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The Metamorphosis, In the Penal Colony, and Other Stories: The Great Short Works of Franz Kafka

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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 g 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."


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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 g 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."

30 review for The Metamorphosis, In the Penal Colony, and Other Stories: The Great Short Works of Franz Kafka

  1. 4 out of 5

    Cecily

    "The law... should be accessible to everyone and at all times." This very short story has been published on its own, as a chapter in his novel The Trial (see my review HERE) and in the collection The Country Doctor (see my review HERE). It's a short, allegorical tale on one of Kafka's key themes: judgement. (He studied law at university, and went on to work in insurance, investigating personal injury claims.) A man comes seeking justice (the reason is not stated - this is Kafka, after all!), and th "The law... should be accessible to everyone and at all times." This very short story has been published on its own, as a chapter in his novel The Trial (see my review HERE) and in the collection The Country Doctor (see my review HERE). It's a short, allegorical tale on one of Kafka's key themes: judgement. (He studied law at university, and went on to work in insurance, investigating personal injury claims.) A man comes seeking justice (the reason is not stated - this is Kafka, after all!), and the door to justice is open, but the doorkeeper won't let him pass. There is never an outright "no", nor any reason given, just prevarication and the implication (and it is only an implication) that one day it might be possible. The man waits, and waits. The doorkeeper takes bribes: "So you won't feel there isn't anything you haven't tried." You can probably guess the outcome more-or-less. Image: Waiting at the door... (Source) Some of Kafka's stories have humour; this is not really one of them. Cold and haunting beauty, with an eerie familiarity (even the first time I read it) are the tone here. Read it - and related things You can read the whole thing (two pages) HERE. See my Kafka-related bookshelf for other works by and about Kafka: HERE. This story is also referenced in Josipovici's delightful, elegant, and ultimately very clever bit of whimsy, Only Joking, which I reviewed HERE.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly

    "Before the Law stands a doorkeeper. To this doorkeeper there comes a man from the country and prays for admittance to the Law. But the doorkeeper says that he cannot grant admittance at the moment. The man thinks it over and then asks if he will be allowed in later. 'It is possible,' says the doorkeeper, 'but not at the moment.' Since the gate stands open, as usual, and the doorkeeper steps to one side, the man stoops to peer through the gateway into the interior. Observing that, the doorkeeper "Before the Law stands a doorkeeper. To this doorkeeper there comes a man from the country and prays for admittance to the Law. But the doorkeeper says that he cannot grant admittance at the moment. The man thinks it over and then asks if he will be allowed in later. 'It is possible,' says the doorkeeper, 'but not at the moment.' Since the gate stands open, as usual, and the doorkeeper steps to one side, the man stoops to peer through the gateway into the interior. Observing that, the doorkeeper laughs and says: 'If you are so drawn to it, just try to go in despite my veto. But take note: I am powerful. And I am only the least of the doorkeepers. From hall to hall there is one doorkeeper after another, each one more powerful than the last. The third doorkeeper is already so terrible that even I cannot bear to look at him.' These are difficulties the man from the country has not expected; the Law, he thinks, should surely be accessible at all times and to everyone, but as he now takes a closer look at the doorkeeper in his fur coat, with his big sharp nose and long, thin, black Tartar beard, he decides that it is better to wait until he gets permission to enter." I tried to get ideas from the other reviews of this work here at goodreads but no one seemed to have ventured to suggest what this "Law" is. But I think Kafka had given hints. The story continues: "The doorkeeper gives him a stool and lets him sit down at one side of the door. There he sits for days and years. He makes many attempts to be admitted, and wearies the doorkeeper by his importunity. The doorkeeper frequently has little interviews with him, asking him questions about his home and many other things, but the questions are put indifferently, as great lords put them, and always finished with the statement that he cannot be let in yet. The man, who has furnished himself with many things for his journey, sacrifices all he has, however valuable, to bribe the doorkeeper. The doorkeeper accepts everything, but always with the remark: 'I am only taking it to keep you from thinking you have omitted anything.'" Interesting that the man would give bribes and the doorkeeper would always accept them. Time then inexorably proceeded with speed-- "During these many years the man fixes his attention almost continuously on the doorkeeper. He forgets the other doorkeepers, and this first one seems to him the sole obstacle preventing access to the Law. He curses his bad luck, in his early years boldly and loudly; later, as he grows old, he only grumbles to himself. He becomes childish, and since in his yearlong contemplation of the doorkeeper he has come to know even the fleas on his fur coat, he begs the fleas as well to help him and to change the doorkeeper's mind." These were what the man did. But notice what he didn't, or failed, to do up to the time he approached his own end-- "At length his eyesight begins to fail, and he does not know whether the world is really darker or whether his eyes are only deceiving him. Yet in his darkness he is now aware of a radiance that streams inextinguishable from the gateway of the Law." Now what "radiance" is this? And what "darkness"? The finale comes as follows: "Now he has not very long to live. Before he dies, all his experiences in these long years gather themselves in his head to one point, a question he has not yet asked the doorkeeper. He waves him nearer, since he can no longer raise his stiffening body. The doorkeeper has to bend low towards him, much to the man's disadvantage. 'What do you want to know now?' asks the doorkeeper; 'you are insatiable.' 'Everyone strives to reach the Law,' says the man, 'so how does it happen that for all these many years no one but myself has ever begged for admittance?' The doorkeeper recognizes that the man has reached his end, and, to let his failing senses catch the words, roars in his ears: 'No one else could ever be admitted here, since this gate was made only for you. I am now going to shut it.'" The end. So what does it mean? Let me give it a shot. Kafka was obsessed with the human condition and the eternal questions about existence (see my other review of his longer work, "The Trial"). The "Law" here can't simply be justice or a desired enforcement of rights. The law (whether it be human, natural or divine) GOVERNS. The man here, as any other man, sought that which governs human existence, that which explains or gives meaning to it, the ultimate whys and wherefores of everything and which everyone, at one time of his/her life, would find the need to wonder about and which the man here--like any other man--thought should "be accessible at all times and to everyone." He was tantalized by this. It is POSSIBLE to be admitted to the Law and the door is ALWAYS open. But there are obstacles, both imagined (the other doorkeepers) and real (the doorkeeper before him) and he lacks the courage to ignore all these obstacles and just go inside and find out what is there. There was fear of what he might find out when he goes in without "permission." He wanted it easy. To be PERMITTED inside. To be spoon-fed and be lulled into contentment about the big issues of life. So he asked and asked in an unceasing prayer, bribing his way through offerings and sacrifices to a mute idol who just stood there without objection to what was laid before its feet. In his youth there was exuberance in the man's petitions; in his old age, only childishness, then darkness. Yet in his darkness he finally becomes aware of the glory--though futile--of man's unending quest for meaning, unique to each person, a quest unto death. "Insatiable," said the doorkeeper to the man who ended his personal journey by dying, in darkness as hope ended, and as the door to the Law's gateway is closed.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Lucy Banks

    Captivating, strange and ultimately rather chilling. I'm actually reviewing another version of this book - so I'm not sure if it contains the same short stories; and for that reason, I'll only talk about the ones I know are in both - The Metamorphosis and In the Penal Colony. I first read The Metamorphosis when I was a teenager, then again in my twenties. Both times, the story really stayed with me - though I have to say, I don't think I really truly grasped its full horror until I read it a thir Captivating, strange and ultimately rather chilling. I'm actually reviewing another version of this book - so I'm not sure if it contains the same short stories; and for that reason, I'll only talk about the ones I know are in both - The Metamorphosis and In the Penal Colony. I first read The Metamorphosis when I was a teenager, then again in my twenties. Both times, the story really stayed with me - though I have to say, I don't think I really truly grasped its full horror until I read it a third time (this time in my thirties!). Short, sweet summary coming up. Gregor is a travelling salesman who lives with his parents and sister, Grete. One day, he wakes up to find that he's become an enormous bug. His sister initially tries to care for him, but it becomes pretty evident that not only is everyone repulsed by him, but that they actively wish him harm. In the Penal Colony is something altogether different. This was a story I'd not read before, and bloody hell, I'm not sure I'd want to read it again any time soon. Not because it was awful (quite the contrary) but because it was so unsettling. It's about an officer showing off an execution machine, which needles the condemned's sentence into their body while they're pinned in a 'harrow', then finally runs them through with a metal spike. Except it doesn't quite have the ending one might expect... So, let's start with the more famous of the two - The Metamorphosis. This is just a staggeringly brilliant piece of writing; and although I've always appreciated the surreal quality of it (that classic 'waking nightmare' element that seems to feature in much of Kafka's work), I don't think I fully realised the monumental sadness and self-loathing that drives it. Gregor is not just a fantastical, revolting invention - he's also a pitiful metaphor for self-hatred and isolation - the feeling of being rejected by those you love, merely because of superficial factors over which you have no control. Kafka's depiction of Gregor is absolutely freaking masterful too. He not only manages to somehow capture what it would be like to be a giant bug (down to the fun of running across the ceiling), but also the stomach-turning revoltingness of it too - the clack of the mandibles, the too-large body, the preference for rotten food. Yet none of this is Gregor's fault and that's what makes it such a heartbreaking read. In the Penal Colony continues this theme of human cruelty and isolation and pushes it to factor eleven. To my mind, it's inferior to The Metamorphosis, perhaps because it is so unrelentingly morbid. There's something about it that almost reminds me of Edgar Allen Poe - where macabre crosses into out-and-out horror. Seriously, after reading the story, I put the book down and stared at the wall for about ten minutes, until my husband had to check I was alright - it was that unpleasant! But BRILLIANTLY written. If you haven't read Kafka yet - do. He's fully deserving of being considered up there with the greats. Weird, eerie and entirely 'different' to anyone else. Now that's an accolade.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Sanjay Gautam

    As usual the story was KAFKAESQUE. Better read it, its a very short one, though thought provoking.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jim Puskas

    The brilliant Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges wrote that “every writer creates his own precursors. His work modifies our conception of the past as it will modify the future” and that this was true of Kafka, despite his work being widely viewed as unique. Without doubt, the themes Kafka explores here — powerlessness, alienation, loneliness — are as old as literature itself and Kafka, in his exploration of those notions has modified our perception of the works of his precursors. For example, The brilliant Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges wrote that “every writer creates his own precursors. His work modifies our conception of the past as it will modify the future” and that this was true of Kafka, despite his work being widely viewed as unique. Without doubt, the themes Kafka explores here — powerlessness, alienation, loneliness — are as old as literature itself and Kafka, in his exploration of those notions has modified our perception of the works of his precursors. For example, it seems to me that both Hamlet and King Lear must be perceived differently today in the light of 20th century writers (including Kafka) as opposed to how they were perceived in Shakespeare’s day. So, I suppose Borges was right, and Kafka in his fragment “Decisions” offers a troubling take on the question of “to be or not to be”. And the process continues, inasmuch as each writer who has encountered Kafka cannot help arriving at his own conception of what Kafka has to say about the human condition. My impression of this collection of (mostly) fragments is further blurred by what I believe to be the presence of an unreliable narrator. What we are presented with is not necessarily real. These are parables. Mood and allusion is every bit as meaningful as the narrative itself. Reading the set of vignettes that make up “Contemplation” I was reminded of a line in Sting’s iconic ballad “Message in a Bottle”: Seems I’m not alone at being alone Several of the lesser fragments in this collection left me with little more than a shrug, but a couple of others are very powerful indeed. “Before the Law” stands out in particular, a succinct and memorable expression of man’s helplessness in the face of forces we cannot understand.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Sophia

    His works are often ambiguous and vague in defining purpose or moral meaning. Instead, there's a cacophony of events, images, and multifaceted characters that you learn to love and hate, relate to, and at the same time feel compelled to distance yourself from. He presents emotions, situations, and characters, which no matter how foreign in behavior, or state of mind, retain an unmistakable and comical resemblance to human nature. He takes what we all already “know” somewhere in our subconscious His works are often ambiguous and vague in defining purpose or moral meaning. Instead, there's a cacophony of events, images, and multifaceted characters that you learn to love and hate, relate to, and at the same time feel compelled to distance yourself from. He presents emotions, situations, and characters, which no matter how foreign in behavior, or state of mind, retain an unmistakable and comical resemblance to human nature. He takes what we all already “know” somewhere in our subconscious understanding of the world and makes it conscious. Even though his writing is in constant conflict with itself, it only reinforces his acceptance of the world as too complex for his humble pen to simplify; a meticulous desire to paint life in its true form.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Anai Finnie

    I simply do not have the time for a sad man writing about nothing of interest.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Marc

    This is a non-objective-emotionally-laden-I'm-so-damn-glad-to-be-done-with-this-book review... I've owned this book for long enough to have forgotten how I acquired it. I chose to read it now because "The Penal Colony" was mentioned in Murakami's Kafka on the Shore, which I read a month or so ago. I skipped right to "The Penal Colony" and enjoyed it. Then I put the book down. It sat on my bedside table giving me the kind of looks young orphans give to potential adoptive parents. I tried to ignore This is a non-objective-emotionally-laden-I'm-so-damn-glad-to-be-done-with-this-book review... I've owned this book for long enough to have forgotten how I acquired it. I chose to read it now because "The Penal Colony" was mentioned in Murakami's Kafka on the Shore, which I read a month or so ago. I skipped right to "The Penal Colony" and enjoyed it. Then I put the book down. It sat on my bedside table giving me the kind of looks young orphans give to potential adoptive parents. I tried to ignore it. I told myself to just put it back on the unread shelf, maybe even let it fall behind the shelf... But its silent cries were too much for me and I finally caved.I started at the beginning. It was very slow going and that's with skipping "The Metamorphosis" because I've already read it a couple of times--you should, too (you don't need this book to find a copy--there's this little thing called the Internet that you're using right now). Out of 44 separate selections, there were four that I really enjoyed: "About the Law", "The Metamorphosis", "The Penal Colony", and "The Sorrow". But when I hit that story about Josephine the singer... it felt like 50 pages saying exactly the same fucking thing. I think it may have only been 25 pages or so, but I despised it so much, I'm not even going to touch the book again to check. I felt myself too close to the end to just give up. Done in by Josephine' "piping", I am now working on a time machine so that I may go back and recapture the time Kafka extorted from me. If you haven't read Kafka, may I highly recommend The Trial instead. Wishing you and yours happy reading.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Alex

    Kafka allegedly worked at an insurance company, but I'm convinced it was a front for a publishing house, because it's beyond me how he managed to get most of these works published in his lifetime. The stories that aren't just sketches of a scene or descriptions of people (one story consists entirely of a narrator describing each of his 11 sons in excruciating detail) seem overly dramatic. I understand he's trying to drive home metaphors or commentary, but I think there are ways of doing that wit Kafka allegedly worked at an insurance company, but I'm convinced it was a front for a publishing house, because it's beyond me how he managed to get most of these works published in his lifetime. The stories that aren't just sketches of a scene or descriptions of people (one story consists entirely of a narrator describing each of his 11 sons in excruciating detail) seem overly dramatic. I understand he's trying to drive home metaphors or commentary, but I think there are ways of doing that without having every character kill themselves. (That's not a spoiler, unless you know zero things about Kafka.) I'm giving 2 stars to everything in the collection except "The Metamorphosis", which gets 5 stars; so, through some questionable math, I arrived at 3 stars. "The Metamorphosis" is the one story that seems to have a real narrative to it and feels like it actually moves through a span of time. And in spite of the absurd premise, the characters and their interactions feel real. Whether treated literally (as literally as possible, at least) or as a metaphor, the writing holds up and doesn't feel as dated as it does elsewhere in the book. Kafka maintains a good balance between describing characters' inner thoughts and motivations and actually moving the story along, and this helps you empathize with the characters rather than feel annoyed that Kafka wants to tell you about them. Their decisions and actions are heartbreaking, but logical. There really is no good solution to Gregor's predicament, and even though you understand that from the beginning, it's fascinating (albeit depressing) to witness each character's journey to that eventual revelation. Read "The Metamorphosis", skip the rest.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kim

    I have often been told I should read Franz Kafka. I've been told by people I know, or by introductions in other books, or from lists of classics I should read. So one day not long ago as I was browsing in a bookstore I came across "The Metamorphosis and Other Stories" and I bought it. Now I've read my first Kafka. The amount of stars it is getting is still up in the air for now. The first story in the book is "The Metamorphosis", of course it would be first, and as I start reading the first line I have often been told I should read Franz Kafka. I've been told by people I know, or by introductions in other books, or from lists of classics I should read. So one day not long ago as I was browsing in a bookstore I came across "The Metamorphosis and Other Stories" and I bought it. Now I've read my first Kafka. The amount of stars it is getting is still up in the air for now. The first story in the book is "The Metamorphosis", of course it would be first, and as I start reading the first line is: "One morning, when Gregor Samsa woke from troubled dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a horrible vermin." Well we're off to a bad start. When I think of vermin I think of mice. I hate mice. I hate mice more than anything else that I can think of. Anything mouse related I hate, field mice, house mice, moles, voles, rats, whatever, I hate them all. Ever since they got into my Christmas decorations in the garage we have been having an out and out war. Now by the second line I know Gregor hasn't turned into a mouse, it seems to be some sort of insect. "He lay on his armour-like back, and if he lifted his head a little he could see his brown belly, slightly domed and divided by arches into stiff sections. The bedding was hardly able to cover it and seemed ready to slide off any moment. His many legs, pitifully thin compared with the size of the rest of him, waved about helplessly as he looked." Well that's not much better, I hate insects too. Alot of them anyway, lice, fleas, ticks, stinkbugs, gnats, more that I can't think of right now, I hate them. They are annoying. So finding myself turned into a big bug one morning would have me in a panic. I would have been screaming in my bug voice for a doctor, for my parents, for an ambulance, for anything that could help me. Not Gregor, he never really seems to mind the fact that he has turned into an insect, and never once seems to ask himself, or anyone else for that matter, how such a thing could have happened. Other people's reactions are just as strange to me. His parents and sister see him, and they, instead of running for a doctor or the greatest scientists in the country, keep him locked in the room out of sight. They never ask either how this could have happened. They all seem to blame him for being turned into a bug which makes me think he wanted to be a bug. His boss who comes to see why he isn't at work, goes running from the apartment when he sees him and apparently tells no one, since no one ever shows up to see this bug monster. You would think he would have told everyone he saw and that news crews, or whatever a 1915 version of a news crew would be, would be showing up at the door. The ending I won't tell you, but I thought it was sad. Another story I found sad was "The Judgment". Kafka wrote the story in 1912 and it tells the story of a relationship, and not a good relationship, between a father and son. Kafka considered the story “one of his most successful and perfect literary creations”. I considered it really sad that a father could have treated his son that way, but I'll let you read the story to see what happens. Kafka once wrote to his father; "My writing was all about you." If that was the case his father wasn't very nice. "In the Penal Colony", another of the stories that stayed with me was written in October 1914, revised in November 1918, and first published in October 1919. There are only four characters in the story. The description of the torture device, a machine that carves the sentence of the condemned prisoner on his skin before letting him die, all in the course of twelve hours, was disturbing. "A Country Doctor" made no sense to me whatsoever. The doctor's horse dies, but he finds two new horses in his pig sty that get him to the sick boy's house ten miles away instantly. At first he can't find anything the matter with the boy, then checks him again and finds a huge wound on his right side. Then for reasons I never understood the family of the sick boy undress the doctor and put him in bed with the boy. If you want to know what happens next, go read the story, I'm not sure I could tell you anyway. There are other stories in the book, not all of them are sad and depressing, but the ones that aren't sad and depressing aren't exactly happy and cheerful either. I doubt that I would read the book again. I am slightly interested in reading a longer Kafka book just to see if he cheers up any time, but I have so many books that I want to read and so many books that I want to read over again, that I doubt I will take the time to read Kafka again, at least not for a long time. Oh, and by the way, when we were kids our parents took us to Disneyworld, and no, I never tried to meet Mickey. After all, a mouse is a mouse. Two stars for the book, it was OK.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kendra

    This book was given to me by a kind English teacher and mentor of mine. The first time I read it, I devoured it. I finished in about three days. The second time was no different. There is something captivating about Kafka’s works. It’s fascinating to read about his thoughts and to read through his short stories. I absolutely adore his stories, his writing style, and his uniqueness. Definitely recommend this to anyone who likes the strange and unique.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Auggie Heschmeyer

    I had never read any Kafka before beginning this collection, but I had heard the term Kafkaesque thrown around a lot. Based on my understanding of the term, I expected a collection of overwhelmingly oppressive, Orwellian stories about the little man being at the mercy of the larger man and the vindictive universe as a whole. Instead, what I got was a single story about a man turned into a cockroach and a number of sweet little stories about people wondering about their place in the world and wha I had never read any Kafka before beginning this collection, but I had heard the term Kafkaesque thrown around a lot. Based on my understanding of the term, I expected a collection of overwhelmingly oppressive, Orwellian stories about the little man being at the mercy of the larger man and the vindictive universe as a whole. Instead, what I got was a single story about a man turned into a cockroach and a number of sweet little stories about people wondering about their place in the world and what else their might be. And rather than an overbearing narrative style meant to show the futility of it all, there was nothing but simple (albeit borderline run-on) sentences describing things rather plainly. For example, Metamorphosis doesn't concern itself with the character cursing the universe or tearing his antennae out wondering why he's a cockroach. Instead, Gregor is more concerned with his relationship to his family and how his condition affects them. I was delightfully surprised at the matter of fairness of it all. The collection precedes Metamorphosis with Kafka's first group of short stories which barely last longer than two pages, but effectively create an atmosphere and setting better than full length novels. The second collection of shorts, A Country Doctor: Short Prose for my Father, is the the weakest of the whole book as it lacks the charm and bright-eyed wonderment at the absurdity of life that the preceding stories have in abundance. The third collection of shorts feel the most "Kafkaesque" and are far more negative than the other works in this book; however, they are appealing in their negativity. I loved reading this book and Kafka has become one of my favorite writers. I can't wait to read more of his works.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Cameron

    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 incl 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.

  14. 5 out of 5

    David

    The Penal Colony was by far my favorite. Other notable short stories were of course The Metamorphosis, the Bachelor, The Hunger Artist, and The Judgement. As often with Kafka, some off the stories either 'go over my head,' or simply don't resonate with me, but that doesn't change the fact that there is no other author out there like Kafka. (Maybe Knute Hamsun or Sigizmund Khrizhanovsky comes close). The Penal Colony was by far my favorite. Other notable short stories were of course The Metamorphosis, the Bachelor, The Hunger Artist, and The Judgement. As often with Kafka, some off the stories either 'go over my head,' or simply don't resonate with me, but that doesn't change the fact that there is no other author out there like Kafka. (Maybe Knute Hamsun or Sigizmund Khrizhanovsky comes close).

  15. 5 out of 5

    Laurence Yearsley

    Before the Law is a magnificent metaphor of the limits we put upon ourselves. We alone define the boundaries we can reach, but often find out too late. After reading this I changed certain aspects of my life, so I can say I found it very profound.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Lindseyb

    Reading this was so rewarding...it’s been awhile since I picked up Kafka (German or English) but it beckoned me for some reason. I had never read In the Penal Colony or The Hunger Artist, and I remembered The Trial and The Country Doctor only vaguely. What I found is that, the more I read the stories, the more absurd and vaguely ominous certain things in my own life / work-life started seeming. Reading Kafka gives you a kind of consciousness that suddenly makes the Kafkaesque come to life in you Reading this was so rewarding...it’s been awhile since I picked up Kafka (German or English) but it beckoned me for some reason. I had never read In the Penal Colony or The Hunger Artist, and I remembered The Trial and The Country Doctor only vaguely. What I found is that, the more I read the stories, the more absurd and vaguely ominous certain things in my own life / work-life started seeming. Reading Kafka gives you a kind of consciousness that suddenly makes the Kafkaesque come to life in your own world. Loved experiencing this, despite the discomfort.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    The expectation that if someone writes an amazing story, never mind two or even three, that then therefore they are genius and all their work is masterpiece worthy is a collective delusion. Granted it could just be me and I failed to grasp the greatness of the majority of the pieces in this collection which fell mainly flat. Most of the longer pieces read so repetitious and too rambling for my taste.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Bjørk Rúnadóttir

    An odd short story that most likely has a deeper meaning but I have failed to see what that might be

  19. 5 out of 5

    David Meditationseed

    A Hunger Artist A deep story that raises questions like 1. What are our most secret desires camouflaged in what we show to people? 2. What is our pleasure seeing the image that people form of us? 3. To what extent do we want to be recognized even by our sufferings? 4. How proud are we of our suffering? 5. What is the measure of public sadism? Does marketing act as a springboard for it? 6. To what extent does suffering become a commonplace? Is there a time measure for this? 7. The suffering that many see A Hunger Artist A deep story that raises questions like 1. What are our most secret desires camouflaged in what we show to people? 2. What is our pleasure seeing the image that people form of us? 3. To what extent do we want to be recognized even by our sufferings? 4. How proud are we of our suffering? 5. What is the measure of public sadism? Does marketing act as a springboard for it? 6. To what extent does suffering become a commonplace? Is there a time measure for this? 7. The suffering that many see, in reality to the one who suffers it, can mean something else: a challenge, a goal, a discovery? 8. Does art have any limits? The limit could be the death, perhaps? 9. Is the artist and the art always misunderstood? Among so many questions, Kafka introduces a narrative that if the sadism covered by art or the media spectacle is in the foreground, the other levels of understanding lie in its own lack: in the bias of how each individual judges the world and the rest ; of how appearance often masks the essence; and how communication is faulty. There are two sides that go through this whole story: that of a character (an artist) who fasts inside a cage; and that of the public and the entrepreneur who live outside it. Neither side is fully understood. Each judges and classifies the other with its own truths. And of the same form, one feeds on the other - for more sadistic and masochistic this may seem. "And the joy of living flowed from her throat with such intensity that it was not easy for spectators to bear. But they dominated, crowded around the cage and did not want to get out of there at all. " ___ The Metamorphosis Although the central content of the action of "The Metamorphosis" is well known: that of a traveling salesman who wakes up transformed into an insect inside the room of the house where he lives with his family; this story bears itself on itself as provocative turns (to mention just some of the themes) about relationships, family, acceptance of differences, communication, prejudice, work, appearance. What would be the first concern we would have when we were transformed into an insect? For Gregor Sansa, the protagonist, was thinking about his work !!! Yes, how could he not be late to catch the train, that he had never been absent from the firm, that he was an efficient worker who had received a promotion, what his bosses would think about his lack ... etc. On the other hand, Gregor, who was the breadwinner, supported the house and his family (father, mother and sister) was considered a boy completely inserted in his family context, when he became an insect, he began to be misunderstood, to be put aside, to generate anger, contempt, to be only a weight to the coexistence - simply because it altered its physical form and it ceased to be functional that clan. Until he reaches the point, that his sister, who is his greatest advocate, changes his perspective and suggests that the family should get rid of him. Gregor's transformation adds up to the impossibility of communication between him and his family; they can not communicate with the insect, nor Gregor with too much; though he understands what others are saying. The lack of dialogue practically increases the family tragedy practically irreversible. This tragic and absurd irreversibility imposes perhaps the limit of life itself: irreparable death. During the narrative, we go some way, working our own hope: waiting for some kind of family reconciliation, a happy happy, something like that. But Kafka goes on to point out that perhaps beauty, or one of the great qualities of existence is its own discontinuous, within the continuous death-life. To fit the family happiness, perhaps the most traditional still today, is to look good, have a good job and money. With this, one lives a horizon of happy future. Kafka provokes us by pointing out that under this smokescreen there is alienation and the tragedy of adequacy, as well as convenience. Gregor discovers, for example, that if before his transformation, he considered his father a conformed, tedious, debt-laden household, but when reality changed, he hid in a safe deposit box that could support the family. That her mother, in spite of the regrets of her health, could also work; that his sister though had a gift for violin and music, could also get a good job; but everyone adjusted their lives on the back of Gregor who supported them financially and was even willing to pay a long music course to his sister - thinking that this would not be a debt but an investment. This musical gift is noticed much more by Gregor than by all other members of the family and by people who are not part of the family clan. As in much of Shakespeare's works, Kafka points out to us that life is absurd and that tragedy and comedy mingle and change rapidly. That the temporal shift to a happy future often does not have its own essence - perhaps we have ceased to exist until then. We die before, we cease to be - and as much as we know our limits, as Albert Camus reflects, beauty is precisely in this lack of meaning and in the awareness of our limitation and of ourselves. Gregor at his end, still sees the window. Meditate on your condition: you still think like a human, despite having the form of an insect. And find serenity in an uncertain future. Redemption seems not to be in the acknowledgment of others about us - this is a complex and endless struggle; but it is in the wisdom of finding the possibilities we have, trying to understand who we are and giving a sense of quality to all of this. ____ In the Penal Colony Kafka's ability to use metaphors as a means of reflection on ourselves, the culture that surrounds us and the central themes of humanity is shocking in this history by mixing with the extremes of violence. Behind the narrative, there are as in others of his works the notion of the absurdity of life and how this same absurdity becomes truth, or truths either for an individual or for an entire society, or at least for a part of it. With a core of ruthless action and characters who move quickly from compassion to vengeance, from despair to derision, we note that Kafka reflects that there are also individuals who can defend and cling to traditions, rules, myths, religiosities, and political systems even though these seem illogical to most. And people who are even willing to sacrifice with their own lives as proof of their loyalties in situations that even extremely painful ones find in their consciences the serenity - fruit of a superior truth that surrounds them and that they believe. Would that be a portrait of obsession? Illusion? Religious or political extremism? Kafka also points out that however incoherent some systems may seem to be unsupported by the majority and that society believes it has surpassed, there can always be hidden followers ready for redemption. The story points to two issues that appear in two other great narratives of Kafka: justice, as in The Process; and hallucination, as in The Metamorphosis. Here, in relation to justice, the condemned person does not know what his accusation, had no right of defense and does not know what his condemnation will be. The judge, on the other hand, has a book of laws that no one can understand nor what is written. The executioner is more concerned with the gear and the machine that performs justice than with the defendant. The hallucination occurs from the perspective of the characters. In a few lines, Kafka shows us how empathy can arise and disappear in different situations and hierarchies quickly. How compassion can turn into revenge quickly. That the pendulum of human emotions can swing extremely fast between what we feel in our own skin, what we know or not in theory, in the social, in the individual, and again in our own idea of ​​justice and revenge. This is a deep and sadistic story about humanity. _____ Verdict A short but very profound story about different aspects: 1. The relationship between father and son. 2. How we change our emotions and thoughts quickly - we can go from empathy and generosity to anger, or from love to hate in a matter of seconds. 3. The guilt we carry from the most absurd things. 4. How each individual lives in their own world, with their own visions and selfishness. 5. The guilt that each one carries, however absurd it may be. 6. The verdict we impose on ourselves and others, by a constant judgment by our own references. 7. The place of power where we place ourselves over others - through social hierarchies (such as the relationship of father and son) and the ideas we develop, for example the supposed "pity" we feel for others, we constantly put ourselves above of others. 8. The different characters we create from ourselves that we show at work, in society and at home, in our intimacy. 9. The "well of vanity" that we are. Around all of this, there are other issues constantly present in Kafka's stories: alienation, condemnation and absurd condemnation. The narrative revolves around a character who becomes engaged and decides to tell his or her engagement to a friend who moved to another city and who is experiencing difficulties and who does not want to return to his hometown because of the shame of not having given in nothing in life. The protagonist does not want to tell the friend of his engagement not to make him more unhappy. Georg works and lives with his father, a widowed and old man. Most of the story takes place in a dark room, with the windows closed, in a conversation between the father and son about Georg's decision to tell his friend about his engagement and the speeches his father makes to him in the light of that event. As in other stories, Kafka provokes to life the selfish proportions that defy and define the limits of itself: its horizon, its hopes, expectations, memories and depravations, reaching the end of itself: the absurd meaning. ____

  20. 4 out of 5

    Nathan Bas

    A mixture of good and bad.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Roberta

    I have a different version than this one but don’t find my version listed. Crazy-good stories! Weird as heck....

  22. 5 out of 5

    Tom

    Conversation with the Supplicant - 5 Stars The writings of the Meditation piece contain ideas or thoughts of which Kafka used many in later works, some a few pages long others just a sentence. Meditation - 4 Stars Children on a Country Road Unmasking a Confidence Trickster The Sudden Walk Resolutions Excursion into the Mountains Bachelor's Ill Luck The Tradesman Absent-Minded Window-gazing The Way Home Passers-by On the Tram Clothes Rejection Reflections for Gentleman-Jockeys The Street Window T Conversation with the Supplicant - 5 Stars The writings of the Meditation piece contain ideas or thoughts of which Kafka used many in later works, some a few pages long others just a sentence. Meditation - 4 Stars Children on a Country Road Unmasking a Confidence Trickster The Sudden Walk Resolutions Excursion into the Mountains Bachelor's Ill Luck The Tradesman Absent-Minded Window-gazing The Way Home Passers-by On the Tram Clothes Rejection Reflections for Gentleman-Jockeys The Street Window The Wish to Be a Red Indian The Trees Unhappiness The Judgement - 4 Stars The Metamorphosis - 5 Stars A Country Doctor - 5 Stars A New Advocate A Country Doctor Up in the Gallery An Old Manuscript Before the Law Jackals and Arabs A Visit to a Mine The Next Village An Imperial Message The Cares of a Family Man Eleven Sons A Fratricide A Dream A Report to an Academy The Bucket Rider In the Penal Colony - 5 Stars A Hunger Artist - 5 Stars This novella contains the following 4 short stories. First Sorrow A Little Woman A Hunger Artist Josephine the Singer, or the Mouse Folk The Areoplanes at Brescia - 3.5 Stars

  23. 4 out of 5

    Nate

    all of kafka's short fiction - not that much of it, even with larger typeface and generous spacing they had to pad it with some non-fiction essays and travelogues to get it to over 300 pages. the obvious highlights are the metamorphosis and the penal colony which made it onto the cover. the rest is somewhat of a mixed bag of tiny vignettes, some working better than others. i skimmed through the non-fiction appendix - i can't imagine the lit criticism here being particularly interesting even to t all of kafka's short fiction - not that much of it, even with larger typeface and generous spacing they had to pad it with some non-fiction essays and travelogues to get it to over 300 pages. the obvious highlights are the metamorphosis and the penal colony which made it onto the cover. the rest is somewhat of a mixed bag of tiny vignettes, some working better than others. i skimmed through the non-fiction appendix - i can't imagine the lit criticism here being particularly interesting even to those familiar with the works discussed (which does not include me), and the bit about airplanes in brescia was kind of neat to see novel perceptions on flight

  24. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    This is supposedly an improved translation compared to earlier Kafka books. Joachim Neugroschel, the translator of this volume, claims to have the direct line to Kafka's prose style and intentions. Things like this are one of the reasons that I approach all translations of non-English writers with a bit of skepticism. My opinion is that readers of the translation will never be able to read a writer as intended because of subtle nuances in each language that are often untranslatable. Translations This is supposedly an improved translation compared to earlier Kafka books. Joachim Neugroschel, the translator of this volume, claims to have the direct line to Kafka's prose style and intentions. Things like this are one of the reasons that I approach all translations of non-English writers with a bit of skepticism. My opinion is that readers of the translation will never be able to read a writer as intended because of subtle nuances in each language that are often untranslatable. Translations are basically for the lazy folks who do not have the time or energy to become fluent in the author's native language. Although it has been awhile since I have read Kafka, the only noticeable difference that I observed is that Neugroshel replace "bug" with "vermin" in the opening lines of 'The Metamorphosis'. Having said this, it was still a joy to read Kafka again. I am of the opinion that anyone who enjoys off-kilter literature was first turned on to the idea after reading 'The Metamorphosis'. Unlike Burroughs, etc, Kafka is often recognized and somewhat approved of by high school English teachers. This volume opens with the early works, which consist of 'Conversation With The Worshipper', 'Conversation With The Drunk', and 'Great Noise'. These are all shorter works, which I had little use for. Basically, they are all first person inner monologues of the speaker either lamenting his antisocialness or scorning the behaviors of those he is observing. While it is sometimes good to see the progression of a writer in a collection like this, it can also be tedious to wade through the material. I may offend the Kafka fanatics out there, but it is also reassuring to see that like everyone else, Kafka wrote some crap early on as well. The real meat of this book lies in the last 2/3rds of it with the longer works. 'The Stoker', 'The Metamorphosis', 'In The Penal Colony', and 'A Country Doctor' are all fine examples of Kafka that should be read by everyone at least once. After finishing the book, I had to look at Kafka's Wikipedia entry. Did you know that it is believed that he invented the predecessor to what would later become the hard hat? It is hard to imagine that Kafka, the introverted, tubercular, existentialist, has an indirect relationship to every knucklehead that has ever hooted at female passerbys from construction sights.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Adriel

    Say what you will about Kafka - he's flowery, bombastic, difficult, surreal, incomprehensible - he still retains a unique and incredible style unlike any writer who's ever lived. His German is notoriously difficult to translate, and before finding this translation I often found his writings tedious overall to read. Neugroschel does an unbelievably fantastic job translating nearly all of his minor works, and brings out the painstakingly descriptive method of Kafka's writing style, as well as his Say what you will about Kafka - he's flowery, bombastic, difficult, surreal, incomprehensible - he still retains a unique and incredible style unlike any writer who's ever lived. His German is notoriously difficult to translate, and before finding this translation I often found his writings tedious overall to read. Neugroschel does an unbelievably fantastic job translating nearly all of his minor works, and brings out the painstakingly descriptive method of Kafka's writing style, as well as his vivid dialogue, surreal metaphors, as well as his previously unseen dark humor. "The Metamorphosis" - the third chapter in particular - is one of the greatest texts I've ever read, filled with movement, hysteria, and absurdity to the highest degree. "In the Penal Colony" is unbelievably chilling and masterfully drafted, and still remains relevant today on the subject of morals and ethics that go along with capital punishment. Most of his short stories truly shine, although his earlier material bored me, it's still somewhat interesting. I'm no Kafka fanatic, but some of the most fascinating pieces of literature I've ever read are crammed in here. Any fan of literature should read at least the two aforementioned stories featured in this translation. Believe me when I say you'll be dazzled, you'll be moved, and they will stick with you for years to come.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Gabriel

    Ok, I haven't read every story here. I plan on picking this up every so often and reading a story once in a while. What I did read, though, and what I want to comment on is the classic "Metamorphosis" novella. First off, this translation (in comparison to the bit that I read off of the Gutenberg website) is much more vibrant and humorous. I remember standing reading the first page and laughing at the situation and the character's reactions. This is truly a wonderful introduction to what is current Ok, I haven't read every story here. I plan on picking this up every so often and reading a story once in a while. What I did read, though, and what I want to comment on is the classic "Metamorphosis" novella. First off, this translation (in comparison to the bit that I read off of the Gutenberg website) is much more vibrant and humorous. I remember standing reading the first page and laughing at the situation and the character's reactions. This is truly a wonderful introduction to what is currently called the "Bizarro" genre. Something strange happens and, though people react ... it seems to be taken for granted that sometimes these things just happen. Which is where the humor comes in and what the story deals with. What is the fallout if a family member (who has provided for you) no longer can provide and just becomes a pest? The story is broken up into three chapters. The strongest and funniest of the three is the first. The other two chapters were a little more serious and - due to the constraints of the narration - skipped over lots of details. Still, as the final act comes to a close, the satire hits a more poignant target. As I think about it, the entire thing is funny in that black humor way.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Ooi Ghee Leng

    Michael Hofmann did a great job introducing the Kafka-esque elements (the 3 Kafka times) in simple terms which are easily shown to have turned complex when interactions and conflicts happen and unfold in the stories. Kafka was an amazing storyteller. Believe in every praise you read from the critics. All of them hold true when it comes to Kafka. His stories can be said to be contradictory in that they are: (1) straightforward, yet built with a grotesque / unexpected twist; (2) quotidian narrativ Michael Hofmann did a great job introducing the Kafka-esque elements (the 3 Kafka times) in simple terms which are easily shown to have turned complex when interactions and conflicts happen and unfold in the stories. Kafka was an amazing storyteller. Believe in every praise you read from the critics. All of them hold true when it comes to Kafka. His stories can be said to be contradictory in that they are: (1) straightforward, yet built with a grotesque / unexpected twist; (2) quotidian narrative of everyday emotions, yet filled with such vividness of the urban sufferings; (3) tragic outcomes are expected, yet one reads on with hope, and (4) written as fantasy, yet bizarrely realistic. The human elements and emotions are laid bare to the cell-level, but amazingly in very short prose. If you have not read Kafka, then this Penguin classic is one to begin with. By the way, do try to match each of the cartoon block at the back cover to the stories in the book. The illustrator was not credited but he/she did a fantastic job at recreating the essence of each story with such controlled intensity. This Penguin classic is certainly one worth collecting.

  28. 5 out of 5

    pen name

    This review is specifically for the story "The Metamorphosis." For some bizarre reason, Gregor Samsa, a young man living with his parents and younger sister and unhappy with his life, suddenly turns into a "monstrous vermin." It does not say specifically that he is an insect or even how large he is (though we know that he has many little legs, though we're not sure how many, and he is small enough to fit under a settee, and we know that nobody can understand him when he speaks, though he can und This review is specifically for the story "The Metamorphosis." For some bizarre reason, Gregor Samsa, a young man living with his parents and younger sister and unhappy with his life, suddenly turns into a "monstrous vermin." It does not say specifically that he is an insect or even how large he is (though we know that he has many little legs, though we're not sure how many, and he is small enough to fit under a settee, and we know that nobody can understand him when he speaks, though he can understand himself and everyone else). Thus begins his journey of alienation from society and bane to his family. Where one day he is the family's sole provider, the next day he is shunned and eventually wished dead. There is a strange twist, though: because he becomes a useless monstrous vermin, his entire family begins to help themselves... There is not much more I can say about this story. Frankly, it rendered me speechless; it left me unsure of whether I liked it or not. If you have not read it yet, go and read it already! It will be well worth your time! 4/5 stars

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kurt

    Hey, Goodreads, why can't I find the version of this book that I read, here, the one published by Schocken? Not sure if this is the same translation. Anyway, I love Kafka, and I can sort of understand how he makes some people feel icky and squishy, although that makes me wonder what books those people enjoy reading...Kafka makes points about the human condition and politics withe subtlety and metaphor, in ways that you need to think about and ponder, to allow layers of meaning to sink in. Just li Hey, Goodreads, why can't I find the version of this book that I read, here, the one published by Schocken? Not sure if this is the same translation. Anyway, I love Kafka, and I can sort of understand how he makes some people feel icky and squishy, although that makes me wonder what books those people enjoy reading...Kafka makes points about the human condition and politics withe subtlety and metaphor, in ways that you need to think about and ponder, to allow layers of meaning to sink in. Just like most literature that is most rewarding, what you put into it is what you take away from it. If one reads The Metamorphosis and only thinks, " Hey, this guy wakes up and finds himself a bug", well, that's all well-and-good, but, you know, there just might be more to it than that. I am sounding snarky and sarcastic...I need to watch that.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Diane

    A positively fascinating collection of short stories by good ol' Franz Kafka. The fascination and the horror of these stories is positively captivating. The Metamorphosis, In The Penal Colony and The Hunger Artist become something than just curious entities that were written before our time. They become metaphors and interesting takes on society and the so-called humanity of human nature. The stories are just as current as they are when they were written. It is nothing short of inspirational for A positively fascinating collection of short stories by good ol' Franz Kafka. The fascination and the horror of these stories is positively captivating. The Metamorphosis, In The Penal Colony and The Hunger Artist become something than just curious entities that were written before our time. They become metaphors and interesting takes on society and the so-called humanity of human nature. The stories are just as current as they are when they were written. It is nothing short of inspirational for horror writers and for the mind that is open to reading between the lines of some positively phenomenal writing. Fantastic!

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