As I mentioned yesterday, I don’t do scary, creepy, or horrifying. This week, I’m sharing some of my favorite non-horror Halloween-appropriate reads. Welcome to the second installment of…
Halloween isn’t just about the scare factor, at least in my opinion. It’s also about the bizarre. I recently read The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka, and I think would make for some nice, short Halloween reading.
The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
Depending on who you ask, The Metamorphosis is either a short story or a novella. Published first in 1915, it is probably one of Kafka’s best known works. It’s the one that begins with that famous first sentence (translations vary a little, but the gist is the same):
“When Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from troubled dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a monstrous insect.”
That, right there, is why I put off reading this story for so long. A guy wakes up to discover he’s turned into a big bug while he slept? I wasn’t really interested. I ended up quite enjoying the story, though, mostly thanks to Kafka’s writing.
When Gregor Samsa, traveling salesman and sole supporter of his family, awakens in his new state, his first thoughts are not filled with panic over his altered form. Instead, he is worried about having missed the train, which means he will be late for work. His family, concerned by this lapse in his usual punctuality, begins knocking on Gregor’s door, asking if he’s alright. As Gregor’s voice morphs from human into insect, he tries to work out how to get off his back and unlock the door without hands.
Unable to communicate with one another, Gregor and his family are faced with the challenge of figuring out how to coexist. His parents and sister can’t turn their backs on poor Gregor, yet he is nothing like the son and brother they know. Who will support them all financially? And how can they explain the presence of a gigantic insect in their home?
I enjoyed this story far more than I thought I would. Despite its bizarre subject matter, the writing in The Metamorphosis is rather delightful. For example, when the chief clerk from Gregor’s office arrives at his house and demands that Gregor open his door:
Gregor tried to imagine whether something like what had happened to him today might one day happen to the chief clerk himself; one really had to admit that it was possible.
The story, odd and bleak as it is, is full of such little passages. They made the story for me; without them, it would have been just a very bizarre tale about a man who inexplicably became a large beetle. Overall, The Metamorphosis an interesting and well written story. The intersection of ordinary life with one fantastical element is what makes this tale especially well suited to the atmosphere of Halloween.
If you missed the previous Halloween for the Faint of Heart posts, you can find them here:
What strange short stories or novellas would you recommend for Halloween to a reader who’s a bit faint of heart?