Kafka, for Children

“His numerous legs, which were pitifully thin compared to the rest of his bulk, waved helplessly before his eyes.” – The Metamorphosis, Franz Kafka

Last night at 826michigan’s Drop-In Writing we wrote from the perspective of our favorite animals. In the midst of helping an eight-year-old girl, “Anne,” think about how an animal might experience the world, Anne said, “Wouldn’t it be weird to be a bug?”

“That’s actually the subject of a famous short story*!” I said, delighted that I could impart some culture to the next generation.

Another volunteer joined in, equally enthusiastic. “Yes! It’s called The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka! A guy, named Gregor, wakes up as a giant beetle!”

Then, in a sudden panic, I met my fellow tutor’s eyes as the realization that the plot of the Metamorphosis isn’t exactly age appropriate for an eight-year-old washed over us at precisely the same moment.

“So what happens in the story?” Anne asked me.

“Uh,” I said, “he lies in bed a lot and his family is…confused. Hey! A red pen! Let’s use that to write with!”

Now I can’t help but envision bright Anne in her future Sophomore English class. “Can anyone tell me what happens in Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis?” the teacher will ask. Anne will raise her hand. “A guy named Gregor lies in bed a lot and his family is confused,” she’ll say.

___

*Okay, it’s really a novella. But I didn’t think an eight-year-old would care.

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