There are three parts to The Complete Stories.
The two openers, Before the Law and The Imperial Message, which I *think* are about patience and perseverance and I especially liked.
The main body, including his seminal The Metamorphosis and other stories. Kafka’s gothic dark humour really shines through. He seems to have a thing about imperial rule/animals/death/imprisonment and of course, the human condition. Prime example: the true-to-life, packed with allusions, The Hunger Artist.
Some were deathly dull. The Burrow, I didn’t even read. Some are just bewildering: Description of a Struggle (WTF was going on there? Please enlighten me if you’ve read it), Wedding Preparations in the Country.
His most famous work was, of course, The Metamorphosis – very Greek tragic, beautifully haunting.
But my favourite was a very, very dark one, In the Penal Colony, featuring an unthinkable machine of torture. Simultaneously absurd and horrifying, you have to wonder what was going through his mind.
And then the shorter vignettes of the final section, some just a couple of paragraphs long. A few shiners, but overall more unpolished diamonds than gems, in my view.
No doubt these are stories that get better with multiple readings – I just don’t want to put in the time.
I love the Metamorphoses – so dark and never feels old. I wish I was as cool as Kafka
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