Welcome to the penultimate episode of Franz Kafka's tale of a man in transition - Metamorphosis. Dan, a Steyn Club member from the Deranged Dominion, writes:
Ontario 1970's, High School. All my 'English Class' could understand, do book reports, and discuss this work - even the guys who, 'smelled like rock concerts', or those who later went off to the NHL (a big hockey school), and certainly the girls, whether destined for Business or "Honours whatever" in University. Now the school is 95% East African with violence issues in spite of religious homogeneity. Oh, and Kafka is not on the curriculum. Kind of superfluous when one is living in Kafkastan anyway.
Indeed. That's a metamorphosis of quite a different kind.
In tonight's installment of this Tale for Our Time, we pick up where we left off last night - with Gregor having been injured, and indeed crippled, by his father, wielding a devastating fruit. The apple is an Edenic flourish - for a man in a seriously fallen state:
The serious injury done to Gregor, which disabled him for more than a month - the apple went on sticking in his body as a visible reminder, since no one ventured to remove it - seemed to have made even his father recollect that Gregor was a member of the family, despite his present unfortunate and repulsive shape, and ought not to be treated as an enemy, that, on the contrary, family duty required the suppression of disgust and the exercise of patience, nothing but patience.
And although his injury had impaired, probably for ever, his powers of movement, and for the time being it took him long, long minutes to creep across his room like an old invalid - there was no question now of crawling up the wall - yet in his own opinion he was sufficiently compensated for this worsening of his condition by the fact that towards evening the living-room door, which he used to watch intently for an hour or two beforehand, was always thrown open, so that lying in the darkness of his room, invisible to the family, he could see them all at the lamp-lit table and listen to their talk, by general consent as it were, very different from his earlier eavesdropping.
True, their intercourse lacked the lively character of former times, which he had always called to mind with a certain wistfulness in the small hotel bedrooms where he had been wont to throw himself down, tired out, on damp bedding. They were now mostly very silent...
We always get queries about the music we use for our tales. In this case, it's the first of Benjamin Britten's "Two Insect Pieces for Oboe and Piano" - which the author of Metamorphosis never heard, because, by the time Britten published it in 1935, Kafka had been dead a decade. The second piece is about a wasp, so we used the first, which is intended to conjure a grasshopper but can serve, I think, as an approximate beetle.
If you've yet to hear any of our Tales for Our Time, you can do so by joining The Mark Steyn Club. For more details, see here - and don't forget our special Gift Membership. Please join me tomorrow evening, Halloween, for our final episode - and just before that, at 5pm Eastern, on the radio in Toronto with the great John Oakley.