50 Books To Read Before You Die

The Metamorphosis

Author: Franz Kafka
Released: 1915
Genre: Dark comedy

It sounds like something we'd catch late night on cable television and laugh at Mystery Science Theater 3000 style: A poor bastard—here, named Gregor Samsa—wakes up one day to see that he's turning into a huge bug, a discovery from which dark comedy ensues. But what gives Franz Kafka's classic The Metamorphosis the narrative flourishes needed to lift it above hokey genre fiction are the ways that Gregor copes with his physical change.

Instead of becoming a scary monster, a la, say, The Fly, he tries to adapt into society so as not to makes his loved ones' lives more difficult. The laughs flow naturally from that conceit, yet The Metamorphosis hits hard with its tragic conclusion and Gregor's empathetic demeanor.

Fun Fact: In the 2001 comic book anthology collection Bart Simpson's Treehouse of Horror Spine-Tingling Spooktacular, The Simpsons playfully spoofed Kafka's story in a passage titled "Metamorphosimpsons."

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