as much effort to get back to where he had beenearlier, but when he lay there sighing, and was once more watchinghis legs as they struggled against each other even harder thanbefore, if that waspossible, he could think of no way of bringingpeace and order to this chaos. He told himself once more that itwas not possible for him to stay in bedand that the most sensiblething to do would be to get free of it in whatever way he could atwhatever sacrifice. At the same time, though, he did not forget toremind himself that calm consideration was much better than rushingto desperate conclusions. At times like this he would direct hiseyes to the window and look out as clearly as he could, butunfortunately, even the other side of the narrow street wasenveloped in morning fog and the view had little confidence orcheer to offer him. "Seven o'clock, already", he said to himselfwhen the clock struck again, "seven o'clock, and there's still afog likethis." And he lay there quietly a while longer, breathinglightly as if he perhaps expected the total stillness to bringthings back to their real and natural state.

But then he said to himself: "Before it strikes quarter pastseven I'll definitely have tohave got properly out of bed. And bythen somebody will have come round from work to ask what's happenedto me as well, as they open up at work before seven o'clock." Andso he set himself to the task of swinging the entire length of hisbody out of the bed all at the same time. If he succeeded infalling out of bed in this way and kept his head raised as he didso he could probably avoid injuring it. His back seemed to be quitehard, and probably nothing would happen to it falling onto thecarpet. His main concern was for the loud noise he was bound tomake, and which even through all the doors would probably raiseconcern if not alarm. But it was something that had to berisked.