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The Metamorphosis, In the Penal Colony, and…

The Metamorphosis, In the Penal Colony, and Other Stories: The Great Short…

by Franz Kafka

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I'm giving this book a certain score, but realize first and foremost that it is wildly inconsistent. There can be no doubt that "The Metamorphosis" and "In The Penal Colony" are masterpieces of short literature that rank with the highest of perhaps anything that's been written in the form. The works that come close to those are "The Judgment" and "A Hunger Artist" which perhaps most merit the score I give. They're very good achievements, but they don't have a good connection to the hand that wrote "The Trial", which is Kafka's unfinished masterpiece.

The rest of this collection is somewhat similar to Typee from Herman Melville. The elements of good writing are present but they haven't formed into that je ne sais quois that forms literature. These works can't even be called Kafka-esque in the same way Typee can't be considered Melvillean. Everyone will remember Melville for Moby Dick, a work that almost achieves the status of The Great American Novel, and similarly Kafka will be remembered for "The Trial" and the short stories for which this collection is partially named, but both authors must've not been able to feel their way out naturally since they both produce art that is wildly non-indicative.

It's not so much that these other stories are bad, but in a collection like this they are indeed "other." It's too bad that Kafka was not as prolific as Melville, since Melville managed to pump out a good bevy of excellent short stories between Moby Dick and his final hurrah of "Billy Budd, Sailor." This final stage of Melville's life carries almost as much of his legacy as Moby Dick itself. Kafka, on the other hand couldn't seem to decide what he wanted to produce in finality. Or else he could, but he still dotted it with less important work along the way.

I would suppose it were a blessing that Kafka couldn't decide on his ultimate vision the way Edgar Allan Poe or H.P. Lovecraft could. After all, his vision was a lot more complicated. It encased the full experience of the 20th century man, parts of which were left out for Poe or Lovecraft- Poe being nevertheless a literary auteur of the strange, frightening, and imaginative. Kafka, in his few masterworks, reached into the soul of man and reflected it back to us in all of its stunning sadism and otherwise. His beautiful portraits of transformation and auto-mechanism should be familiar to all. We can learn the ways we shouldn't treat each other in Kafka. ( )
  Salmondaze | Jul 24, 2015 |
I was not looking forward to reading this book, as I had previously read Metamorphosis and The Trial. I was pleasantly surprised by Country Doctor and especially Penal Colony. Very strong characters and symbolism in PC. You have to do your research on these stories or you miss quite a bit of symbolism. ( )
  delta351 | Jan 18, 2014 |
Striving to understand the frequent usage of 'Kafkaesque' to describe a proliferation of things literary, I found a nice bargain copy of this translation of Kafka many moons past. I'm unsure if I accomplished my goal, being left wondering if I need to read 'The Trial' to solidify that understanding, yet having no desire to engage anymore with his works. This collection of stories left me repulsed ('The Metamorphosis'), disgusted ('In the Penal Colony'), irritated ('The Stoker'), or bored (all inclusive). I used the experience as a stylistic exercise, but even that failed to render the stories any more approachable for me. Taking a month to finally finish, the slow progress was a source of frustration, and the more frustrating thought is that Kafka would have probably found that entirely too funny. ( )
1 vote Aeyan | Mar 5, 2009 |
I'm glad I read Kafka's story "The Metamorphosis," about Gregor Samsa, because now I understand the joke in "The Producers" that references it so much better. Don't you just like pop cultural references in film and TV? Of course you do - look at how successful the Simpsons et al are. ( )
  soylentgreen23 | Jan 3, 2007 |
The man is nuts. This is not to say that I don't approve, but man-oh-man.....his conversations read as drunken insanity that is only barely functional, and that on a good day! ( )
  GeraldLange | Nov 10, 2006 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Franz Kafkaprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Neugroschel, JoachimTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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"As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect."
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0684800705, Paperback)

Translated by PEN translation award-winner Joachim Neugroschel, The Metamorphosis, In the Penal Colony, and Other Stories has garnered critical acclaim and is widely recognized as the preeminent English-language anthology of Kafka's stories. These translations illuminate one of this century's most controversial writers and have made Kafka's work accessible to a whole new generation. This classic collection of forty-one great short works -- including such timeless pieces of modern fiction as "The Judgment" and "The Stoker" -- now includes two new stories, "First Sorrow" and "The Hunger Artist."

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:27 -0400)

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Translated from the German and edited by Malcolm Pasley.

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