Metamorphosis and other.., p.14
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       Metamorphosis and Other Stories, p.14
 

           Franz Kafka
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  ‘If only he understood us,’ the father repeated, by closing his eyes accepting the sister’s conviction of the impossibility of it, ‘then we might come to some sort of settlement with him. But as it is …’

  ‘We must get rid of it,’ cried the sister again, ‘that’s the only thing for it, Father. You just have to put from your mind any thought that it’s Gregor. Our continuing to think that it was, for such a long time, therein lies the source of our misfortune. But how can it be Gregor? If it was Gregor, he would long ago have seen that it’s impossible for human beings to live together with an animal like that, and he would have left of his own free will. That would have meant I didn’t have a brother, but we at least could go on with our lives, and honour his memory. But as it is, this animal hounds us, drives away the tenants, evidently wants to take over the whole flat, and throw us out on to the street. Look, Father,’ she suddenly broke into a scream, ‘he’s coming again!’ And in an access of terror wholly incomprehensible to Gregor, his sister even quit her mother, actually pushing herself away from her chair, as though she would rather sacrifice her mother than remain anywhere near Gregor, and dashed behind her father, who, purely on the basis of her agitation, got to his feet and half-raised his arms to shield the sister.

  Meanwhile, Gregor of course didn’t have the least intention of frightening anyone, and certainly not his sister. He had merely begun to turn around, to make his way back to his room, which was a somewhat laborious and eye-catching process, as, in consequence of his debility he needed his head to help with such difficult manoeuvres, raising it many times and bashing it against the floor. He stopped and looked around. His good intentions seemed to have been acknowledged; it had just been a momentary fright he had given them. Now they all looked at him sadly and silently. There lay his mother in her armchair, with her legs stretched out and pressed together, her eyes almost falling shut with fatigue; his father and sister were sitting side by side, his sister having placed her hand on her father’s neck.

  ‘Well, maybe they’ll let me turn around now,’ thought Gregor, and recommenced the manoeuvre. He was unable to suppress the odd grunt of effort, and needed to take periodic rests as well. But nobody interfered with him, and he was allowed to get on with it by himself. Once he had finished his turn, he straightaway set off wandering back. He was struck by the great distance that seemed to separate him from his room, and was unable to understand how, in his enfeebled condition, he had just a little while ago covered the same distance, almost without noticing. Intent on making the most rapid progress he could, he barely noticed that no word, no exclamation from his family distracted him. Only when he was in the doorway did he turn his head, not all the way, as his neck felt a little stiff, but even so he was able to see that behind him nothing had changed, only that his sister had got up. His last look lingered upon his mother, who was fast asleep.

  No sooner was he in his room than the door was pushed shut behind him, and locked and bolted. The sudden noise so alarmed Gregor that his little legs gave way beneath him. It was his sister who had been in such a hurry. She had been already standing on tiptoe, waiting, and had then light-footedly leaped forward. Gregor hadn’t even heard her until she cried ‘At last!’ as she turned the key in the lock.

  ‘What now?’ wondered Gregor, and looked around in the dark. He soon made the discovery that he could no longer move. It came as no surprise to him; if anything, it seemed inexplicable that he had been able to get as far as he had on his frail little legs. Otherwise, he felt as well as could be expected. He did have pains all over his body, but he felt they were gradually abating, and would finally cease altogether. The rotten apple in his back and the inflammation all round it, which was entirely coated with a soft dust, he barely felt any more. He thought back on his family with devotion and love. His conviction that he needed to disappear was, if anything, still firmer than his sister’s. He remained in this condition of empty and peaceful reflection until the church clock struck three a.m. The last thing he saw was the sky gradually lightening outside his window. Then his head involuntarily dropped, and his final breath passed feebly from his nostrils.

  When the charwoman came early in the morning – so powerful was she, and in such a hurry, that, even though she had repeatedly been asked not to, she slammed all the doors so hard that sleep was impossible after her coming – she at first found nothing out of the ordinary when she paid her customary brief call on Gregor. She thought he was lying there immobile on purpose, and was playing at being offended; in her opinion, he was capable of all sorts of understanding. Because she happened to be holding the long broom, she tried to tickle Gregor away from the doorway. When that bore no fruit, she grew irritable, and jabbed Gregor with the broom, and only when she had moved him from the spot without any resistance on his part did she take notice. When she understood what the situation was, her eyes went large and round, she gave a half-involuntary whistle, didn’t stay longer, but tore open the door of the bedroom and loudly called into the darkness: ‘Have a look, it’s gone and perished; it’s lying there, and it’s perished!’

  The Samsas sat up in bed, and had trouble overcoming their shock at the charwoman’s appearance in their room, before even beginning to register the import of what she was saying. But then Mr and Mrs Samsa hurriedly climbed out of bed, each on his or her respective side, Mr Samsa flinging a blanket over his shoulders, Mrs Samsa coming along just in her nightdress; and so they stepped into Gregor’s room. By now the door from the living room had been opened as well, where Grete had slept ever since the tenants had come; she was fully dressed, as if she hadn’t slept at all, and her pale face seemed to confirm that. ‘Dead?’ said Mrs Samsa, and looked questioningly up at the charwoman, even though she was in a position to check it all herself, and in fact could have seen it without needing to check. ‘I should say so,’ said the charwoman and, by way of proof, with her broom pushed Gregor’s body across the floor a ways. Mrs Samsa moved as though to restrain the broom, but did not do so. ‘Ah,’ said Mr Samsa, ‘now we can give thanks to God.’ He crossed himself, and the three women followed his example. Grete, not taking her eye off the body, said: ‘Look how thin he had become. He stopped eating such a long time ago. I brought food in and took it out, and it was always untouched.’ Indeed, Gregor’s body was utterly flat and desiccated – only so apparent now that he was no longer up on his little legs, and there was nothing else to distract the eye.

  ‘Come in with us a bit, Grete,’ said Mrs Samsa with a melancholy smile, and, not without turning back to look at the corpse, Grete followed her parents into the bedroom. The charwoman shut the door and opened the window as far as it would go. In spite of the early hour, there was already something sultry in the morning air. It was, after all, the end of March.

  The three tenants emerged from their room and looked around for their breakfast in outrage; they had been forgotten about. ‘Where’s our breakfast?’ the middle gentleman sulkily asked the charwoman. She replied by setting her finger to her lips, and then quickly and silently beckoning the gentlemen into Gregor’s room. They followed and with their hands in the pockets of their somewhat shiny little jackets stood around Gregor’s body in the bright sunny room.

  The door from the bedroom opened, and Mr Samsa appeared in his uniform, with his wife on one arm and his daughter on the other. All were a little teary; from time to time Grete pressed her face against her father’s arm.

  ‘Leave my house at once!’ said Mr Samsa, and pointed to the door, without relinquishing the women. ‘How do you mean?’ said the middle gentleman, with a little consternation, and smiled a saccharine smile. The other two kept their hands behind their backs and rubbed them together incessantly, as if in the happy expectation of a great scene, which was sure to end well for them. ‘I mean just exactly what I said,’ replied Mr Samsa, and with his two companions, walked straight towards the tenant. To begin with the tenant stood his ground, and looked at the floor, as if the things in his head were recombining
in some new arrangement. ‘Well, I suppose we’d better go then,’ he said, and looked up at Mr Samsa, as if he required authority for this novel humility. Mr Samsa merely nodded curtly at him with wide eyes. Thereupon the gentleman did indeed swing into the hallway with long strides; his two friends had been listening for a little while, their hands laid to rest, and now skipped after him, as if afraid Mr Samsa might get to the hallway before them, and cut them off from their leader. In the hallway all three took their hats off the hatstand, pulled their canes out of the umbrella holder, bowed silently, and left the flat. Informed by what turned out to be a wholly unjustified suspicion, Mr Samsa and his womenfolk stepped out on to the landing; leaning against the balustrade, they watched the three gentlemen proceeding slowly but evenly down the long flight of stairs, disappearing on each level into a certain twist of the stairwell and emerging a couple of seconds later; the further they descended, the less interest the Samsa family took in their progress, and when a butcher’s apprentice passed them and eventually climbed up much higher with his tray on his head, Mr Samsa and the women left the balustrade altogether, and all turned back, with relief, into their flat.

  They decided to use the day to rest and to go for a walk; not only had they earned a break from work, but they stood in dire need of one. And so they all sat down at the table, and wrote three separate letters of apology – Mr Samsa to the board of his bank, Mrs Samsa to her haberdasher, and Grete to her manager. While they were so engaged, the charwoman came in to say she was leaving, because her morning’s tasks were done. The three writers at first merely nodded without looking up, and only when the charwoman made no move to leave did they look up in some irritation. ‘Well?’ asked Mr Samsa. The charwoman stood smiling in the doorway, as though she had some wonderful surprise to tell the family about, but would only do so if asked expressly about it. The almost vertical ostrich feather in her hat, which had annoyed Mr Samsa the whole time she had been working for them, teetered in every direction. ‘So what is it you want?’ asked Mrs Samsa, who was the person most likely to command respect from the charwoman. ‘Well,’ replied the charwoman, and her happy laughter kept her from speaking, ‘well, just to say, you don’t have to worry about how to get rid of the thing next door. I’ll take care of it.’ Mrs Samsa and Grete inclined their heads over their letters, as if to go on writing; Mr Samsa, who noticed that the woman was about to embark on a more detailed description of everything, put up a hand to cut her off. Being thus debarred from speaking, she remembered the great rush she was in, and, evidently piqued, called out, ‘Well, so long everyone’, spun round and left the apartment with a terrible slamming of doors.

  ‘I’m letting her go this evening,’ said Mr Samsa, but got no reply from wife or daughter, because the reference to the charwoman seemed to have disturbed their concentration, no sooner than it had returned. The two women rose, went over to the window, and stayed there, holding one another in an embrace. Mr Samsa turned towards them in his chair, and watched them in silence for a while. Then he called: ‘Well now, come over here. Leave that old business. And pay a little attention to me.’ The women came straightaway, caressed him, and finished their letters.

  Then the three of them all together left the flat, which was something they hadn’t done for months, and took the tram to the park at the edge of the city. The carriage in which they sat was flooded with warm sunshine. Sitting back comfortably in their seats, they discussed the prospects for the future; it turned out that on closer inspection these were not at all bad, because the work of all of them, which they had yet to talk about properly, was proceeding in a very encouraging way, particularly in regard to future prospects. The greatest alleviation of the situation must be produced by moving house; they would take a smaller, cheaper, but also better situated and more practical apartment than their present one, which Gregor had found for them. While they were talking in these terms, almost at one and the same time Mr and Mrs Samsa noticed their increasingly lively daughter, the way that of late, in spite of the trouble that had made her cheeks pale, she had bloomed into an attractive and well-built girl. Falling silent, and communicating almost unconsciously through glances, they thought it was about time to find a suitable husband for her. And it felt like a confirmation of their new dreams and their fond intentions when, as they reached their destination, their daughter was the first to get up, and stretched her nubile young body.

  In the Penal Colony

  ‘It is a strange piece of equipment,’ said the officer to the travelling researcher, and with a certain air of admiration he surveyed the equipment with which he must certainly be familiar. The traveller seemed to have taken up the commandant’s invitation merely out of politeness, when he asked him if he would like to be present at the execution of a soldier, who had been condemned for insubordination and insulting an officer. Interest in the execution seemed not to be that great in the penal colony either. The only other persons present in the deep, sandy little valley, ringed by bare slopes, apart from the officer and the traveller, were the condemned man himself, a stupid-looking, dishevelled, slack-mouthed fellow, and a soldier who was holding the heavy chain to which smaller chains had been made fast that secured the condemned man by the wrists and ankles and neck, and that were connected one to another by further chains. The condemned man looked so doggishly submissive, it really seemed as if one might allow him to roam the slopes freely, and only needed to whistle when it was time for the execution, and he would come.

  The traveller had little use for the machine, and with an almost ostentatious indifference paraded back and forth behind the condemned man, while the officer saw to the last preparations, now crawling underneath the machine (whose foundations were sunk deep in the ground), now climbing a ladder to inspect some of its upper parts. These jobs seemed as though they might have been left to a mechanic, but the officer performed them with great enthusiasm, whether he was a particular devotee of the machine, or whether for some other reasons, these tasks couldn’t be entrusted to any other person. ‘Everything’s ready now!’ he finally called, and climbed down from the ladder. He was quite shattered, was breathing hard through his open mouth, and had stuffed a couple of ladies’ cambric handkerchiefs down the collar of his uniform. ‘Those uniforms are much too heavy for the tropics,’ said the traveller, instead of asking, as the officer might have expected, about the machine. ‘True,’ said the officer, and washed his greasy, oily hands in a bucket of water standing by for the purpose, ‘but to us they signify home, and we don’t want to lose touch with home. – As for the machine,’ he went on to add, drying his hands on a rag, and simultaneously pointing to the machine, ‘up to this point, I’ve had to take a hand myself, but from here on in the machine works automatically.’ The traveller nodded and followed the officer, who, to insure himself against any possible eventualities, then conceded: ‘Of course, there are occasional malfunctions; I hope we shan’t experience any today, but we have to allow for the possibility. After all, the machine has to operate for twelve hours non-stop. At least, if there are any malfunctions, they are usually very minor, and can be taken care of immediately.’

  ‘Don’t you want to sit down?’ he asked at last, reached into a tangle of bamboo chairs, pulled one out, and offered it to the traveller, who felt unable to refuse. He found himself sitting at the edge of a pit, into which he cast a glance. It wasn’t a very deep pit. On one side, the earth had been formed into a kind of rampart, on the other side was the machine. ‘I don’t know,’ the officer said, ‘whether the commandant has explained the machine to you yet.’ The traveller made a gesture with his hands that might be taken either way; the officer asked for nothing more, because now he was able to explain the machine himself. ‘This machine,’ he began, and reached for a strut on which he supported himself, ‘this machine was the brainchild of our previous commandant. I was involved in the project from the very first trials, and worked on every stage to its completion. Credit for the invention, however, is his alone. Did you hear of
our previous commandant? No? Well, I don’t think I’m going too far if I say that the organization of the entire penal colony is his work. At the time of his death, we, his friends, already knew that the organization was so seamlessly efficient that his successor, even if he had a thousand new plans in his head, would be unable to change anything of the old design. And our prediction has been borne out, too; the new commandant has had to acknowledge its truth. It’s really too bad that you never got to meet the previous commandant! — However,’ the officer brought himself up short, ‘here I am gabbling away, and his machine is in front of us it consists, as you will see, of three parts. Over time, each one has acquired a sort of popular nickname. Thus, the lowest part is called the bed, the top part is the engraver, and the suspended part here in the middle is the harrow.’ ‘The harrow?’ asked the traveller. He hadn’t been paying complete attention; the sun was too strong in the unshaded valley; it was hard to concentrate one’s attention. The officer now seemed the more admirable to him, in his tight-fitting parade uniform, weighed down with epaulettes, hung with braid, enlarging so enthusiastically on his theme, and even, while he spoke, pulling out a wrench and tightening the odd bolt. The soldier seemed to be in a similar condition to the traveller. He had wrapped the condemned man’s chain round both his wrists, was propping himself up on his rifle with one hand, had let his head loll back, and was taking no interest in anything around him. The traveller wasn’t surprised, as the officer was speaking in French, and French was a language neither the soldier nor the condemned man could possibly have understood. This made it all the more surprising that the condemned man was trying hard to follow the officer’s explanations. With a kind of sleepy persistence he looked wherever the officer pointed, and when the latter was interrupted by a question from the traveller, he, as much as the officer, turned to look at him.

 
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