Franz Kafka, translated by Ian Johnston
Planet eBook, 1999 – 96 pages
In the Metamorphosis, Gregor Samsa, wakes up to find himself transformed into a large insect-like creature. The novella doesn’t concern itself with how or why the metamorphosis occurred (it is what it is), but how everyone- Gregor, his family and his employers deal with it.
Gregor couldn’t seem to talk, nobody could comprehend what was happening;
I cannot make you understand. I cannot make anyone understand what is happening inside me. I cannot even explain it to myself.
The alterations which Gregor suffered from, though inexplicable, were physically evident. His consciousness, for most part, did remain the same- he was in essence thinking the thoughts of Gregor as Gregor was- and only when the attitude of others towards him changed, with time, that his own identity changed, his own sense of self changed, his place in his family and society changed, all of it, metamorphosed, when he realized that he was a burden on his family and, in the end, he decided to end his life.
I couldn’t help but think that in our lives, we change so much, our changes might be less visible, but our thoughts, dreams, visions, and priorities do evolve, and sometimes we can’t seem to explain ourselves. We can’t articulate precisely how we have changed or why we have become, we just have. And then there is this constant tugging with becoming, becoming who we were, who we are, what we want to become versus what we think we should become. And we need to accept ourselves and simultaneously try to become more.
This novella deals with transformation and change (obviously), but also identity-how we identify our own selves and decide our own worth. How much of the assessment of self for example, depends on me only, and how much on what others think about me? Even though I keep telling myself I don’t care what others think, it seeps into my judgement of myself anyways, and I view my good and bad as they would, and I define my success and my happiness and my sadness and my correctness based on what a collective entity would feel or think, based on them. Do I control the content of my dreams?
What happens then… what happens when people around me can’t accept me? When we are ever evolving and don’t stick to our personal ten-year plans? Maybe I want to become a lesbian Buddhist who meditates in the Himalayas, or travel to some obscure island with no internet and swim with dolphins, or study gender in Mumbai and work in villages. What happens then? Do I become a burden? Do I kill that part of myself which causes such discomfort and cease to be?
Maybe I should just clear my throat, is all.