Artworking Kafka’s The Metamorphosis
‘I never wish to be easily defined. I’d rather float over other people’s minds as something strictly fluid and non-perceivable; more like a transparent, paradoxically iridescent creature rather than an actual person.’
—Franz Kafka to Felice Bauer
Why Kafka, still?
When I read Kafka he feels impossibly alive, and possibly dead. And so do I. Kafka brings the taste of absence, and the possibility of our own unravelling. What greater pleasure might there be than to become nameless, to reach toward that otherness within?
And what is The Metamorphosis if not an escape from time? A disappearing..? Gregor Samsa’s beetle is a feint, a shadow. Kafka losing himself is not us redefining ourselves as some alienated ‘other’. It’s not to ‘identify as alienated’ and thereby give ourselves another false name. It’s to bear witness to our own disappearing. As readers we are complicit in that transformation. The pleasure of absence.
“I do not have literary interests; rather I am made out of literature, I am nothing and cannot be anything else.”
Gregor is Kafka’s forgetting, his becoming-writing inside of an unknown space located between the page and the world. Kafka seeks to perish by his pen to disappear into an ink-dark-night… Gregor, necessarily grotesque, escapes us in the same sense that Kafka escapes the empirical.
When I read Kafka I’m reminded again that art’s success, which is its failure, lies in its framing: its deification denies us the gratification of disappearance. It’s not about the end, the grubby conclusion, much of Kafka’s work was famously unfinished, it’s about the process… of annihilation… the living, breathing
erasure. Gregor is the hole in the text, invisibility in plain sight and he shows a path, a slime path…
Why Kafka, still..?
Because in an age of excessive visibility, more than ever, we seek to become namelessly, joyfully invisible.
“Gregor never even dreamed of scaring anyone.”
There’s more Kafka artworking over here