Friday, November 18, 2016

Uncomfortable Reading

Peeped at the opening paragraphs of Michael Hofman's translation of Kafka's Metamorphosis and was done for. Yet again George Eliot has been put aside for a day or so, and this time for what proved to be an extremely uncomfortable read. I've never felt with quite the same intensity on previous readings just how strangely yet completely FK makes us feel what it is to be Gregor after his transformation. When I first read the story years ago I felt real irritation at just how vague the details of his embodiment as the dung beetle/cockroach are. This time I came to realise that's precisely because our protagonist is himself largely unaware of what is most natural - yet entirely unnatural - to him; i.e., his body and its limits. The exceptional moments of vivid, highly specific detail leap out to us with a particular kind of horror in their very precision - for example, when Gregor presses his insect body to the mirror and it sticks to him.

The uneasy sense that he keeps damaging his fragile new body in ways that might, and do, prove irreparable haunts the tale and can't easily be set aside even when its pages are closed.

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