Translated, edited, and with an Introduction by Stanley Corngold
Featuring essays by Philip Roth, W. H Auden, and Walter Benjamin
"When Gregor Samsa woke up one morning from unsettling dreams, he found himself changed in his bed into a monstrous vermin." With this startling, bizarre, yet surprisingly funny first sentence, Franz Kafka begins his masterpiece, "The Metamorphosis." It is the story of a young man who, transformed overnight into a giant beetlelike 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.
This Modern Library edition collects Stanley Corngold's acclaimed English translation--long hailed as the gold standard by scholars and general readers alike--along with seven critical essays by writers including Philip Roth, W. H. Auden, and Walter Benjamin, background and contextual material, and a new Introduction from Corngold himself.
About the Author
Franz Kafka was born to Jewish parents in Bohemia in 1883. Kafka's father was a luxury goods retailer who worked long hours and as a result never became close with his son. Kafka's relationship with his father greatly influenced his later writing and directly informed his Brief an den Vater (Letter to His Father). Kafka had a thorough education and was fluent in both German and Czech. As a young man, he was hired to work at an insurance company where he was quickly promoted despite his desire to devote his time to writing rather than insurance. Over the course of his life, Kafka wrote a great number of stories, letters, and essays, but burned the majority of his work before his death and requested that his friend Max Brod burn the rest. Brod, however, did not fulfill this request and published many of the works in the years following Kafka's death of tuberculosis in 1924. Thus, most of Kafka's works were published posthumously, and he did not live to see them recognized as some of the most important examples of literature of the twentieth century. Kafka's works are considered among the most significant pieces of existentialist writing, and he is remembered for his poignant depictions of internal conflicts with alienation and oppression. Some of Kafka's most famous works include The Metamorphosis, The Trial and The Castle.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) perhaps comes as close as any man to deserving the title of universal genius. Poet, dramatist, critic, scientist, administrator and novelist, he was born at Frankfurt-am-Main in 1749, the son of well-to-do parents with intellectual interests; and he studied at the University of Leipzig and at Strassburg, where he wrote a play which initiated the important Sturm und Drang movement. During the next five years he practiced law in Frankfurt and wrote The Sorrows of Young Werther, a remarkable novel autobiographical of one side of Goethe's nature. In 1775 he went to visit the court of the young Duke of Weimar, and, except for an extended journey to Italy a decade later, stayed there the rest of his life, filling at one time or another all the major posts in the Weimar government. Here a close friendship with Schiller developed, and here he conducted important scientific experiments and published a steady stream of books of the highest order and in many different forms. He became the director of the Weimar Theatre in 1791 and made it the most famous in Europe. His life held a number of ardent loves, which he celebrated in lyrics that are compared to Shakespeare's, and in 1806 he married Christiane Vulpius whom he had loved for many years. In later life Goethe became a generous patron of younger writers, including Byron and Carlyle. In 1790 he published the first version of his life work as Faust, a Fragment, but Part I of the completed Faust did not appear until 1808, while Part II was finished and published only a few months before Goethe's death in 1832.
“Kafka’s survey of the insectile situation of young Jews in inner Bohemia can hardly be improved upon: ‘With their posterior legs they were still glued to their father’s Jewishness and with their wavering anterior legs they found no new ground.’ There is a sense in which Kafka’s Jewish question (‘What have I in common with Jews?’) has become everybody’s question, Jewish alienation the template for all our doubts. What is Muslimness? What is femaleness? What is Polishness? These days we all find our anterior legs flailing before us. We’re all insects, all Ungeziefer, now.”
“Kafka engaged in no technical experiments whatsoever; without in any way changing the German language, he stripped it of its involved constructions until it became clear and simple, like everyday speech purified of slang and negligence. The common experience of Kafka’s readers is one of general and vague fascination, even in stories they fail to understand, a precise recollection of strange and seemingly absurd images and descriptions—until one day the hidden meaning reveals itself to them with the sudden evidence of a truth simple and incontestable.”