“The Metamorphosis”: A Kafkaesque Journey through a Minor Literature


The Metamorphosis — Franz Kafka. (2021). [Illustration].

https://medium.com/the-collector/why-kafka-wrote-such-dark-novels-58ad9d91642d



My brother has the coffee ready. He pours some in my cup. Only three-quarters today would be fine to keep me awake and writing. I especially need it after a meal. Everything is too quiet, too relaxing.

A soothing voice is entering directly to my ears from a YouTube video. The headphones are keeping me in my own tranquil space, and the only sound I am hearing is the soft voice talking about Frank Kafka’s Metamorphosis.


I have a sip -- nice and warm-- and I get ready to start typing on my laptop some ideas that I have found about Kafka and minor literature. But just before I lay a finger on the keyboard, I notice my left foot is numb. I don’t know what expression to use in plain English, but back in my home country, I would say that the foot has fallen asleep. I don’t want to lose my train of ideas, and I decide to ignore my lazy limb.


It is too late. One by one, I can feel the tiny little ants appearing under my skin, crawling to wake the Sleeping Beauty up. It is really unpleasant, but once again, I just try to ignore it. At least I can still type.



This makes me think about the impact that something small or ‘minor’ has on one's life. It can be disruptive but has the potential to move us towards something new. In my case, I am shaking my leg to make the small ants disappear; they are forcing me, through my senses, to change my status. Similar to the concept of minor literature, that is supposed to be the potential of something -- like language -- to modify the reality we are observing.


This concept was developed by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari and defined as a literature made from a minority of a major language. One of the authors they used to explain this concept was Franz Kafka. Kafka was an author, born in 1883 to German-speaking Jewish parents living in Prague, Czech Republic, and his works include The Metamorphosis, The Castle, and The Trial.


As the son of immigrants, Kafka had to adapt his parents' culture to a new environment. But instead of using the Prague dialects, he decided to write in German, a major language. This makes him represent a minority -- migrants displaced from their country of origin -- and burst the literature scene from that point of view.


In terms of reterritorialization, Deleuze and Guattari also mentioned that minor literature removes the hidden meanings from the language. There is a rejection to the concept of ‘words’ as signifiers, separating the images created in literature from any symbolism or signification. In other words, what is said is what's shown. In The Metamorphosis, the main character Gregor Samsa becomes an insect. That is the story, and that is what Kafka wanted us to see.


“Kafka deliberately kills all metaphor, all symbolism, all signification. Metamorphosis is the contrary of metaphor.”
-- Deleuze and Guattari, 1986, p.22

At this moment, the ants have taken over my whole leg and they are starting to move towards my hips. I can feel each one of them, crawling at different speeds and rhythms. It tickles and hurts at the same time, and they are multiplying while I am typing. Stopping is not an option either. They have arrived on my right leg, repeating their perpetual dance from hip to toe. My body is against me, and there is nothing that I can do about it.


I think that Gregor Samsa may have felt the same way when he discovered that his transformation was irreversible. I can see a little of myself in his story. We both were trapped by our bodies, going through an unexpected change.


This makes it clear that this story is not only his. It is our story now. Samsa represents ‘us’. And his story is not just a hint of Kafka’s life as an individual, but about society as a whole. For Deleuze and Guattari this is the collectivization of enunciation; the individual writer inevitably speaks for the collective experience and promotes a state of community.


Also, Samsa presents political aspects in his own story. His problems are visible -- we can see them -- and they don’t get mixed with other individuals' problems: he is unable to go to work, he is now an insect, nothing else matters for the story.


I wonder if, like Samsa, I just should embrace my new reality. So far, the ants have conquered up to my chest; I don’t think they will stop their explorations anytime soon. The hurtful tickling continues its expansion with a rhythmic peace, moving as one. Up, down, left, right: maybe it is strange, but I am starting to enjoy this feeling. I haven’t been able to stand up from the chair. The more I try to keep typing, the more they dance.


Minor literature generates new narrative places that open the doors for change. If we think of Kafka, he creates a different way to understand the language as the result of his condition of being a minority. He found a new approach to literature that aims to move the reader’s senses and provoke changes from that perspective. Kafka invites us to experience what Gregor is feeling and to feel and live the metamorphosis within.


The ants have conquered the top of my head, The process is finished and the transformation is completed. My whole body is numb. It has become the dance floor for thousands of minuscule ants. I am enjoying the rhythm at last. Then, a final goosebump arises. An intense wave of sensations is shaking me up and down, from tip to toe. I embrace the feeling; I surrender to the ant’s oneness. I relax, and I am finally at peace.


Everything is quiet again. I hear myself typing from the distance, and a soothing voice is asking me to wake up. “Would you like more coffee?” My brother asks. “Yes, please!” I answer while I am looking at the blank page on my laptop screen, filled up with periods and commas, placed erratically in random lines. They look like ants.




References


  • “Deleuze - Guattari - Literatura Menor 3.” YouTube, uploaded by Guido Fernandez Parmo, 18 June 2021, www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vy94OF6mr2M.

  • Blog Editor. “Minor Literature and the Language of the Minorities (by Mehdi Babaei).” Belonging, Identity, Language, Diversity Research Group (BILD), 13 Mar. 2020, bild-lida.ca/blog/uncategorized/minor-literature-and-the-language-of-the-minorities-by-mehdi-babaei.

  • Addis, Victoria. “Deleuze and Guattari: ‘Minor Literature.’” Victoria Addis, 12 Feb. 2020, www.victoriaaddis.com/blog/gilles-deleuze-and-felix-guattari-minor-literature.

  • Bernofsky, Susan. “On Translating Kafka’s ‘The Metamorphosis.’” The New Yorker, 14 Jan. 2014, www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/on-translating-kafkas-the-metamorphosis.

  • Deleuze, Gilles, and Felix Guattari. Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature. Minneapolis and London, University of Minnesota Press, 1986. trans. Dana Polan

  • Romero, Héctor. “La literatura menor como mecanismo de desterritorialización política.” aion.mx, 3 July 2020, aion.mx/filosofia/deleuze-literatura-menor?fbclid=IwAR2js_lFLWQbxSu0Kr5-4XKKvxO2hJoVIFznYVvB7Wx-F7fRlv-uIIGNEJA#_ftnref3.

  • Kafka, Franz. “Franz Kafka - The Complete Stories.” Max Cavitch, 1983, www.sas.upenn.edu/%7Ecavitch/pdf-library.


Image Sources

  • The Metamorphosis — Franz Kafka. (2021, January 10). [Illustration]. https://medium.com/the-collector/why-kafka-wrote-such-dark-novels-58ad9d91642d


Author Photo

Paula Arenas

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