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Metamorphosis : Popular Penguins : Popular Penguins - Franz Kafka

Metamorphosis : Popular Penguins

Popular Penguins

Paperback Published: 28th June 2010
ISBN: 9780141194837
Number Of Pages: 236

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This collection brings together the small proportion of Kafka's works that he thought worthy of publication. It includes Metamorphosis, his most famous work, an exploration of horrific transformation and alienation; Meditation, a collection of his earlier studies; The Judgement, written in a single night of frenzied creativity; The Stoker, the first chapter of a novel set in America and a fascinating occasional piece, The Aeroplanes at Brescia, Kafka's eyewitness account of an air display in 1909. Together, these stories reveal the breadth of Kafka's literary vision and the extraordinary imaginative depth of his thought.

About The Author

Franz Kafka (1883-1924) was born of Jewish parents in Prague. Several of his story collections were published in his lifetime and his novels, The Trial, The Castle, and Amerika, were published posthumously by his editor Max Brod.


La Sentinella Bresciana of pSeptember1909 reports, and is delighted to do so: 'In Brescia we have a concourse of people such as never before, not even at the time of the great motor-car races; visitors from Venetia, Liguria, Piedmont, Tuscany, Rome, indeed even from as far as Naples; distinguished pelSORS from France, England, America; all are jostling in our squares, in our hotels, in every spare corner of our private houses; all the prices are rising splendidly; the means of transport are inadequate to bring the crowds to the circuito aero;the restaurants on the airfield could serve two thousand people admirably, but so many thousands are bound to defeat them; troops would be needed to protect the buffets; in the cheap areas of the field there are 50,000 spectators standing all day long.'

Reading these accounts, my two friends and I are filled with both confidence and alarm. Confidence: for where there is such a terrible crush everything tends to proceed in an agreeably democratic way, and where there is no space at all one has no need to look for it. Alarm:alarm about the Italian mode of organizing such enterprises, alarm about the committees that will concern themselves with our welfare, alarm about the trains, of which the Sentinella has tales of four-hour delays to tell.

All expectations are false; somehow all Italian memories become confused once one is back home; they lose their clarity, one can no longer depend on them.

As our train enters the dark hole of Brescia station, where people are yelling as if the ground was burning under their feet, we arc still solemnly exhorting one another to stick together whatever happens. Are we not arriving with a sort of hostility?

We get off the train; a cab, barely able to stay on its wheels, receives us; the coachman is in very good humour; we drive through almost empty streets to the Palace of the Committee, where our inward malice is passed over as if it did not exist; we are told all that we need. The inn to which we are directed appears at first sight to be the dirtiest we have ever seen, but soon it is not so excessively bad. A dirt which is simply there and is no longer spoken of, a dirt which never alters, which has put down roots, which makes human life somehow more solid and earthy, a dirt out of the midst of which our host comes hurrying, proud in himself, humble towards us, with his elbows in constant motion and his hands (each finger is a compliment) casting ever-changing shadows over his face, with incessant bowings from the waist that we all recognize later, for example in Gabriele d' Annunzio, on the airfield; who, one must ask, could still have anything against a dirt such as this.

The airfield is in Montechiari, and can be reached in less than an hour by the local railway that goes to Mantua. This local railway has reserved for itself a track on the public highway, along which it runs its trains in modest fashion, no higher and no lower than the rest of the traffic, among the bicyclists, pedalling into the dust with their eyes almost closed, among the completely useless carriages of the entire province -which accept as many passengers as you please, and get along fast as weIl, it passes all understanding -and among the often gigantic motor-cars which, once let loose, seem positively determined toturn over at once, with their manifold hootings that merge at such speed into one simple blare.

Sometimes all hope of reaching the circuito in this misersble train deserts one completely. But all around us in the train people are laughing, and from right and left people are laughing into the train. I am standing on an end platform, pressed against a huge man who stands with his legs astride two carriages, over the buffers, in a shower of soot and dust that comes from the gently shaking carriage roofs. Twice the train stops to wait for an oncoming train, so patiently and so long that it might be just waiting for a chance encounter. A few villages move slowly past, screaming posters of the last motor-car race-meeting appear here and there on the walls, all the plants by the roadside are unrecognizable under the oIive-leaf colour that the white dust gives them.

Since it can go no further the train finally stops. A group of motor-cars brake at the same time; through the dust that swirls up we can see, not far off, a lot of little flags waving; we are still held up by a herd of cattle that comes, wildly excited, dipping in and out of the hillocky ground, simply charging into the motor-cars.

We have arrived. In front of the aerodrome there extends a large open space with suspicious-looking little wooden huts, on which we would have expected to see other notices than: Garage, Grand Buffet International, etc. Immense beggars, grown fat in their go-carts, stretch out their arms in our path, one feels tempted to jump over them. We overtake a great number of people and are overtaken by a great number. We look up in the air, which is after all the thing that matters here. Thank heavens, no one is flying yet! We make way for no one and still we don't get run over. Between and behind the thousands of vehicles, and coming towards them, there bounces Italian cavalry. Order and accidents seem equally impossible.

Once in Brescia late in the evening we wanted to get rapidly to a certain street, which in our opinion waa a fairly long way off. A cabdriver demands 3 lire, we offer two. The cab-driver refuses the fare, and simply out of friendliness he describes to us the positively horrific remoteness of this street. We begin to feel ashamed of our offer. All right then, 3 lire. We climb in, three turns of the cab through short streets and we have got to the place we wanted. Otto, more energetic than we two others, declares that he naturally hasn't the faintest intention of giving 3 lire for the journey that has lasted a minute. One lira was more than enough. He could have this lira. It is already dark, the little street is empty, the cab-driver is powerful. He becomes excited at once, as if the argument had been going on for an hour: What? -That was a swindle. -What on earth were we thinking of. -3 lire had been agreed, 3 lire must be paid, out with 3 lire or he'd give us something to think about. Otto: 'The tariff or the poIice!' Tariff? There was no tariff. -How could there be a tariff for that? -It had been an agreement about a night journey, but if we gave him 2 lire he'd let us go. Otto, fit to terrify: 'The tariff or the police!' Some further screaming and searching, then a tariff is fished out, on which nothing is to be seen save dirt. So we agree on1 lira50 and the cabbie drives on up the narrow street, in which he can't turn, not just furiously but sorrowfully, too, as it seems to me. For our conduct has unfortunately not been the correct one; one cannot behave like that in Italy; it may be all right elsewhere, but not here. Ah well, who can reflect on that in the heat of the moment! There's nothing to complain about, one simply cannot become an Italian in the course of a brief aviation week.

But remorse shall not mar our joy on the airfield, that would only bring fresh remorse, and into the aerodrome we spring rather than waIk, with that inspiration of every limb which sometimes takes hold of us here, one after the other, under this sun.

We come past the hangars, which stand there with their curtains drawn like the closed stages of travelling players. On their pediments stand the names of the aviators whose machines they conceal, and above them the flags of their homelands. We read the names Cobianchi, Cagno, Calderara, Rougier, Curtiss, Moncher (a Tirolean from Trento who flies under Italian colours, he trusts them more than ours), Anzani, Club of the Roman Aviators. And BIeriot? we ask. BIeriot, of whom we have been thinking all the time, where is Bleriot?

In the fenced-off space in front of his hangar Rougier is running up and down in his shirt-sleeves, a short man with a striking nose. He flings his arms out with violent gestures, pats himself all over as he goes, sends his mechanics behind the curtain of the hangar, calls them back, goes in himself, driving all before him, while to one side his wife, in a tight-fitting white dress, a little black hat pressed firmly into her hair, her legs in their short skirt set delicately apart, gazes into the empty heat, a businesswoman with all the cares of business in her little head.

In front of the next hangar sits Curtiss, all alone. Through the slightly lifted curtains his machine is visible; it is bigger than people say. As we walk past, Curtiss is holding up the New York Herald in front of him and reading a line at the top of one page; after half an hour we come past again, he bas already reached the middle of this page; after a further half hour he bas finished the page and is beginning a new one. Evidently he isnot going to fly today.

We turn round and see the wide airfield. It is so big that everything upon it seems abandoned: the winning-post close to us, the signal mast in the distance, the launching catapult somewhere on the right, the committee motor-car, which describes a curve across the field with its little yellow flag drawn taut in the wind, comes to a halt in its own dust, and drives off again.

An artificial wasteland has been created here in an almost tropical region, and the high nobility of Italy, glittering ladies from Paris and all the other thousands are here assembled, to look for hours on end with narrowed eyes into this sunny waste. Here there is nothing of the kind that lends variety to sports fields otherwise. The pretty jumps of the race-meetings are lacking, so too are the white markings of the tennis-courts, the fresh turf of the foothall matches, the stony up and down of the motor-car and bicycle race-tracks. Only two or three times during the afternoon a squadron of colourful cavalry trots across the plain. The hooves of the horses are invisible in the dust, the even light of the sun does not change until nearly five o'clock. And so that nothing should disturb us as we observe this plain there is no music of any kind, only the whistling of the masses in the cheap standing areas tries to meet the requirements of our ears and our impatience. Seen from the more expensive stands that lie behind us, however, no doubt that mass of people melts indistinguishably into the empty plain.

ISBN: 9780141194837
ISBN-10: 0141194839
Series: Popular Penguins
Audience: General
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 236
Published: 28th June 2010
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
Country of Publication: GB
Dimensions (cm): 18.2 x 11.2  x 1.6
Weight (kg): 0.15
Edition Number: 1

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Franz Kafka

About the Author

Despite his great impact on the literary world, Franz Kafka was a relatively "unknown" author during his life-time. He published relatively few of his works, and those were published in very limited runs, or in small literary journals.

Franz Kafka born in Prague, July 3, 1883, the son of Hermann and Julie Kafka. The oldest, he had three suriving younger sisters. Valli, Elli, and Ottla. His father was a self-made middle class Jewish merchant, who raised his children in the hopes of assimilating them into the mainstream society of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

The official ruling language of the empire was German, so Franz attended German grammar school (Volksschule am Fleischmarkt), and later the German Gymnasium (Altstädter Deutsches Gymnasium). He finished his Doctorate of Law in Prague, studying at the German language University (Die deutsche Universität) there. He initially gained employment at a private insurance firm Assicurazioni Generali and then with the Arbeiter-Unfall-Versicherungs-Anstalt für das Königreichs Böhmen in Prag

His Job at the Worker's Accident Insurance provided him with a steady income and "regular" office hours, so that he could dedicate his evenings to writing. His diaries contain continuing accounts of his restlessness and sleeplessness as he would work all night writing, only to return to the office for the next day of work, throughly exhausted. Although he spoke and wrote Czech fluently throughout his life, his literary work was all completed in German.

He is known to have started writing at an early age, but all of his earliest attempts were later destroyed. His first pulished work came in 1907, and he continued to publish throughout the next seventeen years, but most of his works were published posthumously by his friend Max Brod.

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