(Original cover of The Metamorphoses)
Well … perhaps not the book. Most of what Kafka wrote was not published in his lifetime. Of course, most of what Kafka wrote did not survive his lifetime. It is estimated that be burned 60%-75% of all that he actually wrote.
But, one of the books he did have published was The Metamorphosis. He took such an interest in it that he made special requests about the cover art. He wished that the vermin into which Gregor Samsa turned, not be depicted on the cover. He was adamant about it. His wish has not been kept over the decades, but there isn’t much you can do once you are dead.
This came to mind when, yesterday, I passed a book store offering various discounts and bargains. Three books for $16 – that sort of thing. And, a vast array of books, from Tom Sawyer to contemporary thrillers to scientific non-fiction.
But, on a prominent corner shelf, was a stack of Kafka’s The Metamorphosis. Hardback. Published last year in Britain. Going for $15. A plain, brown cover with no book jacket. Author and Title. That was it.
And, the thing is, I was tempted to buy it.
I imagine I have read the story ten to a dozen times. Over the years I have had three or four copies. I am slowly divesting myself of more and more possessions. Yet, I gave it a good look-over. Clean pages. Easy to read. No cramped text. No illustrations.
It would have made Kafka proud.