What is a literary classic and why are these classic works important to the world?

A literary classic is a work of the highest excellence that has something important to say about life and/or the human condition and says it with great artistry. A classic, through its enduring presence, has withstood the test of time and is not bound by time, place, or customs. It speaks to us today as forcefully as it spoke to people one hundred or more years ago and as forcefully as it will speak to people of future generations. For this reason, a classic is said to have universality.

This new translation of The Metamorphosis relies on the original German text, published in 1915 by Kurt Wolff. We felt that a new translation was necessary because various English versions we examined seemed to take liberties with the text, were too simply written, or lacked Kafka's offbeat humor, most of which actually does translate well.

Additionally, many of Kafka's sentences tend to be quite long, with convoluted syntax and punctuation. To remain faithful to the German text, this Prestwick House translation makes every effort to follow Kafka's actual style and word choice as closely as possible, while still creating an artful English rendition.

We also include a list of difficult vocabulary words and a set of glossary notes that highlight literary devices and that explore some of the possible shades of meaning which are present in the original German.

If you have any comments about this book, whether positive or negative, feel free to contact us. We hope that you will enjoy this new translation and find it an accurate representation of one of the twentieth century's masterpieces.

M. A. Roberts

Franz Kafka was born to a Jewish family in Prague in 1883. He lived with his family most of his life and believed his father to be unfeeling and domineering. After his two older brothers died, he became the eldest of four children. He had three younger sisters. Kafka obtained a law degree and wrote in his spare time while working for an agency affiliated with the government. His works frequently portray stifling, bureaucratic institutions and oppressive father figures. Although he was engaged twice, he never married; his relationships with women tended to be difficult and troubled. Kafka died in 1924 of the tuberculosis from which he suffered since contracting it seven years earlier.

The Metamorphosis was first published in 1915. Kafka's friend Max Brod undertook the job of editing and distributing Kafka's works after his death, defying Kafka's wish that all of his writings be burned. His stories are deeply steeped in existentialism and are rife with symbolism. Because there are many elements in his stories that appear irrational or surreal, the adjective Kafkaesque has come to indicate that a situation is absurd or that a character is alienated from others.