Metamorphosis Jackson

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Metamorphosis Jackson

Transcript of Metamorphosis Jackson

  • Metamorphosis



  • The PressBooks version of The Metamorphosis, by Franz Kafka.

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    O ne morning, when Gregor Samsa woke from troubleddreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into ahorrible vermin. He lay on his armour-like back, and if helifted his head a little he could see his brown belly, slightlydomed and divided by arches into stiff sections. The bed-ding was hardly able to cover it and seemed ready to slideoff any moment. His many legs, pitifully thin comparedwith the size of the rest of him, waved about helplessly ashe looked.

    Whats happened to me? he thought. It wasnt adream. His room, a proper human room although a littletoo small, lay peacefully between its four familiar walls. Acollection of textile samples lay spread out on the table Samsa was a travelling salesman and above it there hunga picture that he had recently cut out of an illustrated mag-azine and housed in a nice, gilded frame. It showed a ladyfitted out with a fur hat and fur boa who sat upright, rais-ing a heavy fur muff that covered the whole of her lowerarm towards the viewer.

    Gregor then turned to look out the window at the dullweather. Drops of rain could be heard hitting the pane,which made him feel quite sad. How about if I sleep a


  • little bit longer and forget all this nonsense, he thought,but that was something he was unable to do because hewas used to sleeping on his right, and in his present statecouldnt get into that position. However hard he threwhimself onto his right, he always rolled back to where hewas. He must have tried it a hundred times, shut his eyesso that he wouldnt have to look at the floundering legs,and only stopped when he began to feel a mild, dull painthere that he had never felt before.

    Oh, God, he thought, what a strenuous career itis that Ive chosen! Travelling day in and day out. Doingbusiness like this takes much more effort than doing yourown business at home, and on top of that theres the curseof travelling, worries about making train connections, badand irregular food, contact with different people all thetime so that you can never get to know anyone or becomefriendly with them. It can all go to Hell! He felt a slightitch up on his belly; pushed himself slowly up on his backtowards the headboard so that he could lift his head better;found where the itch was, and saw that it was covered withlots of little white spots which he didnt know what tomake of; and when he tried to feel the place with one of hislegs he drew it quickly back because as soon as he touchedit he was overcome by a cold shudder.

    He slid back into his former position. Getting up earlyall the time, he thought, it makes you stupid. Youve gotto get enough sleep. Other travelling salesmen live a lifeof luxury. For instance, whenever I go back to the guesthouse during the morning to copy out the contract, thesegentlemen are always still sitting there eating their break-fasts. I ought to just try that with my boss; Id get kickedout on the spot. But who knows, maybe that would bethe best thing for me. If I didnt have my parents to think

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  • about Id have given in my notice a long time ago, Id havegone up to the boss and told him just what I think, tellhim everything I would, let him know just what I feel. Hedfall right off his desk! And its a funny sort of business tobe sitting up there at your desk, talking down at your sub-ordinates from up there, especially when you have to goright up close because the boss is hard of hearing. Well,theres still some hope; once Ive got the money together topay off my parents debt to him another five or six yearsI suppose thats definitely what Ill do. Thats when Illmake the big change. First of all though, Ive got to get up,my train leaves at five.

    And he looked over at the alarm clock, ticking on thechest of drawers. God in Heaven! he thought. It was halfpast six and the hands were quietly moving forwards, itwas even later than half past, more like quarter to seven.Had the alarm clock not rung? He could see from the bedthat it had been set for four oclock as it should have been;it certainly must have rung. Yes, but was it possible to qui-etly sleep through that furniture-rattling noise? True, hehad not slept peacefully, but probably all the more deeplybecause of that. What should he do now? The next trainwent at seven; if he were to catch that he would have torush like mad and the collection of samples was still notpacked, and he did not at all feel particularly fresh andlively. And even if he did catch the train he would notavoid his bosss anger as the office assistant would havebeen there to see the five oclock train go, he would haveput in his report about Gregors not being there a longtime ago. The office assistant was the bosss man, spineless,and with no understanding. What about if he reportedsick? But that would be extremely strained and suspiciousas in fifteen years of service Gregor had never once yet

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  • been ill. His boss would certainly come round with thedoctor from the medical insurance company, accuse hisparents of having a lazy son, and accept the doctors rec-ommendation not to make any claim as the doctorbelieved that no-one was ever ill but that many were work-shy. And whats more, would he have been entirely wrongin this case? Gregor did in fact, apart from excessive sleepi-ness after sleeping for so long, feel completely well andeven felt much hungrier than usual.

    He was still hurriedly thinking all this through, unableto decide to get out of the bed, when the clock struck quar-ter to seven. There was a cautious knock at the door nearhis head. Gregor, somebody called it was his mother its quarter to seven. Didnt you want to go somewhere?That gentle voice! Gregor was shocked when he heard hisown voice answering, it could hardly be recognised as thevoice he had had before. As if from deep inside him, therewas a painful and uncontrollable squeaking mixed in withit, the words could be made out at first but then there wasa sort of echo which made them unclear, leaving the hearerunsure whether he had heard properly or not. Gregor hadwanted to give a full answer and explain everything, butin the circumstances contented himself with saying: Yes,mother, yes, thank-you, Im getting up now. The changein Gregors voice probably could not be noticed outsidethrough the wooden door, as his mother was satisfied withthis explanation and shuffled away. But this short conver-sation made the other members of the family aware thatGregor, against their expectations was still at home, andsoon his father came knocking at one of the side doors,gently, but with his fist. Gregor, Gregor, he called,whats wrong? And after a short while he called againwith a warning deepness in his voice: Gregor! Gregor!

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  • At the other side door his sister came plaintively: Gregor?Arent you well? Do you need anything? Gregoranswered to both sides: Im ready, now, making an effortto remove all the strangeness from his voice by enunciat-ing very carefully and putting long pauses between each,individual word. His father went back to his breakfast, buthis sister whispered: Gregor, open the door, I beg of you.Gregor, however, had no thought of opening the door,and instead congratulated himself for his cautious habit,acquired from his travelling, of locking all doors at nighteven when he was at home.

    The first thing he wanted to do was to get up in peacewithout being disturbed, to get dressed, and most of allto have his breakfast. Only then would he consider whatto do next, as he was well aware that he would not bringhis thoughts to any sensible conclusions by lying in bed.He remembered that he had often felt a slight pain in bed,perhaps caused by lying awkwardly, but that had alwaysturned out to be pure imagination and he wondered howhis imaginings would slowly resolve themselves today. Hedid not have the slightest doubt that the change in hisvoice was nothing more than the first sign of a seriouscold, which was an occupational hazard for travellingsalesmen.

    It was a simple matter to throw off the covers; he onlyhad to blow himself up a little and they fell off by them-selves. But it became difficult after that, especially as hewas so exceptionally broad. He would have used his armsand his hands to push himself up; but instead of them heonly had all those little legs continuously moving in dif-ferent directions, and which he was moreover unable tocontrol. If he wanted to bend one of them, then that wasthe first one that would stretch itself out; and if he finally

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  • managed to do what he wanted with that leg, all the oth-ers seemed to be set free and would move about painfully.This is something that cant be done in bed, Gregor saidto himself, so dont keep trying to do it.

    The first thing he wanted to do was get the lower partof his body out of the bed, but he had never seen thislower part, and could not imagine what it looked like; itturned out to be too hard to move; it went so slowly; andfinally, almost in a frenzy, when he carelessly shoved him-self forwards with all the force he could gather, he chosethe wrong direction, hit hard against the lower bedpost,and learned from the burning pain he felt that the lowerpart of his body might well, at present, be the most sensi-tive.

    So then he tried to get the top part of his body out ofthe bed first, carefully turning his head to the side. Thishe managed quite easily, and despite its breadth and itsweight, the bulk of his body eventually followed slowly inthe direction of the head. But when he had at last got hishead out of the bed and into the fresh air it occurred tohim that if he let himself fall it would be a miracle if hishead were not injured, so he became afraid to carry onpushing himself forward the same way. And he could notknock himself out now at any price; better to stay in bedthan lose consciousness.

    It took just as much effort to get back to where he hadbeen earlier, but when he lay there sighing, and was oncemore watching his legs as they struggled against each othereven harder than before, if that was possible, he couldthink of no way of bringing peace and order to this chaos.He told himself once more that it was not possible for himto stay in bed and that the most sensible thing to do wouldbe to get free of it in whatever way he could at whatever

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  • sacrifice. At the same time, though, he did not forget toremind himself that calm consideration was much betterthan rushing to desperate conclusions. At times like thishe would direct his eyes to the window and look out asclearly as he could, but unfortunately, even the other sideof the narrow street was enveloped in morning fog and theview had little confidence or cheer to offer him. Sevenoclock, already, he said to himself when the clock struckagain, seven oclock, and theres still a fog like this. Andhe lay there quietly a while longer, breathing lightly as ifhe perhaps expected the total stillness to bring things backto their real and natural state.

    But then he said to himself: Before it strikes quarterpast seven Ill definitely have to have got properly out ofbed. And by then somebody will have come round fromwork to ask whats happened to me as well, as they openup at work before seven oclock. And so he set himselfto the task of swinging the entire length of his body outof the bed all at the same time. If he succeeded in fallingout of bed in this way and kept his head raised as he didso he could probably avoid injuring it. His back seemed tobe quite hard, and probably nothing would happen to itfalling onto the carpet. His main concern was for the loudnoise he was bound to make, and which even through allthe doors would probably raise concern if not alarm. But itwas something that had to be risked.

    When Gregor was already sticking half way out of thebed the new method was more of a game than an effort,all he had to do was rock back and forth it occurred tohim how simple everything would be if somebody cameto help him. Two strong people he had his father andthe maid in mind would have been more than enough;they would only have to push their arms under the dome

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  • of his back, peel him away from the bed, bend down withthe load and then be patient and careful as he swang overonto the floor, where, hopefully, the little legs would finda use. Should he really call for help though, even apartfrom the fact that all the doors were locked? Despite all thedifficulty he was in, he could not suppress a smile at thisthought.

    After a while he had already moved so far across thatit would have been hard for him to keep his balance if herocked too hard. The time was now ten past seven and hewould have to make a final decision very soon. Then therewas a ring at the door of the flat. Thatll be someone fromwork, he said to himself, and froze very still, although hislittle legs only became all the more lively as they dancedaround. For a moment everything remained quiet.Theyre not opening the door, Gregor said to himself,caught in some nonsensical hope. But then of course, themaids firm steps went to the door as ever and openedit. Gregor only needed to hear the visitors first words ofgreeting and he knew who it was the chief clerk himself.Why did Gregor have to be the only one condemned towork for a company where they immediately becamehighly suspicious at the slightest shortcoming? Were allemployees, every one of them, louts, was there not one ofthem who was faithful and devoted who would go so madwith pangs of conscience that he couldnt get out of bed ifhe didnt spend at least a couple of hours in the morningon company business? Was it really not enough to let oneof the trainees make enquiries assuming enquiries wereeven necessary did the chief clerk have to come himself,and did they have to show the whole, innocent family thatthis was so suspicious that only the chief clerk could betrusted to have the wisdom to investigate it? And more

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  • because these thoughts had made him upset than throughany proper decision, he swang himself with all his forceout of the bed. There was a loud thump, but it wasnt reallya loud noise. His fall was softened a little by the carpet, andGregors back was also more elastic than he had thought,which made the sound muffled and not too noticeable. Hehad not held his head carefully enough, though, and hit itas he fell; annoyed and in pain, he turned it and rubbed itagainst the carpet.

    Somethings fallen down in there, said the chief clerkin the room on the left. Gregor tried to imagine whethersomething of the sort that had happened to him todaycould ever happen to the chief clerk too; you had to con-cede that it was possible. But as if in gruff reply to thisquestion, the chief clerks firm footsteps in his highly pol-ished boots could now be heard in the adjoining room.From the room on his right, Gregors sister whispered tohim to let him know: Gregor, the chief clerk is here.Yes, I know, said Gregor to himself; but without daringto raise his voice loud enough for his sister to hear him.

    Gregor, said his father now from the room to hisleft, the chief clerk has come round and wants to knowwhy you didnt leave on the early train. We dont knowwhat to say to him. And anyway, he wants to speak toyou personally. So please open up this door. Im sure hellbe good enough to forgive the untidiness of your room.Then the chief clerk called Good morning, Mr. Samsa.He isnt well, said his mother to the chief clerk, while hisfather continued to speak through the door. He isnt well,please believe me. Why else would Gregor have misseda train! The lad only ever thinks about the business. Itnearly makes me cross the way he never goes out in theevenings; hes been in town for a week now but stayed

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  • home every evening. He sits with us in the kitchen andjust reads the paper or studies train timetables. His idea ofrelaxation is working with his fretsaw. Hes made a littleframe, for instance, it only took him two or three evenings,youll be amazed how nice it is; its hanging up in his room;youll see it as soon as Gregor opens the door. Anyway,Im glad youre here; we wouldnt have been able to getGregor to open the door by ourselves; hes so stubborn;and Im sure he isnt well, he said this morning that heis, but he isnt. Ill be there in a moment, said Gregorslowly and thoughtfully, but without moving so that hewould not miss any word of the conversation. Well I cantthink of any other way of explaining it, Mrs. Samsa, saidthe chief clerk, I hope its nothing serious. But on theother hand, I must say that if we people in commerce everbecome slightly unwell then, fortunately or unfortunatelyas you like, we simply have to overcome it because of busi-ness considerations. Can the chief clerk come in to seeyou now then?, asked his father impatiently, knocking atthe door again. No, said Gregor. In the room on his rightthere followed a painful silence; in the room on his left hissister began to cry.

    So why did his sister not go and join the others? Shehad probably only just got up and had not even begun toget dressed. And why was she crying? Was it because hehad not got up, and had not let the chief clerk in, becausehe was in danger of losing his job and if that happened hisboss would once more pursue their parents with the samedemands as before? There was no need to worry aboutthings like that yet. Gregor was still there and had notthe slightest intention of abandoning his family. For thetime being he just lay there on the carpet, and no-onewho knew the condition he was in would seriously have

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  • expected him to let the chief clerk in. It was only a minordiscourtesy, and a suitable excuse could easily be foundfor it later on, it was not something for which Gregorcould be sacked on the spot. And it seemed to Gregormuch more sensible to leave him now in peace instead ofdisturbing him with talking at him and crying. But theothers didnt know what was happening, they were wor-ried, that would excuse their behaviour.

    The chief clerk now raised his voice, Mr. Samsa, hecalled to him, what is wrong? You barricade yourself inyour room, give us no more than yes or no for an answer,you are causing serious and unnecessary concern to yourparents and you fail and I mention this just by the way you fail to carry out your business duties in a way that isquite unheard of. Im speaking here on behalf of your par-ents and of your employer, and really must request a clearand immediate explanation. I am astonished, quite aston-ished. I thought I knew you as a calm and sensible per-son, and now you suddenly seem to be showing off withpeculiar whims. This morning, your employer did suggesta possible reason for your failure to appear, its true it hadto do with the money that was recently entrusted to you but I came near to giving him my word of honour that thatcould not be the right explanation. But now that I see yourincomprehensible stubbornness I no longer feel any wishwhatsoever to intercede on your behalf. And nor is yourposition all that secure. I had originally intended to say allthis to you in private, but since you cause me to waste mytime here for no good reason I dont see why your parentsshould not also learn of it. Your turnover has been veryunsatisfactory of late; I grant you that its not the time ofyear to do especially good business, we recognise that; but

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  • there simply is no time of year to do no business at all, Mr.Samsa, we cannot allow there to be.

    But Sir, called Gregor, beside himself and forgettingall else in the excitement, Ill open up immediately, justa moment. Im slightly unwell, an attack of dizziness, Ihavent been able to get up. Im still in bed now. Im quitefresh again now, though. Im just getting out of bed. Justa moment. Be patient! Its not quite as easy as Id thought.Im quite alright now, though. Its shocking, what can sud-denly happen to a person! I was quite alright last night,my parents know about it, perhaps better than me, I hada small symptom of it last night already. They must havenoticed it. I dont know why I didnt let you know at work!But you always think you can get over an illness withoutstaying at home. Please, dont make my parents suffer!Theres no basis for any of the accusations youre making;nobodys ever said a word to me about any of these things.Maybe you havent read the latest contracts I sent in. Illset off with the eight oclock train, as well, these few hoursof rest have given me strength. You dont need to wait, sir;Ill be in the office soon after you, and please be so good asto tell that to the boss and recommend me to him!

    And while Gregor gushed out these words, hardlyknowing what he was saying, he made his way over to thechest of drawers this was easily done, probably becauseof the practise he had already had in bed where he nowtried to get himself upright. He really did want to openthe door, really did want to let them see him and to speakwith the chief clerk; the others were being so insistent, andhe was curious to learn what they would say when theycaught sight of him. If they were shocked then it wouldno longer be Gregors responsibility and he could rest. If,however, they took everything calmly he would still have

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  • no reason to be upset, and if he hurried he really could beat the station for eight oclock. The first few times he triedto climb up on the smooth chest of drawers he just sliddown again, but he finally gave himself one last swing andstood there upright; the lower part of his body was in seri-ous pain but he no longer gave any attention to it. Now helet himself fall against the back of a nearby chair and heldtightly to the edges of it with his little legs. By now he hadalso calmed down, and kept quiet so that he could listen towhat the chief clerk was saying.

    Did you understand a word of all that? the chiefclerk asked his parents, surely hes not trying to makefools of us. Oh, God! called his mother, who wasalready in tears, he could be seriously ill and were mak-ing him suffer. Grete! Grete! she then cried. Mother?his sister called from the other side. They communicatedacross Gregors room. Youll have to go for the doctorstraight away. Gregor is ill. Quick, get the doctor. Did youhear the way Gregor spoke just now? That was the voiceof an animal, said the chief clerk, with a calmness thatwas in contrast with his mothers screams. Anna! Anna!his father called into the kitchen through the entrancehall, clapping his hands, get a locksmith here, now! Andthe two girls, their skirts swishing, immediately ran outthrough the hall, wrenching open the front door of the flatas they went. How had his sister managed to get dressedso quickly? There was no sound of the door banging shutagain; they must have left it open; people often do inhomes where something awful has happened.

    Gregor, in contrast, had become much calmer. So theycouldnt understand his words any more, although theyseemed clear enough to him, clearer than before perhapshis ears had become used to the sound. They had realised,

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  • though, that there was something wrong with him, andwere ready to help. The first response to his situation hadbeen confident and wise, and that made him feel better.He felt that he had been drawn back in among people,and from the doctor and the locksmith he expected greatand surprising achievements although he did not reallydistinguish one from the other. Whatever was said nextwould be crucial, so, in order to make his voice as clearas possible, he coughed a little, but taking care to do thisnot too loudly as even this might well sound different fromthe way that a human coughs and he was no longer surehe could judge this for himself. Meanwhile, it had becomevery quiet in the next room. Perhaps his parents were sat atthe table whispering with the chief clerk, or perhaps theywere all pressed against the door and listening.

    Gregor slowly pushed his way over to the door withthe chair. Once there he let go of it and threw himselfonto the door, holding himself upright against it using theadhesive on the tips of his legs. He rested there a littlewhile to recover from the effort involved and then set him-self to the task of turning the key in the lock with hismouth. He seemed, unfortunately, to have no proper teeth how was he, then, to grasp the key? but the lack of teethwas, of course, made up for with a very strong jaw; usingthe jaw, he really was able to start the key turning, ignor-ing the fact that he must have been causing some kindof damage as a brown fluid came from his mouth, flowedover the key and dripped onto the floor. Listen, said thechief clerk in the next room, hes turning the key. Gre-gor was greatly encouraged by this; but they all shouldhave been calling to him, his father and his mother too:Well done, Gregor, they should have cried, keep at it,keep hold of the lock! And with the idea that they were

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  • all excitedly following his efforts, he bit on the key with allhis strength, paying no attention to the pain he was caus-ing himself. As the key turned round he turned around thelock with it, only holding himself upright with his mouth,and hung onto the key or pushed it down again with thewhole weight of his body as needed. The clear sound ofthe lock as it snapped back was Gregors sign that he couldbreak his concentration, and as he regained his breath hesaid to himself: So, I didnt need the locksmith after all.Then he lay his head on the handle of the door to open itcompletely.

    Because he had to open the door in this way, it wasalready wide open before he could be seen. He had first toslowly turn himself around one of the double doors, andhe had to do it very carefully if he did not want to fall flaton his back before entering the room. He was still occu-pied with this difficult movement, unable to pay attentionto anything else, when he heard the chief clerk exclaim aloud Oh!, which sounded like the soughing of the wind.Now he also saw him he was the nearest to the door his hand pressed against his open mouth and slowlyretreating as if driven by a steady and invisible force. Gre-gors mother, her hair still dishevelled from bed despitethe chief clerks being there, looked at his father. Thenshe unfolded her arms, took two steps forward towardsGregor and sank down onto the floor into her skirts thatspread themselves out around her as her head disappeareddown onto her breast. His father looked hostile, andclenched his fists as if wanting to knock Gregor back intohis room. Then he looked uncertainly round the livingroom, covered his eyes with his hands and wept so that hispowerful chest shook.

    So Gregor did not go into the room, but leant against

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  • the inside of the other door which was still held boltedin place. In this way only half of his body could be seen,along with his head above it which he leant over to oneside as he peered out at the others. Meanwhile the dayhad become much lighter; part of the endless, grey-blackbuilding on the other side of the street which was a hos-pital could be seen quite clearly with the austere andregular line of windows piercing its faade; the rain wasstill falling, now throwing down large, individual dropletswhich hit the ground one at a time. The washing up frombreakfast lay on the table; there was so much of it because,for Gregors father, breakfast was the most important mealof the day and he would stretch it out for several hoursas he sat reading a number of different newspapers. Onthe wall exactly opposite there was photograph of Gregorwhen he was a lieutenant in the army, his sword in hishand and a carefree smile on his face as he called forthrespect for his uniform and bearing. The door to theentrance hall was open and as the front door of the flatwas also open he could see onto the landing and the stairswhere they began their way down below.

    Now, then, said Gregor, well aware that he was theonly one to have kept calm, Ill get dressed straight awaynow, pack up my samples and set off. Will you please justlet me leave? You can see, he said to the chief clerk, thatIm not stubborn and I like to do my job; being a commer-cial traveller is arduous but without travelling I couldntearn my living. So where are you going, in to the office?Yes? Will you report everything accurately, then? Its quitepossible for someone to be temporarily unable to work,but thats just the right time to remember whats beenachieved in the past and consider that later on, once thedifficulty has been removed, he will certainly work with all

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  • the more diligence and concentration. Youre well awarethat Im seriously in debt to our employer as well as havingto look after my parents and my sister, so that Im trappedin a difficult situation, but I will work my way out of itagain. Please dont make things any harder for me thanthey are already, and dont take sides against me at theoffice. I know that nobody likes the travellers. They thinkwe earn an enormous wage as well as having a soft timeof it. Thats just prejudice but they have no particular rea-son to think better of it. But you, sir, you have a betteroverview than the rest of the staff, in fact, if I can saythis in confidence, a better overview than the boss himself its very easy for a businessman like him to make mis-takes about his employees and judge them more harshlythan he should. And youre also well aware that we trav-ellers spend almost the whole year away from the office,so that we can very easily fall victim to gossip and chanceand groundless complaints, and its almost impossible todefend yourself from that sort of thing, we dont usuallyeven hear about them, or if at all its when we arrive backhome exhausted from a trip, and thats when we feel theharmful effects of whats been going on without evenknowing what caused them. Please, dont go away, at leastfirst say something to show that you grant that Im at leastpartly right!

    But the chief clerk had turned away as soon as Gregorhad started to speak, and, with protruding lips, only staredback at him over his trembling shoulders as he left. He didnot keep still for a moment while Gregor was speaking,but moved steadily towards the door without taking hiseyes off him. He moved very gradually, as if there had beensome secret prohibition on leaving the room. It was onlywhen he had reached the entrance hall that he made a

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  • sudden movement, drew his foot from the living room,and rushed forward in a panic. In the hall, he stretchedhis right hand far out towards the stairway as if out there,there were some supernatural force waiting to save him.

    Gregor realised that it was out of the question to letthe chief clerk go away in this mood if his position inthe firm was not to be put into extreme danger. That wassomething his parents did not understand very well; overthe years, they had become convinced that this job wouldprovide for Gregor for his entire life, and besides, theyhad so much to worry about at present that they had lostsight of any thought for the future. Gregor, though, didthink about the future. The chief clerk had to be heldback, calmed down, convinced and finally won over; thefuture of Gregor and his family depended on it! If only hissister were here! She was clever; she was already in tearswhile Gregor was still lying peacefully on his back. Andthe chief clerk was a lover of women, surely she could per-suade him; she would close the front door in the entrancehall and talk him out of his shocked state. But his sisterwas not there, Gregor would have to do the job himself.And without considering that he still was not familiarwith how well he could move about in his present state,or that his speech still might not or probably would not be understood, he let go of the door; pushed himselfthrough the opening; tried to reach the chief clerk on thelanding who, ridiculously, was holding on to the banisterwith both hands; but Gregor fell immediately over and,with a little scream as he sought something to hold onto,landed on his numerous little legs. Hardly had that hap-pened than, for the first time that day, he began to feelalright with his body; the little legs had the solid groundunder them; to his pleasure, they did exactly as he told

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  • them; they were even making the effort to carry him wherehe wanted to go; and he was soon believing that all his sor-rows would soon be finally at an end. He held back theurge to move but swayed from side to side as he crouchedthere on the floor. His mother was not far away in frontof him and seemed, at first, quite engrossed in herself, butthen she suddenly jumped up with her arms outstretchedand her fingers spread shouting: Help, for pitys sake,Help! The way she held her head suggested she wanted tosee Gregor better, but the unthinking way she was hurry-ing backwards showed that she did not; she had forgottenthat the table was behind her with all the breakfast thingson it; when she reached the table she sat quickly downon it without knowing what she was doing; without evenseeming to notice that the coffee pot had been knockedover and a gush of coffee was pouring down onto the car-pet.

    Mother, mother, said Gregor gently, looking up ather. He had completely forgotten the chief clerk for themoment, but could not help himself snapping in the airwith his jaws at the sight of the flow of coffee. That sethis mother screaming anew, she fled from the table andinto the arms of his father as he rushed towards her. Gre-gor, though, had no time to spare for his parents now; thechief clerk had already reached the stairs; with his chinon the banister, he looked back for the last time. Gregormade a run for him; he wanted to be sure of reaching him;the chief clerk must have expected something, as he leaptdown several steps at once and disappeared; his shoutsresounding all around the staircase. The flight of the chiefclerk seemed, unfortunately, to put Gregors father into apanic as well. Until then he had been relatively self con-trolled, but now, instead of running after the chief clerk

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  • himself, or at least not impeding Gregor as he ran afterhim, Gregors father seized the chief clerks stick in hisright hand (the chief clerk had left it behind on a chair,along with his hat and overcoat), picked up a large news-paper from the table with his left, and used them to driveGregor back into his room, stamping his foot at him ashe went. Gregors appeals to his father were of no help,his appeals were simply not understood, however much hehumbly turned his head his father merely stamped his footall the harder. Across the room, despite the chilly weather,Gregors mother had pulled open a window, leant far outof it and pressed her hands to her face. A strong draughtof air flew in from the street towards the stairway, the cur-tains flew up, the newspapers on the table fluttered andsome of them were blown onto the floor. Nothing wouldstop Gregors father as he drove him back, making hiss-ing noises at him like a wild man. Gregor had never hadany practice in moving backwards and was only able to govery slowly. If Gregor had only been allowed to turn roundhe would have been back in his room straight away, buthe was afraid that if he took the time to do that his fatherwould become impatient, and there was the threat of alethal blow to his back or head from the stick in his fathershand any moment. Eventually, though, Gregor realisedthat he had no choice as he saw, to his disgust, that hewas quite incapable of going backwards in a straight line;so he began, as quickly as possible and with frequent anx-ious glances at his father, to turn himself round. It wentvery slowly, but perhaps his father was able to see his goodintentions as he did nothing to hinder him, in fact nowand then he used the tip of his stick to give directions froma distance as to which way to turn. If only his father wouldstop that unbearable hissing! It was making Gregor quite

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  • confused. When he had nearly finished turning round,still listening to that hissing, he made a mistake and turnedhimself back a little the way he had just come. He waspleased when he finally had his head in front of the door-way, but then saw that it was too narrow, and his body wastoo broad to get through it without further difficulty. Inhis present mood, it obviously did not occur to his fatherto open the other of the double doors so that Gregorwould have enough space to get through. He was merelyfixed on the idea that Gregor should be got back into hisroom as quickly as possible. Nor would he ever haveallowed Gregor the time to get himself upright as prepara-tion for getting through the doorway. What he did, mak-ing more noise than ever, was to drive Gregor forwardsall the harder as if there had been nothing in the way;it sounded to Gregor as if there was now more than onefather behind him; it was not a pleasant experience, andGregor pushed himself into the doorway without regardfor what might happen. One side of his body lifted itself,he lay at an angle in the doorway, one flank scraped on thewhite door and was painfully injured, leaving vile brownflecks on it, soon he was stuck fast and would not havebeen able to move at all by himself, the little legs along oneside hung quivering in the air while those on the other sidewere pressed painfully against the ground. Then his fathergave him a hefty shove from behind which released himfrom where he was held and sent him flying, and heavilybleeding, deep into his room. The door was slammed shutwith the stick, then, finally, all was quiet.

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    I t was not until it was getting dark that evening that Gre-gor awoke from his deep and coma-like sleep. He wouldhave woken soon afterwards anyway even if he hadntbeen disturbed, as he had had enough sleep and felt fullyrested. But he had the impression that some hurried stepsand the sound of the door leading into the front roombeing carefully shut had woken him. The light from theelectric street lamps shone palely here and there onto theceiling and tops of the furniture, but down below, whereGregor was, it was dark. He pushed himself over to thedoor, feeling his way clumsily with his antennae ofwhich he was now beginning to learn the value in orderto see what had been happening there. The whole of hisleft side seemed like one, painfully stretched scar, and helimped badly on his two rows of legs. One of the legs hadbeen badly injured in the events of that morning it wasnearly a miracle that only one of them had been anddragged along lifelessly.

    It was only when he had reached the door that herealised what it actually was that had drawn him over to it;it was the smell of something to eat. By the door there wasa dish filled with sweetened milk with little pieces of white


  • bread floating in it. He was so pleased he almost laughed,as he was even hungrier than he had been that morning,and immediately dipped his head into the milk, nearly cov-ering his eyes with it. But he soon drew his head backagain in disappointment; not only did the pain in his ten-der left side make it difficult to eat the food he was onlyable to eat if his whole body worked together as a snuf-fling whole but the milk did not taste at all nice. Milklike this was normally his favourite drink, and his sisterhad certainly left it there for him because of that, but heturned, almost against his own will, away from the dishand crawled back into the centre of the room.

    Through the crack in the door, Gregor could see thatthe gas had been lit in the living room. His father at thistime would normally be sat with his evening paper, read-ing it out in a loud voice to Gregors mother, and some-times to his sister, but there was now not a sound to beheard. Gregors sister would often write and tell him aboutthis reading, but maybe his father had lost the habit inrecent times. It was so quiet all around too, even thoughthere must have been somebody in the flat. What a quietlife it is the family lead, said Gregor to himself, and, gaz-ing into the darkness, felt a great pride that he was able toprovide a life like that in such a nice home for his sisterand parents. But what now, if all this peace and wealth andcomfort should come to a horrible and frightening end?That was something that Gregor did not want to thinkabout too much, so he started to move about, crawling upand down the room.

    Once during that long evening, the door on one sideof the room was opened very slightly and hurriedly closedagain; later on the door on the other side did the same;it seemed that someone needed to enter the room but

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  • thought better of it. Gregor went and waited immediatelyby the door, resolved either to bring the timorous visitorinto the room in some way or at least to find out who itwas; but the door was opened no more that night and Gre-gor waited in vain. The previous morning while the doorswere locked everyone had wanted to get in there to him,but now, now that he had opened up one of the doors andthe other had clearly been unlocked some time during theday, no-one came, and the keys were in the other sides.

    It was not until late at night that the gaslight in the liv-ing room was put out, and now it was easy to see that hisparents and sister had stayed awake all that time, as theyall could be distinctly heard as they went away togetheron tip-toe. It was clear that no-one would come into Gre-gors room any more until morning; that gave him plentyof time to think undisturbed about how he would have tore-arrange his life. For some reason, the tall, empty roomwhere he was forced to remain made him feel uneasy ashe lay there flat on the floor, even though he had been liv-ing in it for five years. Hardly aware of what he was doingother than a slight feeling of shame, he hurried under thecouch. It pressed down on his back a little, and he was nolonger able to lift his head, but he nonetheless felt immedi-ately at ease and his only regret was that his body was toobroad to get it all underneath.

    He spent the whole night there. Some of the time hepassed in a light sleep, although he frequently woke fromit in alarm because of his hunger, and some of the time wasspent in worries and vague hopes which, however, alwaysled to the same conclusion: for the time being he mustremain calm, he must show patience and the greatest con-sideration so that his family could bear the unpleasantness

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  • that he, in his present condition, was forced to impose onthem.

    Gregor soon had the opportunity to test the strengthof his decisions, as early the next morning, almost beforethe night had ended, his sister, nearly fully dressed,opened the door from the front room and looked anx-iously in. She did not see him straight away, but when shedid notice him under the couch he had to be somewhere,for Gods sake, he couldnt have flown away she was soshocked that she lost control of herself and slammed thedoor shut again from outside. But she seemed to regret herbehaviour, as she opened the door again straight away andcame in on tip-toe as if entering the room of someone seri-ously ill or even of a stranger. Gregor had pushed his headforward, right to the edge of the couch, and watched her.Would she notice that he had left the milk as it was, realisethat it was not from any lack of hunger and bring him insome other food that was more suitable? If she didnt do itherself he would rather go hungry than draw her attentionto it, although he did feel a terrible urge to rush forwardfrom under the couch, throw himself at his sisters feetand beg her for something good to eat. However, his sis-ter noticed the full dish immediately and looked at it andthe few drops of milk splashed around it with some sur-prise. She immediately picked it up using a rag, not herbare hands and carried it out. Gregor was extremely curi-ous as to what she would bring in its place, imagining thewildest possibilities, but he never could have guessed whathis sister, in her goodness, actually did bring. In order totest his taste, she brought him a whole selection of things,all spread out on an old newspaper. There were old, half-rotten vegetables; bones from the evening meal, covered inwhite sauce that had gone hard; a few raisins and almonds;

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  • some cheese that Gregor had declared inedible two daysbefore; a dry roll and some bread spread with butter andsalt. As well as all that she had poured some water intothe dish, which had probably been permanently set asidefor Gregors use, and placed it beside them. Then, outof consideration for Gregors feelings, as she knew thathe would not eat in front of her, she hurried out againand even turned the key in the lock so that Gregor wouldknow he could make things as comfortable for himself ashe liked. Gregors little legs whirred, at last he could eat.Whats more, his injuries must already have completelyhealed as he found no difficulty in moving. This amazedhim, as more than a month earlier he had cut his fingerslightly with a knife, he thought of how his finger had stillhurt the day before yesterday. Am I less sensitive than Iused to be, then?, he thought, and was already suckinggreedily at the cheese which had immediately, almost com-pellingly, attracted him much more than the other foodson the newspaper. Quickly one after another, his eyeswatering with pleasure, he consumed the cheese, the veg-etables and the sauce; the fresh foods, on the other hand,he didnt like at all, and even dragged the things he didwant to eat a little way away from them because hecouldnt stand the smell. Long after he had finished eatingand lay lethargic in the same place, his sister slowly turnedthe key in the lock as a sign to him that he should with-draw. He was immediately startled, although he had beenhalf asleep, and he hurried back under the couch. But heneeded great self-control to stay there even for the shorttime that his sister was in the room, as eating so muchfood had rounded out his body a little and he could hardlybreathe in that narrow space. Half suffocating, he watchedwith bulging eyes as his sister unselfconsciously took a

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  • broom and swept up the left-overs, mixing them in withthe food he had not even touched at all as if it could not beused any more. She quickly dropped it all into a bin, closedit with its wooden lid, and carried everything out. She hadhardly turned her back before Gregor came out again fromunder the couch and stretched himself.

    This was how Gregor received his food each day now,once in the morning while his parents and the maid werestill asleep, and the second time after everyone had eatentheir meal at midday as his parents would sleep for a littlewhile then as well, and Gregors sister would send themaid away on some errand. Gregors father and mothercertainly did not want him to starve either, but perhaps itwould have been more than they could stand to have anymore experience of his feeding than being told about it,and perhaps his sister wanted to spare them what distressshe could as they were indeed suffering enough.

    It was impossible for Gregor to find out what they hadtold the doctor and the locksmith that first morning to getthem out of the flat. As nobody could understand him,nobody, not even his sister, thought that he could under-stand them, so he had to be content to hear his sisterssighs and appeals to the saints as she moved about hisroom. It was only later, when she had become a little moreused to everything there was, of course, no questionof her ever becoming fully used to the situation thatGregor would sometimes catch a friendly comment, or atleast a comment that could be construed as friendly. Hesenjoyed his dinner today, she might say when he had dili-gently cleared away all the food left for him, or if he leftmost of it, which slowly became more and more frequent,she would often say, sadly, now everythings just been leftthere again.

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  • Although Gregor wasnt able to hear any news directlyhe did listen to much of what was said in the next rooms,and whenever he heard anyone speaking he would scurrystraight to the appropriate door and press his whole bodyagainst it. There was seldom any conversation, especiallyat first, that was not about him in some way, even if onlyin secret. For two whole days, all the talk at every mealtimewas about what they should do now; but even betweenmeals they spoke about the same subject as there werealways at least two members of the family at home nobody wanted to be at home by themselves and it wasout of the question to leave the flat entirely empty. Andon the very first day the maid had fallen to her knees andbegged Gregors mother to let her go without delay. It wasnot very clear how much she knew of what had happenedbut she left within a quarter of an hour, tearfully thankingGregors mother for her dismissal as if she had done heran enormous service. She even swore emphatically not totell anyone the slightest about what had happened, eventhough no-one had asked that of her.

    Now Gregors sister also had to help his mother withthe cooking; although that was not so much bother as no-one ate very much. Gregor often heard how one of themwould unsuccessfully urge another to eat, and receive nomore answer than no thanks, Ive had enough or some-thing similar. No-one drank very much either. His sisterwould sometimes ask his father whether he would likea beer, hoping for the chance to go and fetch it herself.When his father then said nothing she would add, so thathe would not feel selfish, that she could send the house-keeper for it, but then his father would close the matterwith a big, loud No, and no more would be said.

    Even before the first day had come to an end, his father

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  • had explained to Gregors mother and sister what theirfinances and prospects were. Now and then he stood upfrom the table and took some receipt or document fromthe little cash box he had saved from his business whenit had collapsed five years earlier. Gregor heard how heopened the complicated lock and then closed it again afterhe had taken the item he wanted. What he heard his fathersay was some of the first good news that Gregor heardsince he had first been incarcerated in his room. He hadthought that nothing at all remained from his fathersbusiness, at least he had never told him anything different,and Gregor had never asked him about it anyway. Theirbusiness misfortune had reduced the family to a state oftotal despair, and Gregors only concern at that time hadbeen to arrange things so that they could all forget aboutit as quickly as possible. So then he started working espe-cially hard, with a fiery vigour that raised him from ajunior salesman to a travelling representative almostovernight, bringing with it the chance to earn money inquite different ways. Gregor converted his success at workstraight into cash that he could lay on the table at home forthe benefit of his astonished and delighted family. Theyhad been good times and they had never come again, atleast not with the same splendour, even though Gregorhad later earned so much that he was in a position to bearthe costs of the whole family, and did bear them. Theyhad even got used to it, both Gregor and the family, theytook the money with gratitude and he was glad to pro-vide it, although there was no longer much warm affectiongiven in return. Gregor only remained close to his sisternow. Unlike him, she was very fond of music and a giftedand expressive violinist, it was his secret plan to send herto the conservatory next year even though it would cause

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  • great expense that would have to be made up for in someother way. During Gregors short periods in town, conver-sation with his sister would often turn to the conserva-tory but it was only ever mentioned as a lovely dream thatcould never be realised. Their parents did not like to hearthis innocent talk, but Gregor thought about it quite hardand decided he would let them know what he plannedwith a grand announcement of it on Christmas day.

    That was the sort of totally pointless thing that wentthrough his mind in his present state, pressed uprightagainst the door and listening. There were times when hesimply became too tired to continue listening, when hishead would fall wearily against the door and he wouldpull it up again with a start, as even the slightest noise hecaused would be heard next door and they would all gosilent. Whats that hes doing now, his father would sayafter a while, clearly having gone over to the door, andonly then would the interrupted conversation slowly betaken up again.

    When explaining things, his father repeated himselfseveral times, partly because it was a long time since hehad been occupied with these matters himself and partlybecause Gregors mother did not understand everythingthe first time. From these repeated explanations Gregorlearned, to his pleasure, that despite all their misfortunesthere was still some money available from the old days. Itwas not a lot, but it had not been touched in the meantimeand some interest had accumulated. Besides that, they hadnot been using up all the money that Gregor had beenbringing home every month, keeping only a little for him-self, so that that, too, had been accumulating. Behind thedoor, Gregor nodded with enthusiasm in his pleasure atthis unexpected thrift and caution. He could actually have

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  • used this surplus money to reduce his fathers debt to hisboss, and the day when he could have freed himself fromthat job would have come much closer, but now it was cer-tainly better the way his father had done things.

    This money, however, was certainly not enough toenable the family to live off the interest; it was enough tomaintain them for, perhaps, one or two years, no more.Thats to say, it was money that should not really betouched but set aside for emergencies; money to live onhad to be earned. His father was healthy but old, and lack-ing in self confidence. During the five years that he had notbeen working the first holiday in a life that had been fullof strain and no success he had put on a lot of weightand become very slow and clumsy. Would Gregors elderlymother now have to go and earn money? She suffered fromasthma and it was a strain for her just to move about thehome, every other day would be spent struggling forbreath on the sofa by the open window. Would his sisterhave to go and earn money? She was still a child of sev-enteen, her life up till then had been very enviable, con-sisting of wearing nice clothes, sleeping late, helping out inthe business, joining in with a few modest pleasures andmost of all playing the violin. Whenever they began to talkof the need to earn money, Gregor would always first let goof the door and then throw himself onto the cool, leathersofa next to it, as he became quite hot with shame andregret.

    He would often lie there the whole night through, notsleeping a wink but scratching at the leather for hours onend. Or he might go to all the effort of pushing a chair tothe window, climbing up onto the sill and, propped up inthe chair, leaning on the window to stare out of it. He hadused to feel a great sense of freedom from doing this, but

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  • doing it now was obviously something more rememberedthan experienced, as what he actually saw in this way wasbecoming less distinct every day, even things that werequite near; he had used to curse the ever-present view ofthe hospital across the street, but now he could not see itat all, and if he had not known that he lived in Charlot-tenstrasse, which was a quiet street despite being in themiddle of the city, he could have thought that he was look-ing out the window at a barren waste where the grey skyand the grey earth mingled inseparably. His observant sis-ter only needed to notice the chair twice before she wouldalways push it back to its exact position by the windowafter she had tidied up the room, and even left the innerpane of the window open from then on.

    If Gregor had only been able to speak to his sister andthank her for all that she had to do for him it would havebeen easier for him to bear it; but as it was it caused himpain. His sister, naturally, tried as far as possible to pretendthere was nothing burdensome about it, and the longer itwent on, of course, the better she was able to do so, but astime went by Gregor was also able to see through it all somuch better. It had even become very unpleasant for him,now, whenever she entered the room. No sooner had shecome in than she would quickly close the door as a pre-caution so that no-one would have to suffer the view intoGregors room, then she would go straight to the windowand pull it hurriedly open almost as if she were suffocating.Even if it was cold, she would stay at the window breath-ing deeply for a little while. She would alarm Gregor twicea day with this running about and noise making; he wouldstay under the couch shivering the whole while, knowingfull well that she would certainly have liked to spare him

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  • this ordeal, but it was impossible for her to be in the sameroom with him with the windows closed.

    One day, about a month after Gregors transformationwhen his sister no longer had any particular reason to beshocked at his appearance, she came into the room a littleearlier than usual and found him still staring out the win-dow, motionless, and just where he would be most horri-ble. In itself, his sisters not coming into the room wouldhave been no surprise for Gregor as it would have beendifficult for her to immediately open the window while hewas still there, but not only did she not come in, she wentstraight back and closed the door behind her, a strangerwould have thought he had threatened her and tried tobite her. Gregor went straight to hide himself under thecouch, of course, but he had to wait until midday beforehis sister came back and she seemed much more uneasythan usual. It made him realise that she still found hisappearance unbearable and would continue to do so, sheprobably even had to overcome the urge to flee when shesaw the little bit of him that protruded from under thecouch. One day, in order to spare her even this sight, hespent four hours carrying the bedsheet over to the couchon his back and arranged it so that he was completely cov-ered and his sister would not be able to see him even ifshe bent down. If she did not think this sheet was neces-sary then all she had to do was take it off again, as it wasclear enough that it was no pleasure for Gregor to cut him-self off so completely. She left the sheet where it was. Gre-gor even thought he glimpsed a look of gratitude one timewhen he carefully looked out from under the sheet to seehow his sister liked the new arrangement.

    For the first fourteen days, Gregors parents could notbring themselves to come into the room to see him. He

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  • would often hear them say how they appreciated all thenew work his sister was doing even though, before, theyhad seen her as a girl who was somewhat useless and fre-quently been annoyed with her. But now the two of them,father and mother, would often both wait outside the doorof Gregors room while his sister tidied up in there, andas soon as she went out again she would have to tell themexactly how everything looked, what Gregor had eaten,how he had behaved this time and whether, perhaps, anyslight improvement could be seen. His mother also wantedto go in and visit Gregor relatively soon but his father andsister at first persuaded her against it. Gregor listened veryclosely to all this, and approved fully. Later, though, shehad to be held back by force, which made her call out: Letme go and see Gregor, he is my unfortunate son! Cant youunderstand I have to see him?, and Gregor would think tohimself that maybe it would be better if his mother camein, not every day of course, but one day a week, perhaps;she could understand everything much better than his sis-ter who, for all her courage, was still just a child after all,and really might not have had an adults appreciation ofthe burdensome job she had taken on.

    Gregors wish to see his mother was soon realised. Outof consideration for his parents, Gregor wanted to avoidbeing seen at the window during the day, the few squaremeters of the floor did not give him much room to crawlabout, it was hard to just lie quietly through the night, hisfood soon stopped giving him any pleasure at all, and so,to entertain himself, he got into the habit of crawling upand down the walls and ceiling. He was especially fond ofhanging from the ceiling; it was quite different from lyingon the floor; he could breathe more freely; his body had alight swing to it; and up there, relaxed and almost happy, it

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  • might happen that he would surprise even himself by let-ting go of the ceiling and landing on the floor with a crash.But now, of course, he had far better control of his bodythan before and, even with a fall as great as that, causedhimself no damage. Very soon his sister noticed Gregorsnew way of entertaining himself he had, after all, lefttraces of the adhesive from his feet as he crawled about and got it into her head to make it as easy as possible forhim by removing the furniture that got in his way, espe-cially the chest of drawers and the desk. Now, this wasnot something that she would be able to do by herself; shedid not dare to ask for help from her father; the sixteenyear old maid had carried on bravely since the cook hadleft but she certainly would not have helped in this, shehad even asked to be allowed to keep the kitchen lockedat all times and never to have to open the door unless itwas especially important; so his sister had no choice butto choose some time when Gregors father was not thereand fetch his mother to help her. As she approached theroom, Gregor could hear his mother express her joy, butonce at the door she went silent. First, of course, his sis-ter came in and looked round to see that everything in theroom was alright; and only then did she let her motherenter. Gregor had hurriedly pulled the sheet down lowerover the couch and put more folds into it so that every-thing really looked as if it had just been thrown down bychance. Gregor also refrained, this time, from spying outfrom under the sheet; he gave up the chance to see hismother until later and was simply glad that she had come.You can come in, he cant be seen, said his sister, obvi-ously leading her in by the hand. The old chest of draw-ers was too heavy for a pair of feeble women to be heavingabout, but Gregor listened as they pushed it from its place,

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  • his sister always taking on the heaviest part of the work forherself and ignoring her mothers warnings that she wouldstrain herself. This lasted a very long time. After labouringat it for fifteen minutes or more his mother said it would bebetter to leave the chest where it was, for one thing it wastoo heavy for them to get the job finished before Gregorsfather got home and leaving it in the middle of the roomit would be in his way even more, and for another thingit wasnt even sure that taking the furniture away wouldreally be any help to him. She thought just the opposite;the sight of the bare walls saddened her right to her heart;and why wouldnt Gregor feel the same way about it, hedbeen used to this furniture in his room for a long time andit would make him feel abandoned to be in an empty roomlike that. Then, quietly, almost whispering as if wantingGregor (whose whereabouts she did not know) to hear noteven the tone of her voice, as she was convinced that hedid not understand her words, she added and by tak-ing the furniture away, wont it seem like were showingthat weve given up all hope of improvement and wereabandoning him to cope for himself? I think itd be bestto leave the room exactly the way it was before so thatwhen Gregor comes back to us again hell find everythingunchanged and hell be able to forget the time in betweenall the easier.

    Hearing these words from his mother made Gregorrealise that the lack of any direct human communication,along with the monotonous life led by the family duringthese two months, must have made him confused hecould think of no other way of explaining to himself whyhe had seriously wanted his room emptied out. Had hereally wanted to transform his room into a cave, a warmroom fitted out with the nice furniture he had inherited?

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  • That would have let him crawl around unimpeded in anydirection, but it would also have let him quickly forget hispast when he had still been human. He had come veryclose to forgetting, and it had only been the voice of hismother, unheard for so long, that had shaken him out ofit. Nothing should be removed; everything had to stay; hecould not do without the good influence the furniture hadon his condition; and if the furniture made it difficult forhim to crawl about mindlessly that was not a loss but agreat advantage.

    His sister, unfortunately, did not agree; she hadbecome used to the idea, not without reason, that she wasGregors spokesman to his parents about the things thatconcerned him. This meant that his mothers advice nowwas sufficient reason for her to insist on removing notonly the chest of drawers and the desk, as she had thoughtat first, but all the furniture apart from the all-importantcouch. It was more than childish perversity, of course, orthe unexpected confidence she had recently acquired, thatmade her insist; she had indeed noticed that Gregorneeded a lot of room to crawl about in, whereas the furni-ture, as far as anyone could see, was of no use to him at all.Girls of that age, though, do become enthusiastic aboutthings and feel they must get their way whenever they can.Perhaps this was what tempted Grete to make Gregors sit-uation seem even more shocking than it was so that shecould do even more for him. Grete would probably be theonly one who would dare enter a room dominated by Gre-gor crawling about the bare walls by himself.

    So she refused to let her mother dissuade her. Gregorsmother already looked uneasy in his room, she soonstopped speaking and helped Gregors sister to get thechest of drawers out with what strength she had. The

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  • chest of drawers was something that Gregor could dowithout if he had to, but the writing desk had to stay.Hardly had the two women pushed the chest of drawers,groaning, out of the room than Gregor poked his head outfrom under the couch to see what he could do about it.He meant to be as careful and considerate as he could, but,unfortunately, it was his mother who came back first whileGrete in the next room had her arms round the chest,pushing and pulling at it from side to side by herself with-out, of course, moving it an inch. His mother was not usedto the sight of Gregor, he might have made her ill, so Gre-gor hurried backwards to the far end of the couch. In hisstartlement, though, he was not able to prevent the sheetat its front from moving a little. It was enough to attract hismothers attention. She stood very still, remained there amoment, and then went back out to Grete.

    Gregor kept trying to assure himself that nothingunusual was happening, it was just a few pieces of furni-ture being moved after all, but he soon had to admit thatthe women going to and fro, their little calls to each other,the scraping of the furniture on the floor, all these thingsmade him feel as if he were being assailed from all sides.With his head and legs pulled in against him and his bodypressed to the floor, he was forced to admit to himself thathe could not stand all of this much longer. They were emp-tying his room out; taking away everything that was dearto him; they had already taken out the chest containing hisfretsaw and other tools; now they threatened to removethe writing desk with its place clearly worn into the floor,the desk where he had done his homework as a businesstrainee, at high school, even while he had been at infantschool he really could not wait any longer to see whetherthe two womens intentions were good. He had nearly for-

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  • gotten they were there anyway, as they were now too tiredto say anything while they worked and he could only heartheir feet as they stepped heavily on the floor.

    So, while the women were leant against the desk in theother room catching their breath, he sallied out, changeddirection four times not knowing what he should save firstbefore his attention was suddenly caught by the picture onthe wall which was already denuded of everything elsethat had been on it of the lady dressed in copious fur. Hehurried up onto the picture and pressed himself against itsglass, it held him firmly and felt good on his hot belly. Thispicture at least, now totally covered by Gregor, would cer-tainly be taken away by no-one. He turned his head to facethe door into the living room so that he could watch thewomen when they came back.

    They had not allowed themselves a long rest and cameback quite soon; Grete had put her arm around her motherand was nearly carrying her. What shall we take now,then?, said Grete and looked around. Her eyes met thoseof Gregor on the wall. Perhaps only because her motherwas there, she remained calm, bent her face to her so thatshe would not look round and said, albeit hurriedly andwith a tremor in her voice: Come on, lets go back in theliving room for a while? Gregor could see what Grete hadin mind, she wanted to take her mother somewhere safeand then chase him down from the wall. Well, she couldcertainly try it! He sat unyielding on his picture. He wouldrather jump at Gretes face.

    But Gretes words had made her mother quite worried,she stepped to one side, saw the enormous brown patchagainst the flowers of the wallpaper, and before she evenrealised it was Gregor that she saw screamed: Oh God, ohGod! Arms outstretched, she fell onto the couch as if she

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  • had given up everything and stayed there immobile. Gre-gor! shouted his sister, glowering at him and shaking herfist. That was the first word she had spoken to him directlysince his transformation. She ran into the other room tofetch some kind of smelling salts to bring her mother outof her faint; Gregor wanted to help too he could savehis picture later, although he stuck fast to the glass andhad to pull himself off by force; then he, too, ran into thenext room as if he could advise his sister like in the olddays; but he had to just stand behind her doing nothing;she was looking into various bottles, he startled her whenshe turned round; a bottle fell to the ground and broke; asplinter cut Gregors face, some kind of caustic medicinesplashed all over him; now, without delaying any longer,Grete took hold of all the bottles she could and ran withthem in to her mother; she slammed the door shut withher foot. So now Gregor was shut out from his mother,who, because of him, might be near to death; he could notopen the door if he did not want to chase his sister away,and she had to stay with his mother; there was nothing forhim to do but wait; and, oppressed with anxiety and self-reproach, he began to crawl about, he crawled over every-thing, walls, furniture, ceiling, and finally in his confusionas the whole room began to spin around him he fell downinto the middle of the dinner table.

    He lay there for a while, numb and immobile, allaround him it was quiet, maybe that was a good sign. Thenthere was someone at the door. The maid, of course, hadlocked herself in her kitchen so that Grete would have togo and answer it. His father had arrived home. Whatshappened? were his first words; Gretes appearance musthave made everything clear to him. She answered himwith subdued voice, and openly pressed her face into his

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  • chest: Mothers fainted, but shes better now. Gregor gotout. Just as I expected, said his father, just as I alwayssaid, but you women wouldnt listen, would you. It wasclear to Gregor that Grete had not said enough and thathis father took it to mean that something bad had hap-pened, that he was responsible for some act of violence.That meant Gregor would now have to try to calm hisfather, as he did not have the time to explain things to himeven if that had been possible. So he fled to the door ofhis room and pressed himself against it so that his father,when he came in from the hall, could see straight awaythat Gregor had the best intentions and would go backinto his room without delay, that it would not be necessaryto drive him back but that they had only to open the doorand he would disappear.

    His father, though, was not in the mood to notice sub-tleties like that; Ah!, he shouted as he came in, soundingas if he were both angry and glad at the same time. Gregordrew his head back from the door and lifted it towards hisfather. He really had not imagined his father the way hestood there now; of late, with his new habit of crawlingabout, he had neglected to pay attention to what was goingon the rest of the flat the way he had done before. He reallyought to have expected things to have changed, but still,still, was that really his father? The same tired man as usedto be laying there entombed in his bed when Gregor cameback from his business trips, who would receive him sit-ting in the armchair in his nightgown when he came backin the evenings; who was hardly even able to stand up but,as a sign of his pleasure, would just raise his arms and who,on the couple of times a year when they went for a walktogether on a Sunday or public holiday wrapped up tightlyin his overcoat between Gregor and his mother, would

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  • always labour his way forward a little more slowly thanthem, who were already walking slowly for his sake; whowould place his stick down carefully and, if he wanted tosay something would invariably stop and gather his com-panions around him. He was standing up straight enoughnow; dressed in a smart blue uniform with gold buttons,the sort worn by the employees at the banking institute;above the high, stiff collar of the coat his strong double-chin emerged; under the bushy eyebrows, his piercing,dark eyes looked out fresh and alert; his normallyunkempt white hair was combed down painfully close tohis scalp. He took his cap, with its gold monogram from,probably, some bank, and threw it in an arc right across theroom onto the sofa, put his hands in his trouser pockets,pushing back the bottom of his long uniform coat, and,with look of determination, walked towards Gregor. Heprobably did not even know himself what he had in mind,but nonetheless lifted his feet unusually high. Gregor wasamazed at the enormous size of the soles of his boots, butwasted no time with that he knew full well, right fromthe first day of his new life, that his father thought it neces-sary to always be extremely strict with him. And so he ranup to his father, stopped when his father stopped, scurriedforwards again when he moved, even slightly. In this waythey went round the room several times without anythingdecisive happening, without even giving the impression ofa chase as everything went so slowly. Gregor remained allthis time on the floor, largely because he feared his fathermight see it as especially provoking if he fled onto thewall or ceiling. Whatever he did, Gregor had to admit thathe certainly would not be able to keep up this runningabout for long, as for each step his father took he hadto carry out countless movements. He became noticeably

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  • short of breath, even in his earlier life his lungs had notbeen very reliable. Now, as he lurched about in his effortsto muster all the strength he could for running he couldhardly keep his eyes open; his thoughts became too slowfor him to think of any other way of saving himself thanrunning; he almost forgot that the walls were there forhim to use although, here, they were concealed behindcarefully carved furniture full of notches and protrusions then, right beside him, lightly tossed, something flewdown and rolled in front of him. It was an apple; thenanother one immediately flew at him; Gregor froze inshock; there was no longer any point in running as hisfather had decided to bombard him. He had filled hispockets with fruit from the bowl on the sideboard andnow, without even taking the time for careful aim, threwone apple after another. These little, red apples rolledabout on the floor, knocking into each other as if theyhad electric motors. An apple thrown without much forceglanced against Gregors back and slid off without doingany harm. Another one however, immediately followingit, hit squarely and lodged in his back; Gregor wanted todrag himself away, as if he could remove the surprising, theincredible pain by changing his position; but he felt as ifnailed to the spot and spread himself out, all his senses inconfusion. The last thing he saw was the door of his roombeing pulled open, his sister was screaming, his motherran out in front of her in her blouse (as his sister had takenoff some of her clothes after she had fainted to make iteasier for her to breathe), she ran to his father, her skirtsunfastened and sliding one after another to the ground,stumbling over the skirts she pushed herself to his father,her arms around him, uniting herself with him totally

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  • now Gregor lost his ability to see anything her handsbehind his fathers head begging him to spare Gregors life.

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    N o one dared to remove the apple lodged in Gregorsflesh, so it remained there as a visible reminder of hisinjury. He had suffered it there for more than a month, andhis condition seemed serious enough to remind even hisfather that Gregor, despite his current sad and revoltingform, was a family member who could not be treated as anenemy. On the contrary, as a family there was a duty toswallow any revulsion for him and to be patient, just to bepatient.

    Because of his injuries, Gregor had lost much of hismobility probably permanently. He had been reduced tothe condition of an ancient invalid and it took him long,long minutes to crawl across his room crawling over theceiling was out of the question but this deterioration inhis condition was fully (in his opinion) made up for by thedoor to the living room being left open every evening. Hegot into the habit of closely watching it for one or twohours before it was opened and then, lying in the dark-ness of his room where he could not be seen from the liv-ing room, he could watch the family in the light of thedinner table and listen to their conversation with every-


  • ones permission, in a way, and thus quite differently frombefore.

    They no longer held the lively conversations of earliertimes, of course, the ones that Gregor always thoughtabout with longing when he was tired and getting intothe damp bed in some small hotel room. All of them wereusually very quiet nowadays. Soon after dinner, his fatherwould go to sleep in his chair; his mother and sister wouldurge each other to be quiet; his mother, bent deeply underthe lamp, would sew fancy underwear for a fashion shop;his sister, who had taken a sales job, learned shorthandand French in the evenings so that she might be able toget a better position later on. Sometimes his father wouldwake up and say to Gregors mother youre doing somuch sewing again today!, as if he did not know that hehad been dozing and then he would go back to sleepagain while mother and sister would exchange a tired grin.

    With a kind of stubbornness, Gregors father refusedto take his uniform off even at home; while his nightgownhung unused on its peg Gregors father would slumberwhere he was, fully dressed, as if always ready to serve andexpecting to hear the voice of his superior even here. Theuniform had not been new to start with, but as a result ofthis it slowly became even shabbier despite the efforts ofGregors mother and sister to look after it. Gregor wouldoften spend the whole evening looking at all the stains onthis coat, with its gold buttons always kept polished andshiny, while the old man in it would sleep, highly uncom-fortable but peaceful.

    As soon as it struck ten, Gregors mother would speakgently to his father to wake him and try to persuade himto go to bed, as he couldnt sleep properly where he wasand he really had to get his sleep if he was to be up at

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  • six to get to work. But since he had been in work he hadbecome more obstinate and would always insist on stayinglonger at the table, even though he regularly fell asleep andit was then harder than ever to persuade him to exchangethe chair for his bed. Then, however much mother and sis-ter would importune him with little reproaches and warn-ings he would keep slowly shaking his head for a quarter ofan hour with his eyes closed and refusing to get up. Gre-gors mother would tug at his sleeve, whisper endearmentsinto his ear, Gregors sister would leave her work to helpher mother, but nothing would have any effect on him. Hewould just sink deeper into his chair. Only when the twowomen took him under the arms he would abruptly openhis eyes, look at them one after the other and say: What alife! This is what peace I get in my old age! And supportedby the two women he would lift himself up carefully as ifhe were carrying the greatest load himself, let the womentake him to the door, send them off and carry on by him-self while Gregors mother would throw down her needleand his sister her pen so that they could run after his fatherand continue being of help to him.

    Who, in this tired and overworked family, would havehad time to give more attention to Gregor than wasabsolutely necessary? The household budget became evensmaller; so now the maid was dismissed; an enormous,thick-boned charwoman with white hair that flappedaround her head came every morning and evening to dothe heaviest work; everything else was looked after byGregors mother on top of the large amount of sewingwork she did. Gregor even learned, listening to theevening conversation about what price they had hopedfor, that several items of jewellery belonging to the familyhad been sold, even though both mother and sister had

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  • been very fond of wearing them at functions and celebra-tions. But the loudest complaint was that although the flatwas much too big for their present circumstances, theycould not move out of it, there was no imaginable way oftransferring Gregor to the new address. He could see quitewell, though, that there were more reasons than consid-eration for him that made it difficult for them to move, itwould have been quite easy to transport him in any suit-able crate with a few air holes in it; the main thing hold-ing the family back from their decision to move was muchmore to do with their total despair, and the thought thatthey had been struck with a misfortune unlike anythingexperienced by anyone else they knew or were related to.They carried out absolutely everything that the worldexpects from poor people, Gregors father brought bankemployees their breakfast, his mother sacrificed herself bywashing clothes for strangers, his sister ran back and forthbehind her desk at the behest of the customers, but theyjust did not have the strength to do any more. And theinjury in Gregors back began to hurt as much as when itwas new. After they had come back from taking his fatherto bed Gregors mother and sister would now leave theirwork where it was and sit close together, cheek to cheek;his mother would point to Gregors room and say Closethat door, Grete, and then, when he was in the dark again,they would sit in the next room and their tears would min-gle, or they would simply sit there staring dry-eyed at thetable.

    Gregor hardly slept at all, either night or day. Some-times he would think of taking over the familys affairs,just like before, the next time the door was opened; he hadlong forgotten about his boss and the chief clerk, but theywould appear again in his thoughts, the salesmen and the

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  • apprentices, that stupid teaboy, two or three friends fromother businesses, one of the chambermaids from a provin-cial hotel, a tender memory that appeared and disappearedagain, a cashier from a hat shop for whom his attentionhad been serious but too slow, all of them appeared tohim, mixed together with strangers and others he had for-gotten, but instead of helping him and his family theywere all of them inaccessible, and he was glad when theydisappeared. Other times he was not at all in the mood tolook after his family, he was filled with simple rage aboutthe lack of attention he was shown, and although he couldthink of nothing he would have wanted, he made plans ofhow he could get into the pantry where he could take allthe things he was entitled to, even if he was not hungry.Gregors sister no longer thought about how she couldplease him but would hurriedly push some food or otherinto his room with her foot before she rushed out to workin the morning and at midday, and in the evening shewould sweep it away again with the broom, indifferent asto whether it had been eaten or more often than not had been left totally untouched. She still cleared up theroom in the evening, but now she could not have beenany quicker about it. Smears of dirt were left on the walls,here and there were little balls of dust and filth. At first,Gregor went into one of the worst of these places whenhis sister arrived as a reproach to her, but he could havestayed there for weeks without his sister doing anythingabout it; she could see the dirt as well as he could butshe had simply decided to leave him to it. At the sametime she became touchy in a way that was quite new forher and which everyone in the family understood clean-ing up Gregors room was for her and her alone. Gregorsmother did once thoroughly clean his room, and needed

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  • to use several bucketfuls of water to do it although thatmuch dampness also made Gregor ill and he lay flat on thecouch, bitter and immobile. But his mother was to be pun-ished still more for what she had done, as hardly had hissister arrived home in the evening than she noticed thechange in Gregors room and, highly aggrieved, ran backinto the living room where, despite her mothers raisedand imploring hands, she broke into convulsive tears. Herfather, of course, was startled out of his chair and the twoparents looked on astonished and helpless; then they, too,became agitated; Gregors father, standing to the right ofhis mother, accused her of not leaving the cleaning of Gre-gors room to his sister; from her left, Gregors sisterscreamed at her that she was never to clean Gregors roomagain; while his mother tried to draw his father, who wasbeside himself with anger, into the bedroom; his sister,quaking with tears, thumped on the table with her smallfists; and Gregor hissed in anger that no-one had eventhought of closing the door to save him the sight of thisand all its noise.

    Gregors sister was exhausted from going out to work,and looking after Gregor as she had done before was evenmore work for her, but even so his mother ought certainlynot to have taken her place. Gregor, on the other hand,ought not to be neglected. N