The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka (Free Audio Book in English Language)


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Reading by David Lewis Richardson. The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka Translated by Ian Johnston. Chapter I, part 1 One morning, as Gregor Samsa was waking up
from anxious dreams, he discovered that in bed he had been changed into a monstrous verminous
bug. He lay on his armour-hard back and saw, as he lifted his head up a little, his brown,
arched abdomen divided up into rigid bow-like sections. From this height the blanket, just
about ready to slide off completely, could hardly stay in place. His numerous legs, pitifully
thin in comparison to the rest of his circumference, flickered helplessly before his eyes.
“What’s happened to me,” he thought. It was no dream. His room, a proper room for a human
being, only somewhat too small, lay quietly between the four well-known walls. Above the
table, on which an unpacked collection of sample cloth goods was spread out—Samsa
was a travelling salesman—hung the picture which he had cut out of an illustrated magazine
a little while ago and set in a pretty gilt frame. It was a picture of a woman with a
fur hat and a fur boa. She sat erect there, lifting up in the direction of the viewer
a solid fur muff into which her entire forearm had disappeared.
Gregor’s glance then turned to the window. The dreary weather—the rain drops were falling
audibly down on the metal window ledge—made him quite melancholy. “Why don’t I keep sleeping
for a little while longer and forget all this foolishness,” he thought. But this was entirely
impractical, for he was used to sleeping on his right side, and in his present state he
couldn’t get himself into this position. No matter how hard he threw himself onto his
right side, he always rolled again onto his back. He must have tried it a hundred times,
closing his eyes so that he would not have to see the wriggling legs, and gave up only
when he began to feel a light, dull pain in his side which he had never felt before.
“O God,” he thought, “what a demanding job I’ve chosen! Day in, day out, on the road.
The stresses of selling are much greater than the work going on at head office, and, in
addition to that, I have to cope with the problems of travelling, the worries about
train connections, irregular bad food, temporary and constantly changing human relationships,
which never come from the heart. To hell with it all!” He felt a slight itching on the top
of his abdomen. He slowly pushed himself on his back closer to the bed post so that he
could lift his head more easily, found the itchy part, which was entirely covered with
small white spots—he did not know what to make of them and wanted to feel the place
with a leg. But he retracted it immediately, for the contact felt like a cold shower all
over him. He slid back again into his earlier position.
“This getting up early,” he thought, “makes a man quite idiotic. A man must have his sleep.
Other travelling salesmen live like harem women. For instance, when I come back to the
inn during the course of the morning to write up the necessary orders, these gentlemen are
just sitting down to breakfast. If I were to try that with my boss, I’d be thrown out
on the spot. Still, who knows whether that mightn’t be really good for me? If I didn’t
hold back for my parents’ sake, I’d have quit ages ago. I would’ve gone to the boss and
told him just what I think from the bottom of my heart. He would’ve fallen right off
his desk! How weird it is to sit up at that desk and talk down to the employee from way
up there. The boss has trouble hearing, so the employee has to step up quite close to
him. Anyway, I haven’t completely given up that hope yet. Once I’ve got together the
money to pay off my parents’ debt to him—that should take another five or six years—I’ll
do it for sure. Then I’ll make the big break. In any case, right now I have to get up. My
train leaves at five o’clock.” He looked over at the alarm clock ticking
away by the chest of drawers. “Good God!” he thought. It was half past six, and the
hands were going quietly on. It was past the half hour, already nearly quarter to. Could
the alarm have failed to ring? One saw from the bed that it was properly set for four
o’clock. Certainly it had rung. Yes, but was it possible to sleep through that noise which
made the furniture shake? Now, it’s true he’d not slept quietly, but evidently he’d slept
all the more deeply. Still, what should he do now? The next train left at seven o’clock.
To catch that one, he would have to go in a mad rush. The sample collection wasn’t packed
up yet, and he really didn’t feel particularly fresh and active. And even if he caught the
train, there was no avoiding a blow-up with the boss, because the firm’s errand boy would’ve
waited for the five o’clock train and reported the news of his absence long ago. He was the
boss’s minion, without backbone or intelligence. Well then, what if he reported in sick? But
that would be extremely embarrassing and suspicious, because during his five years’ service Gregor
hadn’t been sick even once. The boss would certainly come with the doctor from the health
insurance company and would reproach his parents for their lazy son and cut short all objections
with the insurance doctor’s comments; for him everyone was completely healthy but really
lazy about work. And besides, would the doctor in this case be totally wrong? Apart from
a really excessive drowsiness after the long sleep, Gregor in fact felt quite well and
even had a really strong appetite. As he was thinking all this over in the greatest
haste, without being able to make the decision to get out of bed—the alarm clock was indicating
exactly quarter to seven—there was a cautious knock on the door by the head of the bed.
“Gregor,” a voice called—it was his mother!—”it’s quarter to seven. Don’t you want to be on
your way?” The soft voice! Gregor was startled when he heard his voice answering. It was
clearly and unmistakably his earlier voice, but in it was intermingled, as if from below,
an irrepressibly painful squeaking, which left the words positively distinct only in
the first moment and distorted them in the reverberation, so that one didn’t know if
one had heard correctly. Gregor wanted to answer in detail and explain everything, but
in these circumstances he confined himself to saying, “Yes, yes, thank you mother. I’m
getting up right away.” Because of the wooden door the change in Gregor’s voice was not
really noticeable outside, so his mother calmed down with this explanation and shuffled off.
However, as a result of the short conversation, the other family members became aware that
Gregor was unexpectedly still at home, and already his father was knocking on one side
door, weakly but with his fist. “Gregor, Gregor,” he called out, “what’s going on?” And, after
a short while, he urged him on again in a deeper voice: “Gregor!” Gregor!” At the other
side door, however, his sister knocked lightly. “Gregor? Are you all right? Do you need anything?”
Gregor directed answers in both directions, “I’ll be ready right away.” He made an effort
with the most careful articulation and by inserting long pauses between the individual
words to remove everything remarkable from his voice. His father turned back to his breakfast.
However, the sister whispered, “Gregor, open the door—I beg you.” Gregor had no intention
of opening the door, but congratulated himself on his precaution, acquired from travelling,
of locking all doors during the night, even at home.
First he wanted to stand up quietly and undisturbed, get dressed, above all have breakfast, and
only then consider further action, for—he noticed this clearly—by thinking things
over in bed he would not reach a reasonable conclusion. He remembered that he had already
often felt a light pain or other in bed, perhaps the result of an awkward lying position, which
later turned out to be purely imaginary when he stood up, and he was eager to see how his
present fantasies would gradually dissipate. That the change in his voice was nothing other
than the onset of a real chill, an occupational illness of commercial travellers, of that
he had not the slightest doubt. It was very easy to throw aside the blanket.
He needed only to push himself up a little, and it fell by itself. But to continue was
difficult, particularly because he was so unusually wide. He needed arms and hands to
push himself upright. Instead of these, however, he had only many small limbs which were incessantly
moving with very different motions and which, in addition, he was unable to control. If
he wanted to bend one of them, then it was the first to extend itself, and if he finally
succeeded doing what he wanted with this limb, in the meantime all the others, as if left
free, moved around in an excessively painful agitation. “But I must not stay in bed uselessly,”
said Gregor to himself. At first he wanted to get out of bed with
the lower part of his body, but this lower part—which, by the way, he had not yet looked
at and which he also couldn’t picture clearly—proved itself too difficult to move. The attempt
went so slowly. When, having become almost frantic, he finally hurled himself forward
with all his force and without thinking, he chose his direction incorrectly, and he hit
the lower bedpost hard. The violent pain he felt revealed to him that the lower part of
his body was at the moment probably the most sensitive.
Thus, he tried to get his upper body out of the bed first and turned his head carefully
toward the edge of the bed. He managed to do this easily, and in spite of its width
and weight his body mass at last slowly followed the turning of his head. But as he finally
raised his head outside the bed in the open air, he became anxious about moving forward
any further in this manner, for if he allowed himself eventually to fall by this process,
it would take a miracle to prevent his head from getting injured. And at all costs he
must not lose consciousness right now. He preferred to remain in bed.
However, after a similar effort, while he lay there again, sighing as before, and once
again saw his small limbs fighting one another, if anything worse than earlier, and didn’t
see any chance of imposing quiet and order on this arbitrary movement, he told himself
again that he couldn’t possibly remain in bed and that it might be the most reasonable
thing to sacrifice everything if there was even the slightest hope of getting himself
out of bed in the process. At the same moment, however, he didn’t forget to remind himself
from time to time of the fact that calm—indeed the calmest—reflection might be better than
the most confused decisions. At such moments, he directed his gaze as precisely as he could
toward the window, but unfortunately there was little confident cheer to be had from
a glance at the morning mist, which concealed even the other side of the narrow street.
“It’s already seven o’clock,” he told himself at the latest striking of the alarm clock,
“already seven o’clock and still such a fog.” And for a little while longer he lay quietly
with weak breathing, as if perhaps waiting for normal and natural conditions to re-emerge
out of the complete stillness. But then he said to himself, “Before it strikes
a quarter past seven, whatever happens I must be completely out of bed. Besides, by then
someone from the office will arrive to inquire about me, because the office will open before
seven o’clock.” And he made an effort then to rock his entire body length out of the
bed with a uniform motion. If he let himself fall out of the bed in this way, his head,
which in the course of the fall he intended to lift up sharply, would probably remain
uninjured. His back seemed to be hard; nothing would really happen to that as a result of
the fall. His greatest reservation was a worry about the loud noise which the fall must create
and which presumably would arouse, if not fright, then at least concern on the other
side of all the doors. However, it had to be tried.
As Gregor was in the process of lifting himself half out of bed—the new method was more
of a game than an effort; he needed only to rock with a constant rhythm—it struck him
how easy all this would be if someone were to come to his aid. Two strong people—he
thought of his father and the servant girl—would have been quite sufficient. They would have
only had to push their arms under his arched back to get him out of the bed, to bend down
with their load, and then merely to exercise patience and care that he completed the flip
onto the floor, where his diminutive legs would then, he hoped, acquire a purpose. Now,
quite apart from the fact that the doors were locked, should he really call out for help?
In spite of all his distress, he was unable to suppress a smile at this idea.
He had already got to the point where, by rocking more strongly, he maintained his equilibrium
with difficulty, and very soon he would finally have to decide, for in five minutes it would
be a quarter past seven. Then there was a ring at the door of the apartment. “That’s
someone from the office,” he told himself, and he almost froze while his small limbs
only danced around all the faster. For one moment everything remained still. “They aren’t
opening,” Gregor said to himself, caught up in some absurd hope. But of course then, as
usual, the servant girl with her firm tread went to the door and opened it. Gregor needed
to hear only the first word of the visitor’s greeting to recognize immediately who it was,
the manager himself. Why was Gregor the only one condemned to work in a firm where, at
the slightest lapse, someone immediately attracted the greatest suspicion? Were all the employees
then collectively, one and all, scoundrels? Among them was there then no truly devoted
person who, if he failed to use just a couple of hours in the morning for office work, would
become abnormal from pangs of conscience and really be in no state to get out of bed? Was
it really not enough to let an apprentice make inquiries, if such questioning was even
necessary? Must the manager himself come, and in the process must it be demonstrated
to the entire innocent family that the investigation of this suspicious circumstance could be entrusted
only to the intelligence of the manager? And more as a consequence of the excited state
in which this idea put Gregor than as a result of an actual decision, he swung himself with
all his might out of the bed. There was a loud thud, but not a real crash. The fall
was absorbed somewhat by the carpet and, in addition, his back was more elastic than Gregor
had thought. For that reason the dull noise was not quite so conspicuous. But he had not
held his head up with sufficient care and had hit it. He turned his head, irritated
and in pain, and rubbed it on the carpet. “Something has fallen in there,” said the
manager in the next room on the left. Gregor tried to imagine to himself whether anything
similar to what was happening to him today could have also happened at some point to
the manager. At least one had to concede the possibility of such a thing. However, as if
to give a rough answer to this question, the manager now, with a squeak of his polished
boots, took a few determined steps in the next room. From the neighbouring room on the
right the sister was whispering to inform Gregor: “Gregor, the manager is here.” “I
know,” said Gregor to himself. But he did not dare make his voice loud enough so that
his sister could hear. “Gregor,” his father now said from the neighbouring
room on the left, “Mr. Manager has come and is asking why you have not left on the early
train. We don’t know what we should tell him. Besides, he also wants to speak to you personally.
So please open the door. He will be good enough to forgive the mess in your room.”
In the middle of all this, the manager called out in a friendly way, “Good morning, Mr.
Samsa.” “He is not well,” said his mother to the manager, while his father was still
talking at the door, “He is not well, believe me, Mr. Manager. Otherwise how would Gregor
miss a train? The young man has nothing in his head except business. I’m almost angry
that he never goes out at night. Right now he’s been in the city eight days, but he’s
been at home every evening. He sits here with us at the table and reads the newspaper quietly
or studies his travel schedules. It’s a quite a diversion for him to busy himself with fretwork.
For instance, he cut out a small frame over the course of two or three evenings. You’d
be amazed how pretty it is. It’s hanging right inside the room. You’ll see it immediately,
as soon as Gregor opens the door. Anyway, I’m happy that you’re here, Mr. Manager. By
ourselves, we would never have made Gregor open the door. He’s so stubborn, and he’s
certainly not well, although he denied that this morning.”
“I’m coming right away,” said Gregor slowly and deliberately and didn’t move, so as not
to lose one word of the conversation. “My dear lady, I cannot explain it to myself in
any other way,” said the manager; “I hope it is nothing serious. On the other hand,
I must also say that we business people, luckily or unluckily, however one looks at it, very
often simply have to overcome a slight indisposition for business reasons.” “So can Mr. Manager
come in to see you now?” asked his father impatiently and knocked once again on the
door. “No,” said Gregor. In the neighbouring room on the left a painful stillness descended.
In the neighbouring room on the right the sister began to sob.
Why didn’t his sister go to the others? She’d probably just gotten up out of bed now and
hadn’t even started to get dressed yet. Then why was she crying? Because he wasn’t getting
up and wasn’t letting the manager in, because he was in danger of losing his position, and
because then his boss would badger his parents once again with the old demands? Those were
probably unnecessary worries right now. Gregor was still here and wasn’t thinking at all
about abandoning his family. At the moment he was lying right there on the carpet, and
no one who knew about his condition would’ve seriously demanded that he let the manager
in. But Gregor wouldn’t be casually dismissed right way because of this small discourtesy,
for which he would find an easy and suitable excuse later on. It seemed to Gregor that
it might be far more reasonable to leave him in peace at the moment, instead of disturbing
him with crying and conversation. But it was the very uncertainty which distressed the
others and excused their behaviour. “Mr. Samsa,” the manager was now shouting,
his voice raised, “what’s the matter? You are barricading yourself in your room, answer
with only a yes and a no, are making serious and unnecessary troubles for your parents,
and neglecting (I mention this only incidentally) your commercial duties in a truly unheard
of manner. I am speaking here in the name of your parents and your employer, and I am
requesting you in all seriousness for an immediate and clear explanation. I am amazed. I am amazed.
I thought I knew you as a calm, reasonable person, and now you appear suddenly to want
to start parading around in weird moods. The Chief indicated to me earlier this very day
a possible explanation for your neglect–it concerned the collection of cash entrusted
to you a short while ago–but in truth I almost gave him my word of honour that this explanation
could not be correct. However, now I see here your unimaginable pig headedness, and I am
totally losing any desire to speak up for you in the slightest. And your position is
not at all the most secure. Originally I intended to mention all this to you privately, but
since you are letting me waste my time here uselessly, I don’t know why the matter shouldn’t
come to the attention of your parents. Your productivity has also been very unsatisfactory
recently. Of course, it’s not the time of year to conduct exceptional business, we recognize
that, but a time of year for conducting no business, there is no such thing at all, Mr.
Samsa, and such a thing must never be.” “But Mr. Manager,” called Gregor, beside himself
and, in his agitation, forgetting everything else, “I’m opening the door immediately, this
very moment. A slight indisposition, a dizzy spell, has prevented me from getting up. I’m
still lying in bed right now. But I’m quite refreshed once again. I’m in the midst of
getting out of bed. Just have patience for a short moment! Things are not going as well
as I thought. But things are all right. How suddenly this can overcome someone! Only yesterday
evening everything was fine with me. My parents certainly know that. Actually just yesterday
evening I had a small premonition. People must have seen that in me. Why have I not
reported that to the office? But people always think that they’ll get over sickness without
having to stay at home. Mr. Manager! Take it easy on my parents! There is really no
basis for the criticisms which you’re now making against me, and really nobody has said
a word to me about that. Perhaps you have not read the latest orders which I shipped.
Besides, now I’m setting out on my trip on the eight o’clock train; the few hours’ rest
have made me stronger. Mr. Manager, do not stay. I will be at the office in person right
away. Please have the goodness to say that and to convey my respects to the Chief.”
While Gregor was quickly blurting all this out, hardly aware of what he was saying, he
had moved close to the chest of drawers without effort, probably as a result of the practice
he had already had in bed, and now he was trying to raise himself up on it. Actually,
he wanted to open the door. He really wanted to let himself be seen by and to speak with
the manager. He was keen to witness what the others now asking about him would say when
they saw him. If they were startled, then Gregor had no more responsibility and could
be calm. But if they accepted everything quietly, then he would have no reason to get excited
and, if he got a move on, could really be at the station around eight o’clock.
End of chapter I, part 1. Chapter I, part 2 At first he slid down a few times on the smooth
chest of drawers. But at last he gave himself a final swing and stood upright there. He
was no longer at all aware of the pains in his lower body, no matter how they might still
sting. Now he let himself fall against the back of a nearby chair, on the edge of which
he braced himself with his thin limbs. By doing this he gained control over himself
and kept quiet, for he could now hear the manager.
“Did you understood a single word?” the manager asked the parents, “Is he playing the fool
with us?” “For God’s sake,” cried the mother already in tears, “perhaps he’s very ill and
we’re upsetting him. Grete! Grete!” she yelled at that point. “Mother?” called the sister
from the other side. They were making themselves understood through Gregor’s room. “You must
go to the doctor right away. Gregor is sick. Hurry to the doctor. Have you heard Gregor
speak yet?” “That was an animal’s voice,” said the manager, remarkably quietly in comparison
to the mother’s cries. “Anna! Anna!’ yelled the father through the
hall into the kitchen, clapping his hands, “fetch a locksmith right away!” The two young
women were already running through the hall with swishing skirts—how had his sister
dressed herself so quickly?—and yanked open the doors of the apartment. One couldn’t hear
the doors closing at all. They probably had left them open, as is customary in an apartment
where a huge misfortune has taken place. However, Gregor had become much calmer. All
right, people did not understand his words any more, although they seemed clear enough
to him, clearer than previously, perhaps because his ears had gotten used to them. But at least
people now thought that things were not all right with him and were prepared to help him.
The confidence and assurance with which the first arrangements had been carried out made
him feel good. He felt himself included once again in the circle of humanity and was expecting
from both the doctor and the locksmith, without differentiating between them with any real
precision, splendid and surprising results. In order to get as clear a voice as possible
for the critical conversation which was imminent, he coughed a little, and certainly took the
trouble to do this in a really subdued way, since it was possible that even this noise
sounded like something different from a human cough. He no longer trusted himself to decide
any more. Meanwhile in the next room it had become really quiet. Perhaps his parents were
sitting with the manager at the table whispering; perhaps they were all leaning against the
door listening. Gregor pushed himself slowly towards the door,
with the help of the easy chair, let go of it there, threw himself against the door,
held himself upright against it—the balls of his tiny limbs had a little sticky stuff
on them—and rested there momentarily from his exertion. Then he made an effort to turn
the key in the lock with his mouth. Unfortunately it seemed that he had no real teeth. How then
was he to grab hold of the key? But to make up for that his jaws were naturally very strong;
with their help he managed to get the key really moving. He didn’t notice that he was
obviously inflicting some damage on himself, for a brown fluid came out of his mouth, flowed
over the key, and dripped onto the floor. “Just listen for a moment,” said the manager
in the next room; “he’s turning the key.” For Gregor that was a great encouragement.
But they all should’ve called out to him, including his father and mother, “Come on,
Gregor,” they should’ve shouted; “keep going, keep working on the lock.” Imagining that
all his efforts were being followed with suspense, he bit down frantically on the key with all
the force he could muster. As the key turned more, he danced around the lock. Now he was
holding himself upright only with his mouth, and he had to hang onto the key or then press
it down again with the whole weight of his body, as necessary. The quite distinct click
of the lock as it finally snapped really woke Gregor up. Breathing heavily he said to himself,
“So I didn’t need the locksmith,” and he set his head against the door handle to open the
door completely. Because he had to open the door in this way,
it was already open very wide without him yet being really visible. He first had to
turn himself slowly around the edge of the door, very carefully, of course, if he didn’t
want to fall awkwardly on his back right at the entrance into the room. He was still preoccupied
with this difficult movement and had no time to pay attention to anything else, when he
heard the manager exclaim a loud “Oh!”—it sounded like the wind whistling—and now
he saw him, nearest to the door, pressing his hand against his open mouth and moving
slowly back, as if an invisible constant force was pushing him away. His mother—in spite
of the presence of the manager she was standing here with her hair sticking up on end, still
a mess from the night—was looking at his father with her hands clasped. She then went
two steps towards Gregor and collapsed right in the middle of her skirts, which were spread
out all around her, her face sunk on her breast, completely concealed. His father clenched
his fist with a hostile expression, as if he wished to push Gregor back into his room,
then looked uncertainly around the living room, covered his eyes with his hands, and
cried so that his mighty breast shook. At this point Gregor did not take one step
into the room, but leaned his body from the inside against the firmly bolted wing of the
door, so that only half his body was visible, as well as his head, tilted sideways, with
which he peeped over at the others. Meanwhile it had become much brighter. Standing out
clearly from the other side of the street was a part of the endless grey-black house
situated opposite—it was a hospital—with its severe regular windows breaking up the
facade. The rain was still coming down, but only in large individual drops visibly and
firmly thrown down one by one onto the ground. The breakfast dishes were standing piled around
on the table, because for his father breakfast was the most important meal time in the day,
which he prolonged for hours by reading various newspapers. Directly across on the opposite
wall hung a photograph of Gregor from the time of his military service; it was a picture
of him as a lieutenant, as he, smiling and worry free, with his hand on his sword, demanded
respect for his bearing and uniform. The door to the hall was ajar, and since the door to
the apartment was also open, one could see out into the landing of the apartment and
the start of the staircase going down. “Now,” said Gregor, well aware that he was
the only one who had kept his composure. “I’ll get dressed right away, pack up the collection
of samples, and set off. You’ll allow me to set out on my way, will you not? You see,
Mr. Manager, I am not pig-headed, and I am happy to work. Travelling is exhausting, but
I couldn’t live without it. Where are you going, Mr. Manager? To the office? Really?
Will you report everything truthfully? A person can be incapable of work momentarily, but
that’s precisely the best time to remember the earlier achievements and to consider that
later, after the obstacles have been shoved aside, the person will work all the more eagerly
and intensely. I am really so indebted to Mr. Chief–you know that perfectly well. On
the other hand, I am concerned about my parents and my sister. I’m in a fix, but I’ll work
myself out of it again. Don’t make things more difficult for me than they already are.
Speak up on my behalf in the office! People don’t like travelling salesmen. I know that.
People think they earn pots of money and thus lead a fine life. People don’t even have any
special reason to think through this judgment more clearly. But you, Mr. Manager, you have
a better perspective on what’s involved than other people, even, I tell you in total confidence,
a better perspective than Mr. Chairman himself, who in his capacity as the employer may let
his judgment make casual mistakes at the expense of an employee. You also know well enough
that the travelling salesman who is outside the office almost the entire year can become
so easily a victim of gossip, coincidences, and groundless complaints, against which it’s
impossible for him to defend himself, since for the most part he doesn’t hear about them
at all and only then when he’s exhausted after finishing a trip and at home gets to feel
in his own body the nasty consequences, which can’t be thoroughly explored back to their
origins. Mr. Manager, don’t leave without speaking a word telling me that you’ll at
least concede that I’m a little in the right!” But at Gregor’s first words the manager had
already turned away, and now he looked back at Gregor over his twitching shoulders with
pursed lips. During Gregor’s speech he was not still for a moment but kept moving away
towards the door, without taking his eyes off Gregor, but really gradually, as if there
was a secret ban on leaving the room. He was already in the hall, and given the sudden
movement with which he finally pulled his foot out of the living room, one could have
believed that he had just burned the sole of his foot. In the hall, however, he stretched
his right hand out away from his body towards the staircase, as if some truly supernatural
relief was waiting for him there. Gregor realized that he must not under any
circumstances allow the manager to go away in this frame of mind, especially if his position
in the firm was not to be placed in the greatest danger. His parents did not understand all
this very well. Over the long years, they had developed the conviction that Gregor was
set up for life in his firm and, in addition, they had so much to do nowadays with their
present troubles that all foresight was foreign to them. But Gregor had this foresight. The
manager must be held back, calmed down, convinced, and finally won over. The future of Gregor
and his family really depended on it! If only the sister had been there! She was clever.
She had already cried while Gregor was still lying quietly on his back. And the manager,
this friend of the ladies, would certainly let himself be guided by her. She would have
closed the door to the apartment and talked him out of his fright in the hall. But the
sister was not even there. Gregor must deal with it himself.
Without thinking that as yet he didn’t know anything about his present ability to move
and that his speech possibly—indeed probably—had once again not been understood, he left the
wing of the door, pushed himself through the opening, and wanted to go over to the manager,
who was already holding tight onto the handrail with both hands on the landing in a ridiculous
way. But as he looked for something to hold onto, with a small scream Gregor immediately
fell down onto his numerous little legs. Scarcely had this happened, when he felt for the first
time that morning a general physical well being. The small limbs had firm floor under
them; they obeyed perfectly, as he noticed to his joy, and strove to carry him forward
in the direction he wanted. Right away he believed that the final amelioration of all
his suffering was immediately at hand. But at the very moment when he lay on the floor
rocking in a restrained manner quite close and directly across from his mother, who had
apparently totally sunk into herself, she suddenly sprang right up with her arms spread
far apart and her fingers extended and cried out, “Help, for God’s sake, help!” She held
her head bowed down, as if she wanted to view Gregor better, but ran senselessly back, contradicting
that gesture, forgetting that behind her stood the table with all the dishes on it. When
she reached the table, she sat down heavily on it, as if absent-mindedly, and did not
appear to notice at all that next to her coffee was pouring out onto the carpet in a full
stream from the large overturned container. “Mother, mother,” said Gregor quietly, and
looked over towards her. The manager momentarily had disappeared completely from his mind.
At the sight of the flowing coffee Gregor couldn’t stop himself snapping his jaws in
the air a few times . At that his mother screamed all over again, hurried from the table, and
collapsed into the arms of his father, who was rushing towards her. But Gregor had no
time right now for his parents—the manager was already on the staircase. His chin level
with the banister, the manager looked back for the last time. Gregor took an initial
movement to catch up to him if possible. But the manager must have suspected something,
because he made a leap down over a few stairs and disappeared, still shouting “Huh!” The
sound echoed throughout the entire stairwell. Now, unfortunately this flight of the manager
also seemed to bewilder his father completely. Earlier he had been relatively calm, for instead
of running after the manager himself or at least not hindering Gregor from his pursuit,
with his right hand he grabbed hold of the manager’s cane, which he had left behind with
his hat and overcoat on a chair. With his left hand, his father picked up a large newspaper
from the table and, stamping his feet on the floor, he set out to drive Gregor back into
his room by waving the cane and the newspaper. No request of Gregor’s was of any use; no
request would even be understood. No matter how willing he was to turn his head respectfully,
his father just stomped all the harder with his feet.
Across the room from him his mother had pulled open a window, in spite of the cool weather,
and leaning out with her hands on her cheeks, she pushed her face far outside the window.
Between the alley and the stairwell a strong draught came up, the curtains on the window
flew around, the newspapers on the table swished, and individual sheets fluttered down over
the floor. The father relentlessly pressed forward, pushing out sibilants, like a wild
man. Now, Gregor had no practice at all in going backwards—it was really very slow
going. If Gregor only had been allowed to turn himself around, he would have been in
his room right away, but he was afraid to make his father impatient by the time-consuming
process of turning around, and each moment he faced the threat of a mortal blow on his
back or his head from the cane in his father’s hand. Finally Gregor had no other option,
for he noticed with horror that he did not understand yet how to maintain his direction
going backwards. And so he began, amid constantly anxious sideways glances in his father’s direction,
to turn himself around as quickly as possible, although in truth this was only done very
slowly. Perhaps his father noticed his good intentions, for he did not disrupt Gregor
in this motion, but with the tip of the cane from a distance he even directed Gregor’s
rotating movement here and there. If only his father had not hissed so unbearably!
Because of that Gregor totally lost his head. He was already almost totally turned around,
when, always with this hissing in his ear, he just made a mistake and turned himself
back a little. But when he finally was successful in getting his head in front of the door opening,
it became clear that his body was too wide to go through any further. Naturally his father,
in his present mental state, had no idea of opening the other wing of the door a bit to
create a suitable passage for Gregor to get through. His single fixed thought was that
Gregor must get into his room as quickly as possible. He would never have allowed the
elaborate preparations that Gregor required to orient himself and thus perhaps get through
the door. On the contrary, as if there were no obstacle and with a peculiar noise, he
now drove Gregor forwards. Behind Gregor the sound at this point was no longer like the
voice of only a single father. Now it was really no longer a joke, and Gregor forced
himself, come what might, into the door. One side of his body was lifted up. He lay at
an angle in the door opening. His one flank was sore with the scraping. On the white door
ugly blotches were left. Soon he was stuck fast and would have not been able to move
any more on his own. The tiny legs on one side hung twitching in the air above, and
the ones on the other side were pushed painfully into the floor. Then his father gave him one
really strong liberating push from behind, and he scurried, bleeding severely, far into
the interior of his room. The door was slammed shut with the cane, and finally it was quiet.
End of chapter I. Chapter II, part 1 Gregor first woke up from his heavy swoon-like
sleep in the evening twilight. He would certainly have woken up soon afterwards without any
disturbance, for he felt himself sufficiently rested and wide awake, although it appeared
to him as if a hurried step and a cautious closing of the door to the hall had aroused
him. Light from the electric streetlamps lay pale here and there on the ceiling and on
the higher parts of the furniture, but underneath around Gregor it was dark. He pushed himself
slowly toward the door, still groping awkwardly with his feelers, which he now learned to
value for the first time, to check what was happening there. His left side seemed one
single long unpleasantly stretched scar, and he really had to hobble on his two rows of
legs. In addition, one small leg had been seriously wounded in the course of the morning
incident—it was almost a miracle that only one had been hurt—and dragged lifelessly
behind. By the door he first noticed what had really
lured him there: it was the smell of something to eat. A bowl stood there, filled with sweetened
milk, in which swam tiny pieces of white bread. He almost laughed with joy, for he now had
a much greater hunger than in the morning, and he immediately dipped his head almost
up to and over his eyes down into the milk. But he soon drew it back again in disappointment,
not just because it was difficult for him to eat on account of his delicate left side—he
could eat only if his entire panting body worked in a coordinated way—but also because
the milk, which otherwise was his favourite drink and which his sister had certainly placed
there for that reason, did not appeal to him at all. He turned away from the bowl almost
with aversion and crept back into the middle of the room.
In the living room, as Gregor saw through the crack in the door, the gas was lit, but
where, on other occasions at this time of day, his father was accustomed to read the
afternoon newspaper in a loud voice to his mother and sometimes also to his sister, at
the moment no sound was audible. Now, perhaps this reading aloud, about which his sister
had always spoken and written to him, had recently fallen out of their general routine.
But it was so still all around, in spite of the fact that the apartment was certainly
not empty. “What a quiet life the family leads,” said Gregor to himself and, as he stared fixedly
out in front of him into the darkness, he felt a great pride that he had been able to
provide such a life in a beautiful apartment like this for his parents and his sister.
But how would things go if now all tranquillity, all prosperity, all contentment should come
to a horrible end? In order not to lose himself in such thoughts, Gregor preferred to set
himself moving, so he moved up and down in his room.
Once during the long evening one side door and then the other door was opened just a
tiny crack and quickly closed again. Someone presumably needed to come in but had then
thought better of it. Gregor immediately took up a position by the living room door, determined
to bring in the hesitant visitor somehow or other or at least to find out who it might
be. But now the door was not opened any more, and Gregor waited in vain. Earlier, when the
door had been barred, they had all wanted to come in to him; now, when he had opened
one door and when the others had obviously been opened during the day, no one came any
more, and the keys were stuck in the locks on the outside.
The light in the living room was turned off only late at night, and now it was easy to
establish that his parents and his sister had stayed awake all this time, for one could
hear clearly as all three moved away on tiptoe. Now it was certain that no one would come
into Gregor any more until the morning. Thus, he had a long time to think undisturbed about
how he should reorganize his life from scratch. But the high, open room, in which he was compelled
to lie flat on the floor, made him anxious, without his being able to figure out the reason,
for he had lived in the room for five years. With a half unconscious turn and not without
a slight shame he scurried under the couch, where, in spite of the fact that his back
was a little cramped and he could no longer lift up his head, he felt very comfortable
and was sorry only that his body was too wide to fit completely under it.
There he remained the entire night, which he spent partly in a state of semi-sleep,
out of which his hunger constantly woke him with a start, but partly in a state of worry
and murky hopes, which all led to the conclusion that for the time being he would have to keep
calm and with patience and the greatest consideration for his family tolerate the troubles which
in his present condition he was now forced to cause them.
Already early in the morning—it was still almost night—Gregor had an opportunity to
test the power of the decisions he had just made, for his sister, almost fully dressed,
opened the door from the hall into his room and looked eagerly inside. She did not find
him immediately, but when she noticed him under the couch—God, he had to be somewhere
or other, for he could hardly fly away—she got such a shock that, without being able
to control herself, she slammed the door shut once again from the outside. However, as if
she was sorry for her behaviour, she immediately opened the door again and walked in on her
tiptoes, as if she was in the presence of a serious invalid or a total stranger. Gregor
had pushed his head forward just to the edge of the couch and was observing her. Would
she really notice that he had left the milk standing, not indeed from any lack of hunger,
and would she bring in something else to eat more suitable for him? If she did not do it
on her own, he would sooner starve to death than call her attention to the fact, although
he had a really powerful urge to move beyond the couch, throw himself at his sister’s feet,
and beg her for something or other good to eat. But his sister noticed right away with
astonishment that the bowl was still full, with only a little milk spilled around it.
She picked it up immediately, although not with her bare hands but with a rag, and took
it out of the room. Gregor was extremely curious what she would bring as a substitute, and
he pictured to himself different ideas about it. But he never could have guessed what his
sister out of the goodness of her heart in fact did. She brought him, to test his taste,
an entire selection, all spread out on an old newspaper. There were old half-rotten
vegetables, bones from the evening meal, covered with a white sauce which had almost solidified,
some raisins and almonds, cheese which Gregor had declared inedible two days earlier, a
slice of dry bread, and a slice of salted bread smeared with butter. In addition to
all this, she put down a bowl—probably designated once and for all as Gregor’s—into which
she had poured some water. And out of her delicacy of feeling, since she knew that Gregor
would not eat in front of her, she went away very quickly and even turned the key in the
lock, so that Gregor would now observe that he could make himself as comfortable as he
wished. Gregor’s small limbs buzzed now that the time for eating had come. His wounds must,
in any case, have already healed completely. He felt no handicap on that score. He was
astonished at that and thought about how more than a month ago he had cut his finger slightly
with a knife and how this wound had hurt enough even the day before yesterday.
“Am I now going to be less sensitive,” he thought, already sucking greedily on the cheese,
which had strongly attracted him right away, more than all the other foods. Quickly and
with his eyes watering with satisfaction, he ate one after the other the cheese, the
vegetables, and the sauce. The fresh food, by contrast, didn’t taste good to him. He
couldn’t bear the smell and even carried the things he wanted to eat a little distance
away. By the time his sister slowly turned the key as a sign that he should withdraw,
he was long finished and now lay lazily in the same spot. The noise immediately startled
him, in spite of the fact that he was already almost asleep, and he scurried back again
under the couch. But it cost him great self-control to remain under the couch, even for the short
time his sister was in the room, because his body had filled out somewhat on account of
the rich meal and in the narrow space there he could scarcely breathe. In the midst of
minor attacks of asphyxiation, he looked at her with somewhat protruding eyes, as his
unsuspecting sister swept up with a broom, not just the remnants, but even the foods
which Gregor had not touched at all, as if these were also now useless, and as she dumped
everything quickly into a bucket, which she closed with a wooden lid, and then carried
all of it out of the room. She had hardly turned around before Gregor had already dragged
himself out from the couch, stretched out, and let his body expand.
In this way Gregor got his food every day, once in the morning, when his parents and
the servant girl were still asleep, and a second time after the common noon meal, for
his parents were, as before, asleep then for a little while, and the servant girl was sent
off by his sister on some errand or other. They certainly would not have wanted Gregor
to starve to death, but perhaps they could not have endured finding out what he ate other
than by hearsay. Perhaps his sister wanted to spare them what was possibly only a small
grief, for they were really suffering quite enough already.
What sorts of excuses people had used on that first morning to get the doctor and the locksmith
out of the house Gregor was completely unable to ascertain. Since they could not understand
him, no one, not even his sister, thought that he might be able to understand others,
and thus, when his sister was in her room, he had to be content with listening now and
then to her sighs and invocations to the saints. Only later, when she had grown somewhat accustomed
to everything—naturally there could never be any talk of her growing completely accustomed
to it—Gregor sometimes caught a comment which was intended to be friendly or could
be interpreted as such. “Well, today it tasted good to him,” she said, if Gregor had really
cleaned up what he had to eat; whereas, in the reverse situation, which gradually repeated
itself more and more frequently, she used to say sadly, “Now everything has stopped
again.” But while Gregor could get no new information
directly, he did hear a good deal from the room next door, and as soon as he heard voices,
he scurried right away to the appropriate door and pressed his entire body against it.
In the early days especially, there was no conversation which was not concerned with
him in some way or other, even if only in secret. For two days at all meal times discussions
on that subject could be heard on how people should now behave; but they also talked about
the same subject in the times between meals, for there were always at least two family
members at home, since no one really wanted to remain in the house alone and people could
not under any circumstances leave the apartment completely empty. In addition, on the very
first day the servant girl—it was not completely clear what and how much she knew about what
had happened—on her knees had begged his mother to let her go immediately, and when
she said good bye about fifteen minutes later, she thanked them for the dismissal with tears
in her eyes, as if she was receiving the greatest favour which people had shown her there, and,
without anyone demanding it from her, she swore a fearful oath not to betray anyone,
not even the slightest bit. Now his sister had to team up with his mother
to do the cooking, although that didn’t create much trouble because people were eating almost
nothing. Again and again Gregor listened as one of them vainly invited another one to
eat and received no answer other than “Thank you. I’ve had enough” or something like that.
And perhaps they had stopped having anything to drink, too. His sister often asked his
father whether he wanted to have a beer and gladly offered to fetch it herself, and when
his father was silent, she said, in order to remove any reservations he might have,
that she could send the caretaker’s wife to get it. But then his father finally said a
resounding “No,” and nothing more would be spoken about it.
Already during the first day his father laid out all the financial circumstances and prospects
to his mother and to his sister as well. From time to time he stood up from the table and
pulled out of the small lockbox salvaged from his business, which had collapsed five years
previously, some document or other or some notebook. The sound was audible as he opened
up the complicated lock and, after removing what he was looking for, locked it up again.
These explanations by his father were, in part, the first enjoyable thing that Gregor
had the chance to listen to since his imprisonment. He had thought that nothing at all was left
over for his father from that business; at least his father had told him nothing to contradict
that view, and Gregor in any case hadn’t asked him about it. At the time Gregor’s only concern
had been to use everything he had in order to allow his family to forget as quickly as
possible the business misfortune which had brought them all into a state of complete
hopelessness. And so at that point he’d started to work with a special intensity and from
an assistant had become, almost overnight, a travelling salesman, who naturally had entirely
different possibilities for earning money and whose successes at work were converted
immediately into the form of cash commissions, which could be set out on the table at home
in front of his astonished and delighted family. Those had been beautiful days, and they had
never come back afterwards, at least not with the same splendour, in spite of the fact that
Gregor later earned so much money that he was in a position to bear the expenses of
the entire family, costs which he, in fact, did bear. They had become quite accustomed
to it, both the family and Gregor as well. They took the money with thanks, and he happily
surrendered it, but the special warmth was no longer present. Only the sister had remained
still close to Gregor, and it was his secret plan to send her next year to the conservatory,
regardless of the great expense which that necessarily involved and which would be made
up in other ways. In contrast to Gregor she loved music very much and knew how to play
the violin charmingly. Now and then during Gregor’s short stays in the city the conservatory
was mentioned in conversations with his sister, but always only as a beautiful dream, whose
realization was unimaginable, and their parents never listened to these innocent expectations
with pleasure. But Gregor thought about them with scrupulous consideration and intended
to explain the matter ceremoniously on Christmas Eve.
In his present situation, such futile ideas went through his head, while he pushed himself
right up against the door and listened. Sometimes in his general exhaustion he couldn’t listen
any more and let his head bang listlessly against the door, but he immediately pulled
himself together, for even the small sound which he made by this motion was heard near
by and silenced everyone. “There he goes on again,” said his father after a while, clearly
turning towards the door, and only then would the interrupted conversation gradually be
resumed again. Gregor found out clearly enough—for his
father tended to repeat himself often in his explanations, partly because he had not personally
concerned himself with these matters for a long time now, and partly also because his
mother did not understand everything right away the first time—that, in spite all bad
luck, a fortune, although a very small one, was available from the old times, which the
interest, which had not been touched, had in the intervening time gradually allowed
to increase a little. Furthermore, in addition to this, the money which Gregor had brought
home every month—he had kept only a few florins for himself—had not been completely
spent and had grown into a small capital amount. Gregor, behind his door, nodded eagerly, rejoicing
over this unanticipated foresight and frugality. True, with this excess money, he could have
paid off more of his father’s debt to his employer and the day on which he could be
rid of this position would have been a lot closer, but now things were doubtless better
the way his father had arranged them. At the moment, however, this money was not
nearly sufficient to permit the family to live on the interest payments. Perhaps it
would be enough to maintain the family for one or at most two years, that’s all. Thus,
it only added up to an amount which one should not really draw upon and which must be set
aside for an emergency. But the money to live on had to be earned. Now, although his father
was old, he was a healthy man who had not worked at all for five years and thus could
not be counted on for very much. He had in these five years, the first holidays of his
trouble-filled but unsuccessful life, put on a good deal of fat and thus had become
really heavy. And should his old mother now perhaps work for money, a woman who suffered
from asthma, for whom wandering through the apartment even now was a great strain and
who spent every second day on the sofa by the open window labouring for breath? Should
his sister earn money, a girl who was still a seventeen-year-old child whose earlier life
style had been so very delightful that it had consisted of dressing herself nicely,
sleeping in late, helping around the house, taking part in a few modest enjoyments and,
above all, playing the violin? When it came to talking about this need to earn money,
at first Gregor went away from the door and threw himself on the cool leather sofa beside
the door, for he was quite hot from shame and sorrow.
Often he lay there all night long. He didn’t sleep a moment and just scratched on the leather
for hours at a time. He undertook the very difficult task of shoving a chair over to
the window. Then he crept up on the window sill and, braced in the chair, leaned against
the window to look out, obviously with some memory or other of the satisfaction which
that used to bring him in earlier times. Actually, from day to day he perceived things with less
and less clarity, even those a short distance away: the hospital across the street, the
all-too-frequent sight of which he had previously cursed, was not visible at all any more, and
if he had not been precisely aware that he lived in the quiet but completely urban Charlotte
Street, he could have believed that from his window he was peering out at a featureless
wasteland, in which the grey heaven and the grey earth had merged and were indistinguishable.
His attentive sister must have observed a couple of times that the chair stood by the
window; then, after cleaning up the room, each time she pushed the chair back right
against the window and from now on she even left the inner casement open.
If Gregor had only been able to speak to his sister and thank her for everything that she
had to do for him, he would have tolerated her service more easily. As it was, he suffered
under it. The sister admittedly sought to cover up the awkwardness of everything as
much as possible, and, as time went by, she naturally got more successful at it. But with
the passing of time Gregor also came to understand everything more precisely. Even her entrance
was terrible for him. As soon as she entered, she ran straight to the window, without taking
the time to shut the door, in spite of the fact that she was otherwise very considerate
in sparing anyone the sight of Gregor’s room, and yanked the window open with eager hands,
as if she was almost suffocating, and remained for a while by the window breathing deeply,
even when it was still so cold. With this running and noise she frightened Gregor twice
every day. The entire time he trembled under the couch, and yet he knew very well that
she would certainly have spared him gladly if it had only been possible to remain with
the window closed in a room where Gregor lived. End of chapter II, part 1. Chapter II, part 2 On one occasion—about one month had already
gone by since Gregor’s transformation, and there was now no particular reason any more
for his sister to be startled at Gregor’s appearance—she arrived a little earlier
than usual and came upon Gregor as he was still looking out the window, immobile and
well positioned to frighten someone. It would not have come as a surprise to Gregor if she
had not come in, since his position was preventing her from opening the window immediately. But
she not only did not step inside; she even retreated and shut the door. A stranger really
might have concluded from this that Gregor had been lying in wait for her and wanted
to bite her. Of course, Gregor immediately concealed himself under the couch, but he
had to wait until the noon meal before his sister returned, and she seemed much less
calm than usual. From this he realized that his appearance was still constantly intolerable
to her and must remain intolerable in future, and that she really had to exert a lot of
self-control not to run away from a glimpse of only the small part of his body which stuck
out from under the couch. In order to spare her even this sight, one day he dragged the
sheet on his back and onto the couch—this task took him four hours—and arranged it
in such a way that he was now completely concealed and his sister, even if she bent down, could
not see him. If this sheet was not necessary as far as she was concerned, then she could
remove it, for it was clear enough that Gregor could not derive any pleasure from isolating
himself away so completely. But she left the sheet just as it was, and Gregor believed
he even caught a look of gratitude when, on one occasion, he carefully lifted up the sheet
a little with his head to check, as his sister took stock of the new arrangement.
In the first two weeks his parents could not bring themselves to visit him, and he often
heard how they fully acknowledged his sister’s present work; whereas, earlier they had often
got annoyed at his sister because she had seemed to them a somewhat useless young woman.
However, now both his father and his mother often waited in front of Gregor’s door while
his sister cleaned up inside, and as soon as she came out, she had to explain in detail
how things looked in the room, what Gregor had eaten, how he had behaved this time, and
whether perhaps a slight improvement was perceptible. In any event, his mother comparatively soon
wanted to visit Gregor, but his father and his sister restrained her, at first with reasons
which Gregor listened to very attentively and which he completely endorsed. Later, however,
they had to hold her back forcefully, and when she then cried “Let me go to Gregor.
He’s my unlucky son! Don’t you understand that I have to go to him?” Gregor then thought
that perhaps it would be a good thing if his mother came in, not every day, of course,
but maybe once a week. She understood everything much better than his sister, who, in spite
of all her courage, was still a child and, in the last analysis, had perhaps undertaken
such a difficult task only out of childish recklessness.
Gregor’s wish to see his mother was soon realized. While during the day Gregor, out of consideration
for his parents, did not want to show himself by the window, he couldn’t crawl around very
much on the few square metres of the floor. He found it difficult to bear lying quietly
during the night, and soon eating no longer gave him the slightest pleasure. So for diversion
he acquired the habit of crawling back and forth across the walls and ceiling. He was
especially fond of hanging from the ceiling. The experience was quite different from lying
on the floor. It was easier to breathe, a slight vibration went through his body, and
in the midst of the almost happy amusement which Gregor found up there, it could happen
that, to his own surprise, he let go and hit the floor. However, now he naturally controlled
his body quite differently, and he did not injure himself in such a great fall. His sister
noticed immediately the new amusement which Gregor had found for himself—for as he crept
around he left behind here and there traces of his sticky stuff—and so she got the idea
of making Gregor’s creeping around as easy as possible and thus of removing the furniture
which got in the way, especially the chest of drawers and the writing desk.
But she was in no position to do this by herself. She did not dare to ask her father to help,
and the servant girl would certainly not have assisted her, for although this girl, about
sixteen years old, had courageously remained since the dismissal of the previous cook,
she had begged for the privilege of being allowed to stay permanently confined to the
kitchen and of having to open the door only in answer to a special summons. Thus, his
sister had no other choice but to involve his mother while his father was absent. His
mother approached Gregor’s room with cries of excited joy, but she fell silent at the
door. Of course, his sister first checked whether everything in the room was in order.
Only then did she let his mother walk in. In great haste Gregor had drawn the sheet
down even further and wrinkled it more. The whole thing really looked just like a coverlet
thrown carelessly over the couch. On this occasion, Gregor held back from spying out
from under the sheet. Thus, he refrained from looking at his mother this time and was just
happy that she had come. “Come on; he’s not visible,” said his sister, and evidently
led his mother by the hand. Now Gregor listened as these two weak women shifted the still
heavy old chest of drawers from its position, and as his sister constantly took on herself
the greater part of the work, without listening to the warnings of his mother, who was afraid
that she would strain herself. The work lasted a long time. After about a quarter of an hour
had already gone by, his mother said it would be better if they left the chest of drawers
where it was, because, in the first place, it was too heavy: they would not be finished
before his father’s arrival, and leaving the chest of drawers in the middle of the room
would block all Gregor’s pathways, but, in the second place, they could not be certain
that Gregor would be pleased with the removal of the furniture. To her the reverse seemed
to be true; the sight of the empty walls pierced her right to the heart, and why should Gregor
not feel the same, since he had been accustomed to the room furnishings for a long time and
in an empty room would feel himself abandoned? “And is it not the case,” his mother concluded
very quietly, almost whispering as if she wished to prevent Gregor, whose exact location
she really didn’t know, from hearing even the sound of her voice—for she was convinced
that he did not understand her words—”and isn’t it a fact that by removing the furniture
we’re showing that we’re giving up all hope of an improvement and are leaving him to his
own resources without any consideration? I think it would be best if we tried to keep
the room exactly in the condition it was in before, so that, when Gregor returns to us,
he finds everything unchanged and can forget the intervening time all the more easily.”
As he heard his mother’s words Gregor realized that the lack of all immediate human contact,
together with the monotonous life surrounded by the family over the course of these two
months, must have confused his understanding, because otherwise he couldn’t explain to himself
how he, in all seriousness, could have been so keen to have his room emptied. Was he really
eager to let the warm room, comfortably furnished with pieces he had inherited, be turned into
a cavern in which he would, of course, then be able to crawl about in all directions without
disturbance, but at the same time with a quick and complete forgetting of his human past
as well? Was he then at this point already on the verge of forgetting and was it only
the voice of his mother, which he had not heard for a long time, that had aroused him?
Nothing was to be removed—everything must remain. In his condition he could not function
without the beneficial influences of his furniture. And if the furniture prevented him from carrying
out his senseless crawling about all over the place, then there was no harm in that,
but rather a great benefit. But his sister unfortunately thought otherwise.
She had grown accustomed, certainly not without justification, so far as the discussion of
matters concerning Gregor was concerned, to act as an special expert with respect to their
parents, and so now the mother’s advice was for his sister sufficient reason to insist
on the removal, not only of the chest of drawers and the writing desk, which were the only
items she had thought about at first, but also of all the furniture, with the exception
of the indispensable couch. Of course, it was not only childish defiance and her recent
very unexpected and hard won self-confidence which led her to this demand. She had also
actually observed that Gregor needed a great deal of room to creep about; the furniture,
on the other hand, as far as one could see, was not of the slightest use.
But perhaps the enthusiastic sensibility of young women of her age also played a role.
This feeling sought release at every opportunity, and with it Grete now felt tempted to want
to make Gregor’s situation even more terrifying, so that then she would be able to do even
more for him than now. For surely no one except Grete would ever trust themselves to enter
a room in which Gregor ruled the empty walls all by himself. And so she did not let herself
be dissuaded from her decision by her mother, who in this room seemed uncertain of herself
in her sheer agitation and soon kept quiet, helping his sister with all her energy to
get the chest of drawers out of the room. Now, Gregor could still do without the chest
of drawers if need be, but the writing desk really had to stay. And scarcely had the women
left the room with the chest of drawers, groaning as they pushed it, when Gregor stuck his head
out from under the sofa to take a look how he could intervene cautiously and with as
much consideration as possible. But unfortunately it was his mother who came back into the room
first, while Grete had her arms wrapped around the chest of drawers in the next room and
was rocking it back and forth by herself, without moving it from its position. His mother
was not used to the sight of Gregor; he could have made her ill, and so, frightened, Gregor
scurried backwards right to the other end of the sofa, but he could no longer prevent
the sheet from moving forward a little. That was enough to catch his mother’s attention.
She came to a halt, stood still for a moment, and then went back to Grete.
Although Gregor kept repeating to himself over and over that really nothing unusual
was going on, that only a few pieces of furniture were being rearranged, he soon had to admit
to himself that the movements of the women to and fro, their quiet conversations, and
the scratching of the furniture on the floor affected him like a great swollen commotion
on all sides, and, so firmly was he pulling in his head and legs and pressing his body
into the floor, he had to tell himself unequivocally that he wouldn’t be able to endure all this
much longer. They were cleaning out his room, taking away from him everything he cherished;
they had already dragged out the chest of drawers in which the fret saw and other tools
were kept, and they were now loosening the writing desk which was fixed tight to the
floor, the desk on which he, as a business student, a school student, indeed even as
an elementary school student, had written out his assignments. At that moment he really
didn’t have any more time to check the good intentions of the two women, whose existence
he had in any case almost forgotten, because in their exhaustion they were working really
silently, and the heavy stumbling of their feet was the only sound to be heard.
And so he scuttled out—the women were just propping themselves up on the writing desk
in the next room in order to take a breather—changing the direction of his path four times. He really
didn’t know what he should rescue first. Then he saw hanging conspicuously on the wall,
which was otherwise already empty, the picture of the woman dressed in nothing but fur. He
quickly scurried up over it and pressed himself against the glass which held it in place and
which made his hot abdomen feel good. At least this picture, which Gregor at the moment completely
concealed, surely no one would now take away. He twisted his head towards the door of the
living room to observe the women as they came back in.
They had not allowed themselves very much rest and were coming back right away. Grete
had placed her arm around her mother and held her tightly. “So what shall we take now?”
said Grete and looked around her. Then her glance met Gregor’s from the wall. She kept
her composure only because her mother was there. She bent her face towards her mother
in order to prevent her from looking around, and said, although in a trembling voice and
too quickly, “Come, wouldn’t it be better to go back to the living room for just another
moment?” Grete’s purpose was clear to Gregor: she wanted to bring his mother to a safe place
and then chase him down from the wall. Well, let her just try! He squatted on his picture
and did not hand it over. He would sooner spring into Grete’s face.
But Grete’s words had immediately made the mother very uneasy. She walked to the side,
caught sight of the enormous brown splotch on the flowered wallpaper, and, before she
became truly aware that what she was looking at was Gregor, screamed out in a high pitched
raw voice “Oh God, oh God” and fell with outstretched arms, as if she was surrendering everything,
down onto the couch and lay there motionless. “Gregor, you. . .” cried out his sister with
a raised fist and an urgent glare. Since his transformation these were the first words
which she had directed right at him. She ran into the room next door to bring some spirits
or other with which she could revive her mother from her fainting spell. Gregor wanted to
help as well—there was time enough to save the picture—but he was stuck fast on the
glass and had to tear himself loose forcefully. Then he also scurried into the next room,
as if he could give his sister some advice, as in earlier times, but then he had to stand
there idly behind her, while she rummaged about among various small bottles. Still,
she was frightened when she turned around. A bottle fell onto the floor and shattered.
A splinter of glass wounded Gregor in the face, some corrosive medicine or other dripped
over him. Now, without lingering any longer, Grete took as many small bottles as she could
hold and ran with them into her mother. She slammed the door shut with her foot. Gregor
was now shut off from his mother, who was perhaps near death, thanks to him. He could
not open the door, and he did not want to chase away his sister who had to remain with
her mother. At this point he had nothing to do but wait, and overwhelmed with self-reproach
and worry, he began to creep and crawl over everything: walls, furniture, and ceiling.
Finally, in his despair, as the entire room started to spin around him, he fell onto the
middle of the large table. A short time elapsed. Gregor lay there limply.
All around was still. Perhaps that was a good sign. Then there was ring at the door. The
servant girl was naturally shut up in her kitchen, and therefore Grete had to go to
open the door. The father had arrived. “What’s happened?” were his first words. Grete’s appearance
had told him everything. Grete replied with a dull voice; evidently she was pressing her
face into her father’s chest: “Mother fainted, but she’s getting better now. Gregor has broken
loose.” “Yes, I have expected that,” said his father, “I always told you that, but you
women don’t want to listen.” It was clear to Gregor that his father had
badly misunderstood Grete’s short message and was assuming that Gregor had committed
some violent crime or other. Thus, Gregor now had to find his father to calm him down,
for he had neither the time nor the ability to explain things to him. And so he rushed
away to the door of his room and pushed himself against it, so that his father could see right
away as he entered from the hall that Gregor fully intended to return at once to his room,
that it was not necessary to drive him back, but that one only needed to open the door,
and he would disappear immediately. But his father was not in the mood to observe
such niceties. “Ah,” he yelled as soon as he entered, with a tone as if he were all
at once angry and pleased. Gregor pulled his head back from the door and raised it in the
direction of his father. He had not really pictured his father as he now stood there.
Of course, what with his new style of creeping all around, he had in the past while neglected
to pay attention to what was going on in the rest of the apartment, as he had done before,
and really should have grasped the fact that he would encounter different conditions. Nevertheless,
nevertheless, was that still his father? Was that the same man who had lain exhausted and
buried in bed in earlier days when Gregor was setting out on a business trip, who had
received him on the evenings of his return in a sleeping gown and arm chair, totally
incapable of standing up, who had only lifted his arm as a sign of happiness, and who in
their rare strolls together a few Sundays a year and on the important holidays made
his way slowly forwards between Gregor and his mother—who themselves moved slowly—always
a bit more slowly than them, bundled up in his old coat, all the time setting down his
walking stick carefully, and who, when he had wanted to say something, almost always
stood still and gathered his entourage around him?
But now he was standing up really straight, dressed in a tight-fitting blue uniform with
gold buttons, like the ones servants wear in a banking company. Above the high stiff
collar of his jacket his firm double chin stuck out prominently, beneath his bushy eyebrows
the glance of his black eyes was freshly penetrating and alert, his otherwise dishevelled white
hair was combed down into a carefully exact shining part. He threw his cap, on which a
gold monogram, apparently the symbol of the bank, was affixed, in an arc across the entire
room onto the sofa and moved, throwing back the edge of the long coat of his uniform,
with his hands in his trouser pockets and a grim face, right up to Gregor.
He really didn’t know what he had in mind, but he raised his foot uncommonly high anyway,
and Gregor was astonished at the gigantic size of the sole of his boot. However, he
did not linger on that point. For he knew from the first day of his new life that, as
far as he was concerned, his father considered the greatest force the only appropriate response.
And so he scurried away from his father, stopped when his father remained standing, and scampered
forward again when his father merely stirred. In this way they made their way around the
room repeatedly, without anything decisive taking place. In fact, because of the slow
pace, it didn’t look like a chase. Gregor remained on the floor for the time being,
especially since he was afraid that his father could take a flight up onto the wall or the
ceiling as an act of real malice. At any event, Gregor had to tell himself that he couldn’t
keep up this running around for a long time, because whenever his father took a single
step, he had to go through an enormous number of movements. Already he was starting to suffer
from a shortage of breath, just as in his earlier days when his lungs had been quite
unreliable. As he now staggered around in this way in order to gather all his energies
for running, hardly keeping his eyes open and feeling so listless that he had no notion
at all of any escape other than by running and had almost already forgotten that the
walls were available to him, although they were obstructed by carefully carved furniture
full of sharp points and spikes, at that moment something or other thrown casually flew down
close by and rolled in front of him. It was an apple. Immediately a second one flew after
it. Gregor stood still in fright. Further running away was useless, for his father had
decided to bombard him. From the fruit bowl on the sideboard his father
had filled his pockets. And now, without for the moment taking accurate aim, he was throwing
apple after apple. These small red apples rolled around on the floor, as if electrified,
and collided with each other. A weakly thrown apple grazed Gregor’s back but skidded off
harmlessly. However, another thrown immediately after that one drove into Gregor’s back really
hard. Gregor wanted to drag himself off, as if the unexpected and incredible pain would
go away if he changed his position. But he felt as if he was nailed in place and lay
stretched out completely confused in all his senses. Only with his final glance did he
notice how the door of his room was pulled open and how, right in front of his sister—who
was yelling—his mother ran out in her undergarments, for his sister had undressed her in order
to give her some freedom to breathe in her fainting spell, and how his mother then ran
up to his father, on the way her tied up skirts slipped toward the floor one after the other,
and how, tripping over her skirts, she hurled herself onto his father and, throwing her
arms around him, in complete union with him–but at this moment Gregor’s powers of sight gave
way–as her hands reached to the back of his father’s head and she begged him to spare
Gregor’s life. End of chapter II. Chapter III, part 1 Gregor’s serious wound, from which he suffered
for over a month—since no one ventured to remove the apple, it remained in his flesh
as a visible reminder—seemed by itself to have reminded the father that, in spite of
his present unhappy and hateful appearance, Gregor was a member of the family, something
one should not treat as an enemy, and that it was, on the contrary, a requirement of
family duty to suppress one’s aversion and to endure–nothing else, just endure. And
if through his wound Gregor had now apparently lost for good his ability to move and for
the time being needed many, many minutes to crawl across his room, like an aged invalid—so
far as creeping up high was concerned, that was unimaginable—nevertheless for this worsening
of his condition, in his opinion, he did get completely satisfactory compensation, because
every day towards evening the door to the living room, which he was in the habit of
keeping a sharp eye on even one or two hours beforehand, was opened, so that he, lying
down in the darkness of his room, invisible from the living room, could see the entire
family at the illuminated table and listen to their conversation, to a certain extent
with their common permission, a situation quite different from what had happened before.
Of course, it was no longer the animated social interaction of former times, which Gregor
in small hotel rooms had always thought about with a certain longing, when, tired out, he
had had to throw himself into the damp bedclothes. For the most part what went on now was very
quiet. After the evening meal, the father fell asleep quickly in his arm chair. The
mother and sister talked guardedly to each other in the stillness. Bent far over, the
mother sewed fine undergarments for a fashion shop. The sister, who had taken on a job as
a salesgirl, in the evening studied stenography and French, so as perhaps later to obtain
a better position. Sometimes the father woke up and, as if he was quite ignorant that he
had been asleep, said to the mother “How long you have been sewing today?” and went right
back to sleep, while the mother and the sister smiled tiredly to each other.
With a sort of stubbornness the father refused to take off his servant’s uniform even at
home, and while his sleeping gown hung unused on the coat hook, the father dozed completely
dressed in his place, as if he was always ready for his responsibility and even here
was waiting for the voice of his superior. As a result, in spite of all the care of the
mother and sister, his uniform, which even at the start was not new, grew dirty, and
Gregor looked, often for the entire evening, at this clothing, with stains all over it
and with its gold buttons always polished, in which the old man, although very uncomfortable,
slept peacefully nonetheless. As soon as the clock struck ten, the mother
tried gently encouraging the father to wake up and then persuading him to go to bed, on
the ground that he couldn’t get a proper sleep here and that the father, who had to report
for service at six o’clock, really needed a good sleep. But in his stubbornness, which
had gripped him since he had become a servant, he insisted always on staying even longer
by the table, although he regularly fell asleep and then could only be prevailed upon with
the greatest difficulty to trade his chair for the bed. No matter how much the mother
and sister might at that point work on him with small admonitions, for a quarter of an
hour he would remain shaking his head slowly, his eyes closed, without standing up. The
mother would pull him by the sleeve and speak flattering words into his ear; the sister
would leave her work to help her mother, but that would not have the desired effect on
the father. He would settle himself even more deeply in his arm chair. Only when the two
women grabbed him under the armpits would he throw his eyes open, look back and forth
at the mother and sister, and habitually say “This is a life. This is the peace and quiet
of my old age.” And propped up by both women, he would heave himself up elaborately, as
if for him it was the greatest trouble, allow himself to be led to the door by the women,
wave them away there, and proceed on his own from there, while the mother quickly threw
down her sewing implements and the sister her pen in order to run after the father and
help him some more. In this overworked and exhausted family who
had time to worry any longer about Gregor more than was absolutely necessary? The household
was constantly getting smaller. The servant girl was now let go. A huge bony cleaning
woman with white hair flying all over her head came in the morning and evening to do
the heaviest work. The mother took care of everything else in addition to her considerable
sewing work. It even happened that various pieces of family jewellery, which previously
the mother and sister had been overjoyed to wear on social and festive occasions, were
sold, as Gregor found out in the evening from the general discussion of the prices they
had fetched. But the greatest complaint was always that they could not leave this apartment,
which was too big for their present means, since it was impossible to imagine how Gregor
might be moved. But Gregor fully recognized that it was not just consideration for him
which was preventing a move, for he could have been transported easily in a suitable
box with a few air holes. The main thing holding the family back from a change in living quarters
was far more their complete hopelessness and the idea that they had been struck by a misfortune
like no one else in their entire circle of relatives and acquaintances.
What the world demands of poor people they now carried out to an extreme degree. The
father bought breakfast to the petty officials at the bank, the mother sacrificed herself
for the undergarments of strangers, the sister behind her desk was at the beck and call of
customers, but the family’s energies did not extend any further. And the wound in his back
began to pain Gregor all over again, when now mother and sister, after they had escorted
the father to bed, came back, let their work lie, moved close together, and sat cheek to
cheek and when his mother would now say, pointing to Gregor’s room, “Close the door, Grete,”
and when Gregor was again in the darkness, while close by the women mingled their tears
or, quite dry eyed, stared at the table. Gregor spent his nights and days with hardly
any sleep. Sometimes he thought that the next time the door opened he would take over the
family arrangements just as he had earlier. In his imagination appeared again, after a
long time, his employer and supervisor and the apprentices, the excessively spineless
custodian, two or three friends from other businesses, a chambermaid from a hotel in
the provinces, a loving fleeting memory, a female cashier from a hat shop, whom he had
seriously but too slowly courted–they all appeared mixed in with strangers or people
he had already forgotten, but instead of helping him and his family, they were all unapproachable,
and he was happy to see them disappear. But then he was in no mood to worry about
his family. He was filled with sheer anger over the wretched care he was getting, even
though he couldn’t imagine anything which he might have an appetite for. Still, he made
plans about how he could take from the larder what he at all account deserved, even if he
wasn’t hungry. Without thinking any more about how they might be able to give Gregor special
pleasure, the sister now kicked some food or other very quickly into his room in the
morning and at noon, before she ran off to her shop, and in the evening, quite indifferent
to whether the food had perhaps only been tasted or, what happened most frequently,
remained entirely undisturbed, she whisked it out with one sweep of her broom. The task
of cleaning his room, which she now always carried out in the evening, could not be done
any more quickly. Streaks of dirt ran along the walls; here and there lay tangles of dust
and garbage. At first, when his sister arrived, Gregor positioned himself in a particularly
filthy corner in order with this posture to make something of a protest. But he could
have well stayed there for weeks without his sister’s changing her ways. In fact, she perceived
the dirt as much as he did, but she had decided just to let it stay.
In this business, with a touchiness which was quite new to her and which had generally
taken over the entire family, she kept watch to see that the cleaning of Gregor’s room
remained reserved for her. Once his mother had undertaken a major cleaning of Gregor’s
room, which she had only completed successfully after using a few buckets of water. But the
extensive dampness made Gregor sick and he lay supine, embittered and immobile on the
couch. However, the mother’s punishment was not delayed for long. For in the evening the
sister had hardly observed the change in Gregor’s room before she ran into the living room mightily
offended and, in spite of her mother’s hand lifted high in entreaty, broke out in a fit
of crying. Her parents—the father had, of course, woken up with a start in his arm chair—at
first looked at her astonished and helpless, until they started to get agitated. Turning
to his right, the father heaped reproaches on the mother that she was not to take over
the cleaning of Gregor’s room from the sister and, turning to his left, he shouted at the
sister that she would no longer be allowed to clean Gregor’s room ever again, while the
mother tried to pull the father, beside himself in his excitement, into the bed room. The
sister, shaken by her crying fit, pounded on the table with her tiny fists, and Gregor
hissed at all this, angry that no one thought about shutting the door and sparing him the
sight of this commotion. But even when the sister, exhausted from her
daily work, had grown tired of caring for Gregor as she had before, even then the mother
did not have to come at all on her behalf. And Gregor did not have to be neglected. For
now the cleaning woman was there. This old widow, who in her long life must have managed
to survive the worst with the help of her bony frame, had no real horror of Gregor.
Without being in the least curious, she had once by chance opened Gregor’s door. At the
sight of Gregor, who, totally surprised, began to scamper here and there, although no one
was chasing him, she remained standing with her hands folded across her stomach staring
at him. Since then she did not fail to open the door furtively a little every morning
and evening to look in on Gregor. At first, she also called him to her with words which
she presumably thought were friendly, like “Come here for a bit, old dung beetle!” or
“Hey, look at the old dung beetle!” Addressed in such a manner, Gregor answered nothing,
but remained motionless in his place, as if the door had not been opened at all. If only,
instead of allowing this cleaning woman to disturb him uselessly whenever she felt like
it, they had given her orders to clean up his room every day! One day in the early morning—a
hard downpour, perhaps already a sign of the coming spring, struck the window panes—when
the cleaning woman started up once again with her usual conversation, Gregor was so bitter
that he turned towards her, as if for an attack, although slowly and weakly. But instead of
being afraid of him, the cleaning woman merely lifted up a chair standing close by the door
and, as she stood there with her mouth wide open, her intention was clear: she would close
her mouth only when the chair in her hand had been thrown down on Gregor’s back. “This
goes no further, all right?” she asked, as Gregor turned himself around again, and she
placed the chair calmly back in the corner. Gregor ate hardly anything any more. Only
when he chanced to move past the food which had been prepared did he, as a game, take
a bit into his mouth, hold it there for hours, and generally spit it out again. At first
he thought it might be his sadness over the condition of his room which kept him from
eating, but he very soon became reconciled to the alterations in his room. People had
grown accustomed to put into storage in his room things which they couldn’t put anywhere
else, and at this point there were many such things, now that they had rented one room
of the apartment to three lodgers. These solemn gentlemen—all three had full beards, as
Gregor once found out through a crack in the door—were meticulously intent on tidiness,
not only in their own room but, since they had now rented a room here, in the entire
household, and particularly in the kitchen. They simply did not tolerate any useless or
shoddy stuff. Moreover, for the most part they had brought with them their own pieces
of furniture. Thus, many items had become superfluous, and these were not really things
one could sell or things people wanted to throw out. All these items ended up in Gregor’s
room, even the box of ashes and the garbage pail from the kitchen. The cleaning woman,
always in a hurry, simply flung anything that was momentarily useless into Gregor’s room.
Fortunately Gregor generally saw only the relevant object and the hand which held it.
The cleaning woman perhaps was intending, when time and opportunity allowed, to take
the stuff out again or to throw everything out all at once, but in fact the things remained
lying there, wherever they had ended up at the first throw, unless Gregor squirmed his
way through the accumulation of junk and moved it. At first he was forced to do this because
otherwise there was no room for him to creep around, but later he did it with a growing
pleasure, although after such movements, tired to death and feeling wretched, he didn’t budge
for hours. Because the lodgers sometimes also took their
evening meal at home in the common living room, the door to the living room stayed shut
on many evenings. But Gregor had no trouble at all going without the open door. Already
on many evenings when it was open he had not availed himself of it, but, without the family
noticing, was stretched out in the darkest corner of his room. However, once the cleaning
woman had left the door to the living room slightly ajar, and it remained open even when
the lodgers came in in the evening and the lights were put on. They sat down at the head
of the table, where in earlier days the mother, the father, and Gregor had eaten, unfolded
their serviettes, and picked up their knives and forks. The mother immediately appeared
in the door with a dish of meat and right behind her the sister with a dish piled high
with potatoes. The food gave off a lot of steam. The gentlemen lodgers bent over the
plate set before them, as if they wanted to check it before eating, and in fact the one
who sat in the middle—for the other two he seemed to serve as the authority—cut
off a piece of meat still on the plate obviously to establish whether it was sufficiently tender
and whether or not something should be shipped back to the kitchen. He was satisfied, and
mother and sister, who had looked on in suspense, began to breathe easily and to smile.
The family itself ate in the kitchen. In spite of that, before the father went into the kitchen,
he came into the room and with a single bow, cap in hand, made a tour of the table. The
lodgers rose up collectively and murmured something in their beards. Then, when they
were alone, they ate almost in complete silence. It seemed odd to Gregor that, out of all the
many different sorts of sounds of eating, what was always audible was their chewing
teeth, as if by that Gregor should be shown that people needed their teeth to eat and
that nothing could be done even with the most handsome toothless jawbone. “I really do have
an appetite,” Gregor said to himself sorrowfully, “but not for these things. How these lodgers
stuff themselves, and I am dying.” On this very evening the violin sounded from
the kitchen. Gregor didn’t remember hearing it all through this period. The lodgers had
already ended their night meal, the middle one had pulled out a newspaper and had given
each of the other two a page, and they were now leaning back, reading and smoking. When
the violin started playing, they became attentive, got up, and went on tiptoe to the hall door,
at which they remained standing pressed up against one another. They must have been audible
from the kitchen, because the father called out “Perhaps the gentlemen don’t like the
playing? It can be stopped at once.” “On the contrary,” stated the lodger in the middle,
“might the young woman not come into us and play in the room here, where it is really
much more comfortable and cheerful?” “Oh, thank you,” cried out the father, as if he
were the one playing the violin. The men stepped back into the room and waited. Soon the father
came with the music stand, the mother with the sheet music, and the sister with the violin.
The sister calmly prepared everything for the recital. The parents, who had never previously
rented a room and therefore exaggerated their politeness to the lodgers, dared not sit on
their own chairs. The father leaned against the door, his right hand stuck between two
buttons of his buttoned-up uniform. The mother, however, accepted a chair offered by one lodger.
Since she left the chair sit where the gentleman had chanced to put it, she sat to one side
in a corner. The sister began to play. The father and mother,
one on each side, followed attentively the movements of her hands. Attracted by the playing,
Gregor had ventured to advance a little further forward and his head was already in the living
room. He scarcely wondered about the fact that recently he had had so little consideration
for the others. Earlier this consideration had been something he was proud of. And for
that very reason he would have had at this moment more reason to hide away, because as
a result of the dust which lay all over his room and flew around with the slightest movement,
he was totally covered in dirt. On his back and his sides he carted around with him dust,
threads, hair, and remnants of food. His indifference to everything was much too great for him to
lie on his back and scour himself on the carpet, as he often had done earlier during the day.
In spite of his condition he had no timidity about inching forward a bit on the spotless
floor of the living room. In any case, no one paid him any attention.
The family was all caught up in the violin playing. The lodgers, by contrast, who for
the moment had placed themselves, hands in their trouser pockets, behind the music stand
much too close to the sister, so that they could all see the sheet music, something that
must certainly bother the sister, soon drew back to the window conversing in low voices
with bowed heads, where they then remained, worriedly observed by the father. It now seemed
really clear that, having assumed they were to hear a beautiful or entertaining violin
recital, they were disappointed and were allowing their peace and quiet to be disturbed only
out of politeness. The way in which they all blew the smoke from their cigars out of their
noses and mouths in particular led one to conclude that they were very irritated. And
yet his sister was playing so beautifully. Her face was turned to the side, her gaze
followed the score intently and sadly. Gregor crept forward still a little further, keeping
his head close against the floor in order to be able to catch her gaze if possible.
Was he an animal that music so captivated him? For him it was as if the way to the unknown
nourishment he craved was revealing itself. He was determined to press forward right to
his sister, to tug at her dress, and to indicate to her in this way that she might still come
with her violin into his room, because here no one valued the recital as he wanted to
value it. He did not wish to let her go from his room any more, at least not as long as
he lived. His frightening appearance would for the first time become useful for him.
He wanted to be at all the doors of his room simultaneously and snarl back at the attackers.
However, his sister should not be compelled but would remain with him voluntarily. She
would sit next to him on the sofa, bend down her ear to him, and he would then confide
in her that he firmly intended to send her to the conservatory and that, if his misfortune
had not arrived in the interim, he would have declared all this last Christmas—had Christmas
really already come and gone?—and would have brooked no argument. After this explanation
his sister would break out in tears of emotion, and Gregor would lift himself up to her armpit
and kiss her throat, which she, from the time she started going to work, had left exposed
without a band or a collar. “Mr. Samsa,” called out the middle lodger
to the father and, without uttering a further word, pointed his index finger at Gregor as
he was moving slowly forward. The violin fell silent. The middle lodger smiled, first shaking
his head once at his friends, and then looked down at Gregor once more. Rather than driving
Gregor back again, the father seemed to consider it of prime importance to calm down the lodgers,
although they were not at all upset and Gregor seemed to entertain them more than the violin
recital. The father hurried over to them and with outstretched arms tried to push them
into their own room and simultaneously to block their view of Gregor with his own body.
At this point they became really somewhat irritated, although one no longer knew whether
that was because of the father’s behaviour or because of knowledge they had just acquired
that they had, without knowing it, a neighbour like Gregor. They demanded explanations from
his father, raised their arms to make their points, tugged agitatedly at their beards,
and moved back towards their room quite slowly. In the meantime, the isolation which had suddenly
fallen upon his sister after the sudden breaking off of the recital had overwhelmed her. She
had held onto the violin and bow in her limp hands for a little while and had continued
to look at the sheet music as if she was still playing. All at once she pulled herself together,
placed the instrument in her mother’s lap—the mother was still sitting in her chair having
trouble breathing for her lungs were labouring—and had run into the next room, which the lodgers,
pressured by the father, were already approaching more rapidly. One could observe how under
the sister’s practiced hands the sheets and pillows on the beds were thrown on high and
arranged. Even before the lodgers had reached the room, she was finished fixing the beds
and was slipping out. The father seemed so gripped once again with his stubbornness that
he forgot about the respect which he always owed to his renters. He pressed on and on,
until at the door of the room the middle gentleman stamped loudly with his foot and thus brought
the father to a standstill. “I hereby declare,” the middle lodger said, raising his hand and
casting his glance both on the mother and the sister, “that considering the disgraceful
conditions prevailing in this apartment and family”—with this he spat decisively on
the floor—”I immediately cancel my room. I will, of course, pay nothing at all for
the days which I have lived here; on the contrary I shall think about whether or not I will
initiate some sort of action against you, something which—believe me—will be very
easy to establish.” He fell silent and looked directly in front of him, as if he was waiting
for something. In fact, his two friends immediately joined in with their opinions, “We also give
immediate notice.” At that he seized the door handle, banged the door shut, and locked it.
The father groped his way tottering to his chair and let himself fall in it. It looked
as if he was stretching out for his usual evening snooze, but the heavy nodding of his
head, which looked as if it was without support, showed that he was not sleeping at all. Gregor
had lain motionless the entire time in the spot where the lodgers had caught him. Disappointment
with the collapse of his plan and perhaps also weakness brought on by his severe hunger
made it impossible for him to move. He was certainly afraid that a general disaster would
break over him at any moment, and he waited. He was not even startled when the violin fell
from the mother’s lap, out from under her trembling fingers, and gave off a reverberating
tone. “My dear parents,” said the sister banging
her hand on the table by way of an introduction, “things cannot go on any longer in this way.
Maybe if you don’t understand that, well, I do. I will not utter my brother’s name in
front of this monster, and thus I say only that we must try to get rid of it. We have
tried what is humanly possible to take care of it and to be patient. I believe that no
one can criticize us in the slightest.” “She is right in a thousand ways,” said the father
to himself. The mother, who was still incapable of breathing properly, began to cough numbly
with her hand held up over her mouth and a manic expression in her eyes.
The sister hurried over to her mother and held her forehead. The sister’s words seemed
to have led the father to certain reflections. He sat upright, played with his uniform hat
among the plates, which still lay on the table from the lodgers’ evening meal, and looked
now and then at the motionless Gregor. End of chapter III, part 1. Chapter III, part 2 “We must try to get rid of it,” the sister
now said decisively to the father, for the mother, in her coughing fit, was not listening
to anything. “It is killing you both. I see it coming. When people have to work as hard
as we all do, they cannot also tolerate this endless torment at home. I just can’t go on
any more.” And she broke out into such a crying fit that her tears flowed out down onto her
mother’s face. She wiped them off her mother with mechanical motions of her hands.
“Child,” said the father sympathetically and with obvious appreciation, “then what should
we do?” The sister only shrugged her shoulders as
a sign of the perplexity which, in contrast to her previous confidence, had come over
her while she was crying. “If only he understood us,” said the father
in a semi-questioning tone. The sister, in the midst of her sobbing, shook her hand energetically
as a sign that there was no point thinking of that.
“If he only understood us,” repeated the father and by shutting his eyes he absorbed the sister’s
conviction of the impossibility of this point, “then perhaps some compromise would be possible
with him. But as it is. . .” “It must be gotten rid of,” cried the sister.
“That is the only way, father. You must try to get rid of the idea that this is Gregor.
The fact that we have believed for so long, that is truly our real misfortune. But how
can it be Gregor? If it were Gregor, he would have long ago realized that a communal life
among human beings is not possible with such an animal and would have gone away voluntarily.
Then we would not have a brother, but we could go on living and honour his memory. But this
animal plagues us. It drives away the lodgers, will obviously take over the entire apartment,
and leave us to spend the night in the alley. Just look, father,” she suddenly cried out,
“he’s already starting up again.” With a fright which was totally incomprehensible to Gregor,
the sister even left the mother, pushed herself away from her chair, as if she would sooner
sacrifice her mother than remain in Gregor’s vicinity, and rushed behind her father who,
excited merely by her behaviour, also stood up and half raised his arms in front of the
sister as though to protect her. But Gregor did not have any notion of wishing
to create problems for anyone and certainly not for his sister. He had just started to
turn himself around in order to creep back into his room, quite a startling sight, since,
as a result of his suffering condition, he had to guide himself through the difficulty
of turning around with his head, in this process lifting and banging it against the floor several
times. He paused and looked around. His good intentions seem to have been recognized. The
fright had lasted only for a moment. Now they looked at him in silence and sorrow. His mother
lay in her chair, with her legs stretched out and pressed together; her eyes were almost
shut from weariness. The father and sister sat next to one another. The sister had set
her hands around the father’s neck. “Now perhaps I can actually turn myself around,”
thought Gregor and began the task again. He couldn’t stop puffing at the effort and had
to rest now and then. Besides, no one was urging him on. It was
all left to him on his own. When he had completed turning around, he immediately began to wander
straight back. He was astonished at the great distance which separated him from his room
and did not understand in the least how in his weakness he had covered the same distance
a short time before, almost without noticing it. Constantly intent only on creeping along
quickly, he hardly paid any attention to the fact that no word or cry from his family interrupted
him. Only when he was already in the door did he
turn his head, not completely, because he felt his neck growing stiff. At any rate he
still saw that behind him nothing had changed. Only the sister was standing up. His last
glimpse brushed over the mother who was now completely asleep. Hardly was he inside his
room when the door was pushed shut very quickly, bolted fast, and barred. Gregor was startled
by the sudden commotion behind him, so much so that his little limbs bent double under
him. It was his sister who had been in such a hurry. She had stood up right away, had
waited, and had then sprung forward nimbly. Gregor had not heard anything of her approach.
She cried out “Finally!” to her parents, as she turned the key in the lock.
“What now?” Gregor asked himself and looked around him in the darkness. He soon made the
discovery that he could no longer move at all. He was not surprised at that. On the
contrary, it struck him as unnatural that up to this point he had really been able up
to move around with these thin little legs. Besides he felt relatively content. True,
he had pains throughout his entire body, but it seemed to him that they were gradually
becoming weaker and weaker and would finally go away completely. The rotten apple in his
back and the inflamed surrounding area, entirely covered with white dust, he hardly noticed.
He remembered his family with deep feelings of love. In this business, his own thought
that he had to disappear was, if possible, even more decisive than his sister’s. He remained
in this state of empty and peaceful reflection until the tower clock struck three o’clock
in the morning. From the window he witnessed the beginning of the general dawning outside.
Then without willing it, his head sank all the way down, and from his nostrils flowed
out weakly his last breath. Early in the morning the cleaning woman came.
In her sheer energy and haste she banged all the doors—in precisely the way people had
already asked her to avoid—so much so that once she arrived a quiet sleep was no longer
possible anywhere in the entire apartment. In her customarily brief visit to Gregor she
at first found nothing special. She thought he lay so immobile there because he wanted
to play the offended party. She gave him credit for as complete an understanding as possible.
Since she happened to be holding the long broom in her hand, she tried to tickle Gregor
with it from the door. When that was quite unsuccessful, she became irritated and poked
Gregor a little, and only when she had shoved him from his place without any resistance
did she become attentive. When she quickly realized the true state of affairs, her eyes
grew large, she whistled to herself. However, she didn’t restrain herself for long. She
pulled open the door of the bedroom and yelled in a loud voice into the darkness, “Come and
look. It’s kicked the bucket. It’s lying there, totally snuffed!”
The Samsa married couple sat upright in their marriage bed and had to get over their fright
at the cleaning woman before they managed to grasp her message. But then Mr. and Mrs.
Samsa climbed very quickly out of bed, one on either side. Mr. Samsa threw the bedspread
over his shoulders, Mrs. Samsa came out only in her night-shirt, and like this they stepped
into Gregor’s room. Meanwhile, the door of the living room, in which Grete had slept
since the lodgers had arrived on the scene, had also opened. She was fully clothed, as
if she had not slept at all; her white face also seem to indicate that. “Dead?” said Mrs.
Samsa and looked questioningly at the cleaning woman, although she could check everything
on her own and even understand without a check. “I should say so,” said the cleaning woman
and, by way of proof, poked Gregor’s body with the broom a considerable distance more
to the side. Mrs. Samsa made a movement as if she wished to restrain the broom, but didn’t
do it. “Well,” said Mr. Samsa, “now we can give thanks to God.” He crossed himself, and
the three women followed his example. Grete, who did not take her eyes off the corpse,
said, “Look how thin he was. He had eaten nothing for such a long time. The meals which
came in here came out again exactly the same.” In fact, Gregor’s body was completely flat
and dry. That was apparent really for the first time, now that he was no longer raised
on his small limbs and nothing else distracted one’s gaze.
“Grete, come into us for a moment,” said Mrs. Samsa with a melancholy smile, and Grete went,
not without looking back at the corpse, behind her parents into the bed room. The cleaning
woman shut the door and opened the window wide. In spite of the early morning, the fresh
air was partly tinged with warmth. It was already the end of March.
The three lodgers stepped out of their room and looked around for their breakfast, astonished
that they had been forgotten. “Where is the breakfast?” asked the middle one of the gentlemen
grumpily to the cleaning woman. However, she laid her finger to her lips and then quickly
and silently indicated to the lodgers that they could come into Gregor’s room. So they
came and stood in the room, which was already quite bright, around Gregor’s corpse, their
hands in the pockets of their somewhat worn jackets.
Then the door of the bed room opened, and Mr. Samsa appeared in his uniform, with his
wife on one arm and his daughter on the other. All were a little tear stained. Now and then
Grete pressed her face onto her father’s arm. “Get out of my apartment immediately,” said
Mr. Samsa and pulled open the door, without letting go of the women. “What do you mean?”
said the middle lodger, somewhat dismayed and with a sugary smile. The two others kept
their hands behind them and constantly rubbed them against each other, as if in joyful anticipation
of a great squabble which must end up in their favour. “I mean exactly what I say,” replied
Mr. Samsa and went directly with his two female companions up to the lodger. The latter at
first stood there motionless and looked at the floor, as if matters were arranging themselves
in a new way in his head. “All right, then we’ll go,” he said and looked up at Mr. Samsa
as if, suddenly overcome by humility, he was asking fresh permission for this decision.
Mr. Samsa merely nodded to him repeatedly with his eyes open wide.
Following that, the lodger actually went with long strides immediately out into the hall.
His two friends had already been listening for a while with their hands quite still,
and now they hopped smartly after him, as if afraid that Mr. Samsa could step into the
hall ahead of them and disturb their reunion with their leader. In the hall all three of
them took their hats from the coat rack, pulled their canes from the cane holder, bowed silently,
and left the apartment. In what turned out to be an entirely groundless mistrust, Mr.
Samsa stepped with the two women out onto the landing, leaned against the railing, and
looked over as the three lodgers slowly but steadily made their way down the long staircase,
disappeared on each floor in a certain turn of the stairwell, and in a few seconds came
out again. The deeper they proceeded, the more the Samsa family lost interest in them,
and when a butcher with a tray on his head come to meet them and then with a proud bearing
ascended the stairs high above them, Mr. Samsa., together with the women, left the banister,
and they all returned, as if relieved, back into their apartment.
They decided to pass that day resting and going for a stroll. Not only had they earned
this break from work, but there was no question that they really needed it. And so they sat
down at the table and wrote three letters of apology: Mr. Samsa to his supervisor, Mrs.
Samsa to her client, and Grete to her proprietor. During the writing the cleaning woman came
in to say that she was going off, for her morning work was finished. The three people
writing at first merely nodded, without glancing up. Only when the cleaning woman was still
unwilling to depart, did they look up angrily. “Well?” asked Mr. Samsa. The cleaning woman
stood smiling in the doorway, as if she had a great stroke of luck to report to the family
but would only do it if she was asked directly. The almost upright small ostrich feather in
her hat, which had irritated Mr. Samsa during her entire service, swayed lightly in all
directions. “All right then, what do you really want?” asked Mrs. Samsa, whom the cleaning
lady still usually respected. “Well,” answered the cleaning woman, smiling so happily she
couldn’t go on speaking right away, “about how that rubbish from the next room should
be thrown out, you mustn’t worry about it. It’s all taken care of.” Mrs. Samsa and Grete
bent down to their letters, as though they wanted to go on writing. Mr. Samsa, who noticed
that the cleaning woman wanted to start describing everything in detail, decisively prevented
her with an outstretched hand. But since she was not allowed to explain, she remembered
the great hurry she was in, and called out, clearly insulted, “Bye bye, everyone,” turned
around furiously and left the apartment with a fearful slamming of the door.
“This evening she’ll be let go,” said Mr. Samsa, but he got no answer from either his
wife or from his daughter, because the cleaning woman seemed to have upset once again the
tranquillity they had just attained. They got up, went to the window, and remained there,
with their arms about each other. Mr. Samsa turned around in his chair in their direction
and observed them quietly for a while. Then he called out, “All right, come here then.
Let’s finally get rid of old things. And have a little consideration for me.” The women
attended to him at once. They rushed to him, caressed him, and quickly ended their letters.
Then all three left the apartment together, something they had not done for months now,
and took the electric tram into the open air outside the city. The car in which they were
sitting by themselves was totally engulfed by the warm sun. Leaning back comfortably
in their seats, they talked to each other about future prospects, and they discovered
that on closer observation these were not at all bad, for the three of them had employment,
about which they had not really questioned each other at all, which was extremely favourable
and with especially promising prospects. The greatest improvement in their situation at
this moment, of course, had to come from a change of dwelling. Now they wanted to rent
an apartment smaller and cheaper but better situated and generally more practical than
the present one, which Gregor had found. While they amused themselves in this way, it struck
Mr. and Mrs. Samsa, almost at the same moment, how their daughter, who was getting more animated
all the time, had blossomed recently, in spite of all the troubles which had made her cheeks
pale, into a beautiful and voluptuous young woman. Growing more silent and almost unconsciously
understanding each other in their glances, they thought that the time was now at hand
to seek out a good honest man for her. And it was something of a confirmation of their
new dreams and good intentions when at the end of their journey their daughter got up
first and stretched her young body. End of The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka, translated
by Ian Johnston. Read for LibriVox.org by David Lewis Richardson. Lancashire, England.

100 thoughts on “The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka (Free Audio Book in English Language)

  1. The reading style here as too many inflection points and questioning tone when these are not in the text. A narrative is not dialogue. I'll listen elsewhere.

  2. I think this book is about a guy who forms severe depression or a physical illness that makes him unable to support his family like he used to. He feels guilty for not doing so and the mental or physical illness makes others look down on him, he can't communicate with others and he feels more like a burden than a person.

  3. SPOILER.

    His father was such a fucking bastard. No question he contributed greatly to his death, even though he died greatly from hunger.

  4. Just the initial description of how the change was manifest had me like "Fucking shit, dude…"
    24:27 "With his thin limbs" Hahahahaha
    I found this book emotionally resonated so profoundly within me that I sat and listened to the whole recording, abandoning my previous occupations. It's such a sad thing to realise that this bok was written one hundred and six motherfucking years ago, and that its undeniably jermaine indictment of capitalism and its effect on how we treat the disabled is STILL relevant.
    Fucking disgusting.

  5. WOW! this was such a great read. Hey, lets discuss the theme, climax, author's central idea, what do you think will happen next, what questions you would ask the author and what do you think the reason was for writing this text in your own words. and cite your evidences. For educational purposes of course.

  6. I love how there are "intellectuals" getting so pissed off in the comments at anybody who doesn't share their opinion of the story, lol get a life!!

  7. Kafka was direct in his instructions to his publisher that The Insect, Gregor, is NOT to be portrayed in any way, not illustrated. And here you are shoving a mosquito in there. He was a type of BEETLE, a large one, left to the imagination which species.

  8. This story is kinda boring. I hate that teachers assign students stories like this one and expect them to like it and to be able to understand it.

  9. After finishing the book, I still don't understand how Gregor's family could have treated him so poorly. He is so hardworking and supportive, which is evident by the way he worked long hours every day in order to allow them to live lives of luxury and peace. He clearly loves them. But when he gets turned into a bug, everything changes. I really got mad when he had been a bug for a month and the first time his father sees him he starts throwing apples at him. Like come on?! The sad thing is they all know that the bug is Gregor. Every one of them thinks that at the beginning. They know that it is still their loving son and brother, yet they do not even make efforts to get over their repulsion. Yes, he is a bug. But he's still family. And you are not even going to try to get used to it?! Gregor is the one who is a bug. He is suffering more than all of them. He feels atrocious and useless, and there is nothing for him to do except stay in his room all day. He is systematically mistreated by his family, but he puts up with it and loves them anyway.

    I also like how they just assume that he can't understand them. Like you couldn't ever get over your disgust enough to even try so how do you know?? After the apple incident, Gregor has an apple LODGED IN HIS FLESH THAT SLOWLY KILLS HIM for who knows how long that NO ONE bothers to pull out for him. Like get over it already. He's a bug yes, but you're acting so horribly. The way his family acted sickens me, and I feel so bad for Gregor.

  10. A classic read. It all makes sense. normal (whatever that is ) and abnormal and societies attitude towards it.work the rest out for your self ace writer Kafka. enjoy .such is life👍😎

  11. 🌱Dude,lay of the weed🌱. 🥴🎅🤶🦸‍♂️🦸‍♀️🦹‍♂️🦹‍♀️🧙‍♂️🧙‍♀️🧚‍♂️🧚‍♀️🧛‍♂️🧛‍♀️🧜‍♂️🧜‍♀️🧝‍♂️🧝‍♀️🧞‍♂️🧞‍♀️🧟‍♂️🧟‍♀️🕺💃👯‍♂️👯‍♀️🤷‍♂️🤷‍♀️🏃‍♂️🐕💨😩🤒🥴🤢🤮

  12. Lois Chance, a millennial with big dreams stuck in the monotony of every day life. Driven and deluded. As her age increases so does her frustration and desire for more. She wants what she doesn’t have, but what will she do to get it?

    Chapter one:
    https://youtu.be/qmDTvmL_b7Y
    Chapter two & three
    https://youtu.be/dlnkY1U-W78

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