Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Metamorphosis and Frida

I just read Kafka's most famous story, The Metamorphosis, for the first time. If you haven't read it yet, I'm about to spoil it to death.

I went into the book (It's free here!) only knowing that the main character, Gregor Samsa, wakes one morning to find himself turned into an insect, something very similar to a cockroach. I didn't anticipate at all how much Gregor's change would remind me of my own with migraines. He's suddenly unable to function as a normal person. He is stuck in his room, unable to care for himself, alienated from his family, and becomes unrecognizable to even himself. At first, the story reminded me of the past few years, his sister cares for him as best as she can, and he tries to keep up with family goings-on even though he's been imprisoned in his bedroom. But then it turned into my nightmares of the future. Everyone he loves hates him, and he wastes away in his own filth until he dies.

I did some minor internetting for more information and apparently the author, Franz Kafka, died of tuberculosis, but the sources I've found say that he wasn't diagnosed until a few years after The Metamorphosis was published. So it's probably not really all about illness or disability, but that's what I got out of it anyway.

Also, I recently saw the movie, Frida. (More spoilers abound!) It's a gorgeous film about the life of Frida Kahlo, a talented surrealist artist who lived most of her life with chronic, often crippling pain. I always think biographical movies will bore me, so I only watched it initially for Selma Hayek, who plays the title role. But just a few minutes into the film, a teenage Frida is injured, badly, and I realized that this movie was going to speak to me in a totally new way. Frida was strong. She was in pain, and sometimes her body failed her, but she didn't let that stop her from creating beauty and making people think.

While Gregor Samsa is the repellent burden I am afraid I'll become, Frida is the inspiration I hope I can be.


WinnyNinny PooPoo said...

I definitely think you are on the Frida track!!! Kafka is always on the dark side of any subject.

Jessica said...

Wow...great post!

Sue said...

Amazing post! I agree - you are totally Frida. Tough, resilient and ready to take in the world.

Katharine Hope said...

Hi! I'm Katharine, new to the online blogging circuit and a migraineur. Kafka has always been one of my favorite writers ( I am a novelist) and Metamorphoses, my all time favorite story. What I always felt is that it described the strange ways all human beings feel about having a body: the hair, the noses, the secretions--what is it? How have we found ourselves here? We are not really our bodies, yet somehow we find ourselves trapped in them, as if we were a bug. And having a chronic illness only amplifies that to the Nth degree.

steph said...

Thanks for the comments, everyone!

Katharine, thanks for sharing your interpretation! I can totally see your points. Bodies are gross, and miraculous, and really very foreign, no matter how long we live in them.