On this day in 1924 the Czech author Franz Kafka died.
Anyone who reads his work is likely to be horrified and strangely, amused. Here is the opening of his famous story The Metamorphosis: “As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.“ It is horrific, but what comes across from reading the story is the inner strength that Gregor finds in dealing with his terrible dilemma, in the face of alienation from his family and the world and ultimately, himself.
Kafka today is rightly recognised as one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century. This poem The Show, by Wilfred Owen has some of the horror found in Kafka’s prose:
My soul looked down from a vague height with Death,
As unremembering how I rose or why,
And saw a sad land, weak with sweats of dearth,
Gray, cratered like the moon with hollow woe,
And fitted with great pocks and scabs of plaques.
Across its beard, that horror of harsh wire,
There moved thin caterpillars, slowly uncoiled.
It seemed they pushed themselves to be as plugs
Of ditches, where they writhed and shrivelled, killed.
By them had slimy paths been trailed and scraped
Round myriad warts that might be little hills.
…On dithering feet upgathered, more and more,
Brown strings towards strings of gray, with bristling spines,
All migrants from green fields, intent on mire.
Those that were gray, of more abundant spawns,
Ramped on the rest and ate them and were eaten.
I saw their bitten backs curve, loop, and straighten,
I watched those agonies curl, lift, and flatten.
Whereat, in terror what that sight might mean,
I reeled and shivered earthward like a feather….
Today I ask for inner strength when difficulties arise.