It's all fun and games until you awake in the body of a giant insect

The voracious and articulate readers at Waldo continue to explore Jewish themes in the readings for the Jewish American Literature book group, Demons, Golems, and Dybbuks: Monsters of Jewish Imagination.

The most lively conversation to day revolved around that classic of English 101 lit courses, “The Metamorphosis” by Franz Kafka. Regarded by many critics as his masterpiece, even readers who have never picked it up recognize the name Gregor Samsa and his tragic circumstances.

Metamorphosis book jacket

This month’s readers dove right into the conversation. I could have gone out for a coffee and I don’t think they’d have noticed. A few readers started discussion by pondering why Gregor had been turned into a “giant insect”. But no one dwelt on that issue for long. Many decided it was due to his living a “joyless life” and the demands of his dependent, yet able-bodied, family. Like most serious readers, we took Kafka’s short story seriously, searching for the humanity and inhumanity in the characters, looking for the elements of Jewish literature in the story, and musing over Kafka’s reasons for choosing a giant insect instead of another creature.

Then one very astute reader pointed out the absurdity in the story and told us “The Metamorphosis” makes her laugh. She told the group that Kafka found this situation funny and asked us to look for the very dark humor present in the piece.

A great way to end an evening’s thought-provoking conversation about one of the greatest pieces of literature in the 20th century—with laughter.