Whatever your mother is going to tell you about Kafka when you are 12 years old, you will never forget it. That was a very thin book with a bizarre picture of a giant bug with a human head. “That”, my mother told me, “is the only book that really frightened me and caused one whole week of nightmares”.
All forgotten, of course, until three or four years later I opened Metamorphosis (it was a damp, dusky day) and started reading. To this day, it remains the only work of fiction longer than a short story that I read without ever looking away from the page. I don’t think I moved an inch, either.
And I had a chance to think of it just the other day as I was discussing the most disturbing reading experience I’ve ever had. And believe me, I’ve had many.
Metamorphosis is a singular book, and it’s the serenity of Kafka’s style (I’ve always questioned people who call him complicated or incomprehensible – who, Kafka?!?!), the natural way in which he confronts the unnatural situation, that makes it so unsettling and so unlike any other book ever written. I guess it won’t work for every imagination out there – but if you do get it, and get it you should, it won’t ever leave your head.
Not such a bad place for a book to be. Who knows, you might even tell your kids about it – when they are 12 years old or something.