Friday, April 15, 2005


I just read through Franz Kafka's "The Metamorphosis". I can't explicitly explain what I enjoyed about reading it, but it was very absorbing. To my surprise, not much was happening, but I still enjoyed it- possibly the construction of the story, the minute details.

Then I shopped around for explanations. I found a speech byVladimir Nabokov on the subject. Fortunately, the speech is nearly as long as the story itself! Anyhow, I'm reading through that now, and he's presenting some interesting material...

Let us therefore examine what reality is, in order to discover in what manner and to what extent so-called fantasies depart from so-called reality.

Let us take three types of men walking through the same landscape. Number One is a city man on a well-deserved vacation. Number Two is a professional botanist. Number Three is a local farmer. Number One, the city man, is what is called a realistic, commonsensical, matter-of-fact type: he sees trees as trees and knows from his map that the road he is following is a nice new road leading to Newton, where there is a nice eating place recommended to him by a friend in his office. The botanist looks around and sees his environment in the very exact terms of plant life, precise biological and classified units such as specific trees and grasses, flowers and ferns, and for him, this is reality; to him the world of the stolid tourist (who cannot distinguish an oak from an elm) seems a fantastic, vague, dreamy, never-never world. Finally the world of the local farmer differs from the two others in that his world is intensely emotional and personal since he has been born and bred there, and knows every trail and individual tree, and every shadow from every tree across every trail, all in warm connection with his everyday work, and his childhood, and a thousand small things and patterns which the other two—the humdrum tourist and the botanical taxonomist—simply cannot know in the given place at the given time. Our farmer will not know the relation of the surrounding vegetation to a botanical conception of the world, and the botanist will know nothing of any importance to him about that barn or that old field or that old house under its cottonwoods, which are afloat, as it were, in a medium of personal memories for one who was born there.


  1. I just read it online (mmm, public domain) and it reminded me of various other things I have read. Probably stuff that was inspired by the original story. I'll read the commentary later. You should read up on Nabokov sometime. He had an interesting life.

  2. You should watch Bridget Jone's Diary. There's a scene with funny Kafka related stuff in the movie. And it's also a great movie.