Saturday, January 27, 2007

Lunchtime read: Metamorphosis and Other Stories

This is hardly a lunchtime post, and could only just claim to be for those on the West Coast, but I have been out all day and only just able to get to a keyboard now to tap this stuff in. Short story collections are great for variety and accessibility but the downside can be that you pick them up and put them down and leave them unfinished exactly because they do not have the start, middle and end structure of a novel. Therefore the plan with Kafka is to finish this collection.

In The Penal Colony
A visitor visits a penal colony and is invited to view an execution of a prisoner who is not only unaware of the sentence but of the fact he has been found guilty. As the officer in charge explains that the old commandant loved this form of execution, to use needles to inscribe a message of justice into the prisoner over the course of 12 hours until dead, he shows the guest how the machine works. The prisoner is put on the machine but as it is about to begin the officer asks if the visitor is in favour and after being told not, surely the end for the execution machine, he dismisses the prisoner and ties himself on but the machine malfunctions and he dies quickly and painfully.

A Country Doctor - Little Tales
Most of the stories were published in magazines and collections of stories alongside other authors and so there is not too much of a coherent theme other than the period they were written. Apart from the first of these stories it is neither about a doctor or the country but a series of stories that includes the tale of the man waiting to be admitted to the law that is told in The Trial, a rather humorous tale of a father describing his eleven sons and in A report to An Academy it is like Metamorphosis in reverse with a former ape explaining how he imitated humans after being captured.

But there are also darker stories. The first tale of the doctor is like a fairy tale in reverse where instead of evil being defeated it is good that ends up losing. The Dream, where Joseph K. discovers an artist inscribing his tom stone, reminds you of the hidden powers that sometimes drive some of Kafka’s characters to jump at death.


The last few bits and pieces awaits tomorrow…

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