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The Metamorphosis and Other Stories by Franz Kafka.

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Title: The Metamorphosis and Other Stories.
Author: Franz Kafka.
Genre: Fiction, literature, short stories.
Country: Bohemia (Czech Republic).
Language: German.
Publication Date: 1915, 1917, and 1919.
Summary: This collection includes 4 short stories and 1 novella. The Judgement (aka The Verdict (1915) is a short story concerning the strained relationship between a man and his father that comes to a head when the son seeks his father's guidance concerning one of his friends. The Metamorphosis (1915) is a novella in which salesman Gregor Samsa wakes one morning to find himself inexplicably transformed into a huge insect, and his and his family's subsequent struggle to adjust to this new condition. In the Penal Colony (1919) is a short story that follows an explorer who, while visiting a penal colony, comes face to face with an elaborate torture and execution device and the zealous man who metes out judgements and operates it. The Country Doctor (1917) is a short story in which a country doctor makes an emergency visit to a sick patient on a winter night, but faces absurd, surreal predicaments all the way. In A Report to an Academy (1917), a short story, an ape named Red Peter, who has learned to behave like a human, presents to an academy the story of how he effected his transformation.

My rating: 8/10.
My review:


♥ ..he decided it woulds really do no harm to write his friend about everything. "That's how I am and that's how he's got to accept me," he said to himself; "I can't remake myself into a person who might be more suited to be his friend than I am."

♥ And he stood completely unsupported and flung out his legs. He was radiant with insight.

♥ "..Do you think I wouldn't have loved you, I who gave you your being?"

"Now he'll leaned forward," thought Georg; "if he would only fall and smash himself!" This sentence hissed through his mind.

His father leaned forward, but did not fall.

~~The Judgment.

♥ When Gregor Samsa awoke from troubled dreams one morning, he found that he had been transformed in his bed into an enormous bug. He lay on his back, which was hard as armor, and, when he lifted his head a little, he saw his belly—rounded, brown, partitioned by archlike ridges—on top of which the blanket, ready to slip off altogether, was just barely perched. His numerous legs, pitifully thin in comparison to the rest of his girth, flickered helplessly before his eyes.

♥ "Getting up early like this," he thought, "makes you totally idiotic. People must have their sleep."

♥ "..Well, then, your performance recently has been most unsatisfactory; true, this isn't the season for doing especially good business, we acknowledge that; but a season for doing no business at all just doesn't exist, Mr. Samsa, it can't be allowed to exist."

♥ And already the two girls were running down the hallway with rustling skirts—how had his sister gotten dressed so quickly?—and tore open the apartment door. There was no sound of the door closing; they had most likely left it open, as is the case in apartments where a great misfortune has occurred.

♥ Since he had to open the door in this manner, he was still out of sight after it was already fairly wide open. First he had to turn his body slowly around one leaf of the double door, and very carefully at that, if he didn't want to fall squarely on his back right before entering the room. He was still occupied by that difficult maneuver and had no time to pay attention to anything else, when he heard the chief clerk utter a loud "Oh!"—it sounded like the wind howling—and now he saw him as well. He had been the closest to the door; now, pressing his hand against his open mouth, he stepped slowly backward as if driven away by some invisible force operating with uniform pressure. Gregor's mother—despite the presence of the chief clerk, she stood there with her hair still undone from the previous night and piled in a high, ruffled mass—first looked at his father with folded hands, then took two steps toward Gregor and collapsed in the midst of her petticoats, which billowed out all around her, her face completely lost to view and sunk on her chest. His father clenched his fist with a hostile expression, as if intending to push Gregor back into his room; then he looked around the parlor in uncertainty, shaded his eyes with his hands and wept so hard that it shook his powerful chest.

♥ Naturally, in his present mood it didn't even remotely occur to his father to open the other leaf of the door in order to create an adequate passageway for Gregor. His idée fixe was merely that Gregor was to get into his room as quickly as possible. Nor would he ever have allowed the circumstantial preparations that were necessary for Gregor to hoist himself upright and perhaps get through the door in that way. Instead, as if there were no obstacle, he was no driving Gregor forward and making a lot of noise about it; what Gregor now heard behind him was no longer anything like the voice of merely one father, it was really no longer a joking matter, and Gregor squeezed into the doorway, no matter what the consequences. One side of his body lifted itself up; he was lying obliquely in the opening; one of his sides was completely abraded; ugly stains were left on the white door; now he was stuck tight and wouldn't have been able to stir from the spot; on one side his little legs were hanging up in the air and trembling, those on the other side were painfully crushed on the ground—then his father gave him a strong push from behind that was a truly liberating one, and bleeding profusely, he sailed far into his room. Next, the door was slammed shut with the stick, then all was finally quiet.

♥ There he remained the whole night, which he spent partly in a half-slumber, from which he was startled awake time and again by hunger, and partly in worries and ill-defined hopes, all of which led to the conclusion that for the time being he had to stay calm and, by exercising patience and being as considerate as possible to his family, make bearable the unpleasantness that he was absolutely compelled to cause them in his present condition.

♥ Gregor's concern at the time had been to do everything in his power to make his family forget as quickly as possible the commercial disaster that had reduced them all to complete hopelessness. And so, at that time he had begun to work with extreme enthusiasm and almost overnight had changed from a junior clerk into a traveling salesman; as such, he naturally had many more possibilities of earning money, and his successful efforts were immediately transformed intro cash in the form of commissions, cash that could be plunked down on the table at home before the eyes of his amazed and delighted family. Those had been good times and had never been repeated later, at least not so gloriously, even though Gregor subsequently earned so much money that he was enabled to shoulder the expenses of the entire family, and did so. They had grown used to it, the family as well as Gregor; they accepted the money gratefully, he handed it over gladly, but no particularly warm feelings were generated any longer. Only his sister had still remained close to Gregor all the same, and it was his secret plan—because, unlike Gregor, she dearly loved music and could play the violin soulfully—to send her to the conservatory the following year, regardless of the great expenses which that had to entail, and which would have to be made up for in some other way. Often during Gregor's brief sojourns in the city the conservatory was referred to in his conversations with his sister, but always merely as a lovely dream, which couldn't possibly come true, and their parents disliked hearing even those innocent references; but Gregor was planning it more resolutely and intended to make a formal announcement on Christmas Eve.

Thoughts like those, completely pointless in his present state, occupied his mind while he stood upright there, pasting his legs to the door and listening. Sometimes, out of total weariness, he could no longer listen and let his head knock carelessly against the door, but immediately held it firm again, because even the slight noise he had caused by doing so had been heard in the next room and had made everyone fall silent. "How he keeps going on!" his father would say after a pause, obviously looking toward the door, and only then was the interrupted conversation gradually resumed.

♥ ..Gregor had full opportunity to ascertain that, despite all their misfortune, a sum of money, of course very small, was still left over from the old days and had grown somewhat in the interim, since the interest had never been touched. And, besides that, the money Gregor had brought home every month—he had kept only a few gulden for himself—had not been completely used up and amounted to a small capital. Gregor, behind his door, nodded virtuously, delighted by this unexpected foresight and thrift.

Now, this money was by no means sufficient for the family even to think of living off the interest; it might suffice to maintain the family for one or, at the most, two years, no more than that. It was thus merely a sum that should really not be drawn upon, but only kept in reserve for an emergency; money to live on had to be earned. Now, the father was a healthy man, to be sure, but old; he hadn't done any work for five years and in any case couldn't be expected to overexert himself; in those five years, which represented his first free time in a laborious though unsuccessful life, he had put on a lot of fat and had thus become pretty slow-moving. And was Gregor's old mother perhaps supposed to earn money now, a victim of asthma, for whom an excursion across the apartment was already cause for strain, and who spent every other day on the sofa by the open window gasping for breath? And was his sister supposed to earn money, at seventeen still a child whom one could hardly begrudge the ways he had always lived up to now: dressing nicely, sleeping late, helping out in the house, enjoying a few modest amusements and, most of all, playing the violin? Whenever the conversation led to this necessity of earning money, Gregor would always first let go of the door and then throw himself onto the cool leather sofa located next to the door, because he was hot all over with shame and sorrow.

♥ As it was, the mother wanted to visit Gregor relatively early on, but at first the father and the sister held her back with sensible reasons, which Gregor listened to most attentively, and which he fully concurred with. Later, however, she had to be restrained forcefully, and when she then called: "Let me go to Gregor; after all, he's my poor son! Don't you understand I must go to him?," Gregor thought it might be a good thing after all if his mother came in, not every day of course, but perhaps once a week; after all, she understood everything much better than his sister, who, despite all her spunk, was still only a child and, in the final analysis, had perhaps undertaken such a difficult task only out of childish thoughtlessness.

♥ Also, this time Gregor refrained from peering out from under the sheet; he gave up the opportunity of seeing his mother this first time, in his happiness that she had finally come. "Come on, you can't see him," said the sister, and obviously she was leading the mother by the hand. Gregor now heard how the two weak women moved the old wardrobe, heavy as it was, from its place, and how the sister constantly undertook the greater part of the work, paying no heed to the warnings of the mother, who feared she would overexert herself. It took a very long time. After about a quarter-hour's work the mother said it would be better to leave the wardrobe where it was, because, for one thing, it was too heavy, they wouldn't get through before the father arrived, and, with the wardrobe in the middle of the room, they would leave Gregor no open path; and, secondly, it was not at all certain that Gregor would be pleased by the removal of the furniture. She thought the opposite was the case; the sight of the bare wall actually made her heart ache; and why shouldn't Gregor, too, feel the same way, since after all he was long accustomed to the furniture in his room and would thus feel isolated in the empty room? "And, besides, doesn't it seem," the mother concluded very quietly—throughout her speech she had been almost whispering, as if she wanted to keep Gregor, whose exact whereabouts she didn't know, from hearing even the sound of her voice (she was convinced he didn't understand the words)—"and doesn't it seem as if, by removing the furniture, we were showing that we have given up all hope for an improvement and were inconsiderately leaving him to his own resources? I think it would be best if wee tried to keep the room in exactly the same condition as before, so that when Gregor comes back to us again, he'll find everything unchanged, and it will be easier for him to forget what happened in between."

On hearing these words of his mother's, Gregor realized that the lack of all direct human communication, together with the monotonous life in the midst of the family, mist have confused his mind in the course of these two months, because he couldn't explain to himself otherwise how he could seriously have wished for his room to be emptied out. Did he really want to have the warm room, comfortably furnished with heirloom pieces, transformed into a cave, in which he would, of course, be able to crawl about freely in all directions, but at the cost of simultaneously forgetting his human past, quickly and totally? Even now he was closer to forgetting it, and only his mother's voice, which he hadn't heard for some time, had awakened him to the fact. Nothing must be removed, everything must stay; he couldn't do without the beneficent effects of the furniture on his well-being; and if the furniture prevented him from going on with that mindless crawling around, that was no disadvantage, but a great asset.

Unfortunately, however, his sister was of a different opinion; not without some justification, true, she had grown accustomed to play herself up to her parents as a special expert whenever matters affecting Gregor were discussed; and so now, too, the mother's advice was cause enough for the sister to insist on the removal of not only the wardrobe and the desk, which were all she had thought of at first, but all the furniture, except for the indispensable couch. Naturally, it was not only childish defiance and the self-confidence she had recently acquired so unexpectedly and with such great efforts, that determined her to make this demand; she had also made the real observation that Gregor needed a lot of space to crawl in, while on the other hand he didn't use the furniture in the least, from all one could see. But perhaps a further element was the romantic spirit of girls of her age, which seeks for satisfaction on every occasion, and by which Grete now let herself be tempted to make Gregor's situation even more frightful, so that she could do even more for him than hitherto—because nobody except Grete would ever dare to enter a space in which Gregor on his own dominated the bare walls.

♥ Gregor's severe injury, from which he suffered for more than a month—since no one dared to remove the apple, it remained in his flesh as a visible reminder—seemed to have made even his father recall that, despite his present sad and disgusting shape, Gregor was a member of the family who shouldn't be treated as an enemy, but in whose case family obligations demanded that one swallow one's repulsion and be patient, only patient.

And even if Gregor's wound had probably impaired his mobility for good, and he now, like an old invalid, needed long, long minutes to cross his room—crawling up high was out of the question—he received in exchange for this worsening of his condition something he considered a perfectly adequate replacement: as every evening approached, the parlor door, which he would begin to watch carefully an hour or two ahead of time, was opened so that, lying in the dark, invisible from the parlor, he could see the whole family at the brightly lit table and listen to their conversation, to some extent with everyone's permission, and thus quite otherwise than before.

♥ But the greatest complaint always was that they couldn't leave this apartment, which was far too big for their present means, since no one could figure out how to move Gregor. But Gregor realized that it was not only the concern for him that prevented a move, because after all he could easily have been shipped in a suitable crate with a few air holes; what principally kept the family from changing apartments was rather the complete hopelessness of the situation and the thought that they had been afflicted with a misfortune unlike any other in their entire circle of relatives and acquaintances. They were performing to the hilt all that the world demands of poor people: the father carried in breakfast for the junior bank clerks, the mother sacrificed herself for the linen of strangers, the sister ran back and forth behind her counter at the customers' command, but by this time the family's strength was taxed to the limit. And the sore on his back began to hurt Gregor all over again when, after putting his father to bed, his mother and sister came back, let their work rest, moved close together and sat cheek to cheek; when the mother, pointing to Gregor's room, now said, "Close the door there, Grete," and Gregor was again in the dark, while in the next room the women wept together or just stared at the table with dry eyes.

Gregor spent the nights and days almost completely without sleep. Sometimes he thought that, the next time the door opened, he would once again take charge of the family's problems just as he used to; in his thoughts there reappeared, after a long interval, his boss and the chief clerk, the clerks and the apprentices, the office messenger who was so dense, two or three friends from other firms, a chambermaid in a provincial hotel (a charming, fleeting recollection), a cashier in a hat shop whom he had courted seriously but too slowly—they all appeared, mingling with strangers or people he'd forgotten, but instead of helping him and his family, they were all inaccessible, and he was glad when they disappeared. But at other times he was no longer at all in the mood to worry about his family; he was filled with nothing but rage over how badly he was looked after..

♥ And yet the sister was playing beautifully. Her face was inclined to one side, her eyes followed the lines of music searchingly and sorrowfully. Gregor crawled a little bit further forward, keeping his head close to the floor in hopes of making eye contact with her. Was he an animal if music stirred him that way? He felt as if he were being shown the way to the unknown nourishment he longed for. He was resolved to push his way right up to his sister and tug at her skirt, as an indication to her to come into his room with her violin, because nobody here was replaying her for her playing the way he would repay her. He intended never to let her out of his room again, at least not as long as he lived; his horrifying shape was to be beneficial to him for the first time; he would be on guard at all the doors to his room at once, and spit at his assailants like a cat; but his sister would remain with him not under compulsion but voluntarily; she was to sit next to him on the couch and incline her ear toward him, and he would then confide to her that he had had the firm intention of sending her to the conservatory, and that, if the misfortune hadn't intervened, he would have told everyone so last Christmas—Christmas was over by now, wasn't it?—without listening to any objections. After this declaration his sister would burst into tears of deep emotion, and Gregor would raise himself to the level of her shoulder and kiss her neck, which, since she had begun her job, she had left bare, without any ribbon or collar.

♥ "If he understood us," said the father half-questioningly; in the midst of her tears she shook her hand violently to indicate that that was out of the question.

"If he understood us," repeated the father and, closing his eyes, absorbed in his own mind the sister's conviction of that impossibility, "then perhaps we could reach an agreement with him, But, as it is—"

"It's got to go," called the sister, "that's the only remedy, Father. All you have to do is try to shake off the idea that that's Gregor. Our real misfortune comers from having believed it for so long. But how can it be Gregor? If it were Gregor, he would long since have realized that it's impossible for people to live side by side with an animal like that, and would have gone away of his own free will. Then we would have had no more brother, but we could go on living and honor his memory. But, as it is, this animal persecutes us, drives away our lodgers, and obviously wants to take over the whole apartment and make us sleep in the street. Just look, Father," she suddenly yelled, "he's starting again!" And, in a panic that Gregor couldn't understand at all, the sister even deserted her mother, literally hurling herself from here chair, as if she would rather sacrifice her mother than remain in Gregor's vicinity; she dashed behind her father, who, agitated solely by her behavior, also stood up and as if protecting the sister, half-raised his arms in front of her.

But Gregor hadn't the slightest wish to frighten anyone, least of all his sister. He had merely started to turn around, in order to regain his room, and that was naturally conspicuous because in his ailing condition he could only execute those difficult turns with the aid of his head, raising it and bumping it on the floor many times. He stopped and looked around. His good intentions seemed to have been recognized; the panic had lasted only for a moment. Now they all looked at him in silent sorrow.

♥ "And now?" Gregor asked himself, and looked around in the darkness. He soon made the discovery that he could no longer move at all. This didn't surprise him; in fact, he found it unnatural that up until then he had actually been able to get around on those thin little legs. Besides, he felt relativity comfortable. True, he had pains all over his body, but he felt as if they were getting gradually milder and milder and would finally pass away altogether. By now he hardly felt the rotten apple in his back and the inflamed area around it, which were completely covered with soft dust. He recalled his family with affection and love. His opinion about the necessity for him to disappear was, if possible, even firmer than his sister's. He remained in this state of vacant and peaceful contemplation until the tower clock struck the third morning hour. He was still alive when the world started to become brighter outside the window. Then his head involuntarily sank down altogether, and his last breath issued faintly from his nostrils.

♥ Mr. Samsa turned around toward them on his chair and watched them silently for a while. Then he called: "Oh, come on over. Let bygones be bygones now. And have a little consideration for me, too." The women obeyed him at once, rushed over to him, caressed him and finished their letters quickly.

Then all three of them left the apartment together, something they hadn't done for months, and took the trolley out to the country on the edge of town. The car, in which they were the only passengers, was brightly lit by the warm sun. Leaning back comfortably in their seats, they discussed their prospects for the future, and it proved that, on closer examination, these were not at all bad, because the jobs that all three had, but which they hadn't really asked one another about before, were thoroughly advantageous and particularly promising for later on. Naturally the greatest immediate improvement in their situation would result easily from a change of apartment; now they would take a smaller and cheaper, but better located and in general more practical, apartment than their present one, which Gregor had found for them. While they were conversing in this way, Mr. and Mrs. Samsa, looking at their daughter, who was becoming more lively all the time, realized at almost the very same moment that recently, in spite of all the cares that had made her cheeks pale, she had blossomed out into a beautiful, well-built girl. Becoming more silent and almost unconsciously communicating with each other by looks, they thought it was now time to find a good husband for her. And they took it as a confirmation of their new dreams and good intentions when, at the end of their ride, their daughter stood up first and stretched her young body.

~~The Metamorphosis.

♥ The explorer glanced fleetingly at the man; when the officer had pointed to him, he had been standing with lowered head, seeming to concentrate all his powers of hearing in order to find out something. But the movements of his lips, which bulged as he compressed them, clearly showed he couldn't understand a thing. The explorer had wanted to ask this and that, but now, looking at the man, he merely asked: "Does he know his sentence?" "No," said the officer, and wanted to continue his exposition at once, but the explorer interrupted him: "He doesn't know his own sentence?" "No," the officer said again, then stopped short for a moment, as if desiring the explorer to offer some substantial reason for his question, and then said: "It would be pointless to inform him of it. After all, he'll learn it on his body." The explorer was now ready to remain silent, when he felt the condemned man turn his eyes toward him; he seemed to be asking whether he could approve of the procedure that had been described. And so the explorer, who had already leaned back, bent forward again and asked another question: "But he does at least know, doesn't he, that he has been condemned?" "Not that, either," said the officer, and smiled at the explorer, as if he were still expecting a few more peculiar utterances from him. "No," said the explorer, ribbing his forehead, "and so even now the man still doesn't know how his defense was received?" "He had no opportunity to defend himself" said the officer, looking off to the side, as if he were talking to himself and didn't wish to embarrass the explorer by telling him what was so obvious to himself. "But he must have had an opportunity to defend himself," said the explorer, rising from his chair.

The officer realized he was running the risk of being delayed for a long time in the explanation of the machine; so he went over to the explorer, locked his arm in his, pointed to the condemned man, who, now that their attention was so clearly directed toward him, straightened up smartly—the soldier also pulled the chain taut—and said: "The matter is as follows. Here in the penal colony I serve as a judge. Despite my youth. Because in all penal matters I stood side by side with the previous governor, and I also know the machine best. The principle behind my decisions is: Guilt is always beyond doubt. Other courts can't adhere to this principle, because they consist of several judges and have even higher courts over them. That isn't the case here, or at least it wasn't under the previous governor. To be sure, the new one has always shown a desire to meddle with my court, but so far I've managed to fend him off, and I'll continue to manage it.—You wanted an explanation of this case; it's just as simple as all of them. This morning a captain reported that this man, who's assigned to him as an orderly and sleeps in front of his door, slept through his round of duty. You see, he is obliged to get up every hour on the hour and salute in front of the captain's door. Certainly not an onerous duty, but a necessary one, since he has to stay alert as both a guard and a servant. Last night the captain wanted to verify whether his orderly was doing his duty. At the stroke of two he opened his door and found him curled up asleep. He went for his riding whip and struck him on the face. Now, instead of standing up and asking for forgiveness, the man grasped his master by the legs, shook him and shouted: "Hey, throw away that whip or I'll gobble you up." Those are the facts of the matter. An hour ago the captain came to me, I wrote down his declaration and followed it up with the sentence. Then I had the man put in chains. All that was very simple. If I had first summoned the man and interrogated him, that would only have led to confusion. He would have lied; if I had succeeded in disproving those lies, he would have replaced them with new lies, and so on. But, as it is, I've got him and I won't let go of him again.—Does that now explain everything? But time is passing, the execution ought to begin by now.."

♥ "..The prongs here at the edge of the harrow then rip the cotton from the wounds as the body continues to turn, fling it into the pit, and the harrow can go on working. In this way it writes more and more deeply for the twelve hours. For the first six hours the condemned man lives almost as he previously did, but suffering pain. After two hours the felt is removed, because the man has no more strength to scream. In this electrically heated bowl at the head end we place hot boiled rice and milk, from which the man, if he feels like it, can take whatever he can get hold of with his tongue. None of them passes up the opportunity. I know of none, and my experience is extensive. Only around the sixth hour does he lose his pleasure in eating. Then I generally kneel down here and observe this phenomenon. The man seldom swallows the last mouthful, he just turns it around in his mouth and spits it out into the pit. Then I have to duck or he'll hit me in the face with it. But then, how quiet the man becomes around the sixth hour! Even the dumbest one starts to understand. It begins around the eyes. From there it spreads out. A sight that could tempt someone to lie down alongside the man under the harrow. Nothing further happens, the man merely begins to decipher the writing; he purses his lips as if listening to something. As you've seen, it isn't easy to decipher the script with your eyes; but our man deciphers it with his wounds. True, it takes a lot of effort; he needs six hours to complete it. But then the harrow skewers him completely and throws him into the pit, where he splashes down into the bloody water and the cotton. Then the execution is over, and we, the soldier and I, bury him."

♥ The explorer thought it over: It's always a ticklish thing to interfere in someones else's affairs in some decisive way. He was neither a citizen of the penal colony nor a citizen of the country it belonged to. If he wished to condemn the execution or even prevent it, they could say to him: "You're a foreigner, keep quiet." He would have no reply to that, but would only be able to add that in this case he didn't even understand his own motives, since he was traveling purely with the intention of seeing things, and buy no means that of altering other people's legal codes, or the like. But matters here were truly very tempting. The injustice of the proceedings and the inhumanity of the execution couldn't be denied. No one cold assume that the traveler was doing anything self-serving, because the condemned man was unknown to him, not a compatriot and in no way a person who elicited sympathy.

♥ "..And now the execution began! No false note disturbed the operation of the machine. At this point many people were no longer watching, but were lying on the sand with closed eyes; everybody knew: Now justice will be done. In the silence all that could be heard was the condemned man's sighing, muffled by the felt. Today the machine no longer manages to squeeze a sigh out of the condemned man that's loud enough not to be stifled by the felt; but in those days the writing needles exuded a corrosive fluid that isn't allowed to be used any more. Well, and then the sixth hour arrived! It was impossible to comply with everyone's request to watch from up close. The governor in his wisdom ordered that the children should be considered first and foremost; of course, thanks to my station, I was always allowed to stay right there; often I would squat down, holding two small children in my arms, right and left. How we all captured the transfigured expression on the tortured face, how we held our cheeks in the glow of this finally achieved and already perishing justice! What times those were, my friend!"

♥ "—That's my plan; are you willing to help me carry it out? But of course you're willing; what's more, you must." And the officer grasped the explorer by both arms and looked him in the face, breathing heavily. He had shouted the last few sentences so loud that even the soldier and the condemned man had had their attention aroused; even though they couldn't understand any of it, still they stopped eating and looked over at the explorer as they chewed.

The answer he had to give was unequivocal for the explorer from the very outset; he had experienced too much in his life for him to possibly waver now; he was basically honest and he was fearless. Nevertheless he now hesitated for the space of a moment at the sight of the soldier and the condemned man. But finally he said as he had to: "No." The officer blinked his eyes several times, but didn't avert his gaze from him. "Do you want an explanation?" the explorer asked. The officer nodded in silence. "I'm an opponent of this procedure," the explorer now said; "even before you took me into your confidence—naturally, under no circumstances will I abuse that confidence—I had already considered whether I had any right to take steps against this procedure, and whether my intervention could have even a small chance of succeeding. It was clear to me whom I should turn to first if I wanted to do this: to the governor, of course. You made that even clearer to me, but you didn't plant the seeds of my decision; on the contrary, I sincerely respect your honest conviction, even if it can't lead me astray."

♥ Only when the officer was completely naked did they pay attention. The condemned man in particular seemed struck by the presentiment of some great shift in events. What had happened to him was now happening to the officer. Perhaps it would continue that way right up to the bitter end. Probably the foreign explorer had given the order for it. Thus it was revenge. Without having suffered all the way himself, he was nevertheless avenged all the way. A broad, soundless laugh now appeared on his face and no longer left it.

..He intended to press himself against the feet on this side, while those two grasped the officer's head on the other side, so he could be slowly removed from the needles. But now those two couldn't make up their minds to come; the condemned man actually turned away; the explorer had to go up to them and forcibly hustle them over to the officer's head. In doing so, he saw the face of the corpse, almost against his will. It was as it had been in life; no sign of the promised redemption could be discovered; what all the others had found in the machine, the officer did not find; his lips were tightly compressed, his eyes were open and had a living expression; his gaze was one of calm conviction; his forehead was pierced by the point of the big iron spike.

~~In the Penal Colony.

♥ Then, with no fever, not cold, not warm, with expressionless eyes, without a shirt, the boy raises himself up under the feather bed, embraces my neck and whispers in my ear: "Doctor, let me die." I look around; no one has heard; his parents are standing in silence, bending forward in expectation of my medical opinion; the sister has brought a chair for my bag. I open the bag and look through my instruments; the boy continues to grope toward me from his bed in order to remind me of his request..

..I place my head on the chest of the boy, who shivers at the touch of my wet beard. What I know is confirmed: the boy is healthy, with somewhat poor circulation, glutted with coffee by his anxious mother, but healthy, so that the best thing would be to shove him out of bed. But I'm not out to improve the world, and I let him lie there. I'm an employee of the district government and I do my duty to the hilt, to the point where it's almost too much. Though badly paid, I'm generous and helpful to the poor.

♥ But as I am closing my bag and signaling to have my coat brought over, as the family stands there together, the father sniffing at the glass of rum in his hand, the mother, whom I have most likely disappointed—what do the people expect of me?—biting her lips tearfully, and the sister waving a blood-soaked towel, I am somehow ready to admit on certain conditions that the boy is perhaps ill after all. I go over to him, he smiles at me as I approach as if I were bringing him, say, the most invigorating soup—oh, now both horses and neighing; the noise, ordained by some lofty powers, is probably meant to facilitate my examination—and I find; yes, the boy is ill. On his right side, around the hip, a wound as large as the palm of one's hand has opened up. Pink, in many shades, dark as it gets deeper, becoming light at the edges, softly granular, with irregular accumulations of blood, wide open as the surface entrance to a mine. That's how it looks from some distance. But, close up, a complication can be seen, as well. Who can look at it without giving a low whistle? Worms as long and thick as my little finger, naturally rose-colored and in addition spattered with blood, firmly attached to the inside of the wound, with white heads and many legs, are writhing upward into the light. Poor boy, there's no hope for you. I have discovered your great wound; you will be destroyed by this flower on your side. The family is happy; it sees me active; the sister tells it to the mother, the mother to the father, the father to a few guests who are entering the open door through the moonlight on tiptoe, balancing with outstretched arms. "Will you save me?" the boy whispers with a sob, completely dazzled by the life in his wound. That's how the people are in my area. Always asking the doctor for the impossible. They've lost their old faith; the priest sits home and picks his vestments to pieces, one after another; but the doctor is supposed to accomplish everything with his gentle, surgical hands. Well, have it any way you like: I didn't offer my services; if you misuse me for religious purposes, I'll go along with that, too; what better can I ask for, an old country doctor, robbed of my maid! And they come, the family and the village elders, and they undress me; a school choir led by their teacher is standing in front of the house and singing an extremely simple setting of these words:

Undress him, then he will cure,
And if he doesn't cure, then kill him!
It's only a doctor, it's only a doctor.

Then I'm undressed and, my fingers in my beard, I look at the people calmly with head bowed. I am completely composed and superior to them all, and remain so, too, even though it doesn't help me, because now they take me by the head and feet and carry me into the bed. They lay me against the wall, on the side where the wound is. Then they all leave the room; the door is closed; the singing dies away; clouds pass in front of the moon; the bedclothes lie warmly on top of me, the horses' heads in the window openings waver like shadows. "Do you know," I hear, spoken into my ear, "I don't have much confidence in you. You just drifted in here from somewhere, you didn't come on your own two feet. Instead of helping, you're just crowding me out of my deathbed. I'd like most of all to scratch your eyes out." "Right," I say, "it's a disgrace. But I'm a doctor, you see. What should I do? Believe me, it's not easy for me, either." "Am I supposed to be contented with that excuse? Oh, I guess I must, I'm always forced to be contented. I came into the world with a fine wound; that was my entire portion in life." "My young friend," I say, "your mistake is this: you don't have the big picture. I, who have already been in all sickrooms, far and wide, tell you: your wound isn't that bad. Brought on by two hatchet blows at an acute angle. My people offer their sides and scarcely hear the hatchet in the forest, let alone having it come closer to them." "Is it really so, or are you fooling me in my fever?" "It's really so, take a government doctor's word of honor into the next world with you." And he took it, and fell silent. But now it was time to think about how to save myself. The horses still stood faithful in their places. Clothing, fur coat and bag were quickly seized and bundled together; I didn't want to waste time getting dressed; if the horses made the same good time as on the way over, I would, so to speak, be jumping out of this bed into mine. Obediently a horse withdrew from the window; I threw the bundle into the carriage; the fur coat flew too far, it just barely caught in to a hook with one sleeve. Good enough. I leaped onto the horse. The reins loosely trailing along, one horse just barely attached to the other, the carriage meandering behind, the fur coat bringing up the rear in the snow. "Giddy-up, and look lively," I said, but the ride wasn't lively; as slowly as old men we proceeded across the snowy waste; for a long time there resounded behind us the new, but incorrect, song of the children:

Rejoice, O patients,
The doctor has been put in bed alongside you!

Traveling this way, I'll never arrive home; my flourishing practice is lost; a successor is robbing me, but it will do him no good, because he can't replace me.. ..Naked, exposed to the frost of this most unhappy era, with an earthly carriage and unearthly horses, I, an old man, roam about aimlessly. My fur coat is hanging in back of the carriage, but I can't reach it, and no one among the sprightly rabble of my patients lifts a finger to help. Betrayed! Betrayed! Having obeyed the false ringing of the night bell just once—the mistake can never be rectified.

~~A Country Doctor.

♥ Gentlemen of the Academy:

You have honored me with your invitation to submit a report to the Academy about my former life as an ape.

Taking this invitation in its literal sense, I am unfortunately unable to comply with it. Nearly five years stand between me and my apehood, a period that may be short in terms of the calendar but is an indefinitely long one to gallop through as I have done, accompanied for certain stretches by excellent people, advice, applause and band music, but fundamentally on my own, because, to remain within the metaphor, all that accompaniment never got very close to the rail. This achievement would have been impossible if I had willfully clung to my origins, to the memories of my youth. In fact, avoidance of all willfulness was the supreme commandment I had imposed on myself; I, a free ape, accepted that yoke. Thereby, however, my memories were in turn increasingly lost to me. If at first a return top the past, should the humans have so wished, was as wide open to me as the universal archway the sky forms over the earth, at the same time my wildly accelerated development made this archway increasingly low and narrow; I felt more at ease and sheltered in the human world; the storm winds that blew out of my past grew calm; today there is only a breeze that cools my heels; and the hole in the distance through which it issues, and from which I once issued, has become so small that, if I ever had sufficient strength and desire to run all the way back there, I would have to scrape the hide off my body to squeeze through! Speaking frankly (although I enjoy using figures of speech for these matters), speaking frankly: your own apehood, gentlemen, to the extent that there is anything like that in your past, cannot be more remote from you than mine is from me. But every wanderer on earth feels a tickling in his heels: the little chimpanzee and great Achilles.

♥ The second bullet hit me below the hip. It was a serious wound and the cause of my limping a little even today. Not long ago I read in an article by one of the ten thousand windbags who gab about me in the papers, saying my ape nature is not yet suppressed; the proof being that, when visitors come, I'm fond of taking off my trousers to show where the bullet hit me. That guy should have every last finger of the hand he writes with individually blasted off! I, I have the right to drop my pants in front of anyone I feel like; all they'll see there is a well-tended coat of fur and the scar left over from—here let us choose a specific word for a specific purpose, but a word I wouldn't want misunderstood—the scar left over from an infamous shot. Everything is open and aboveboard; there's nothing to hide; when it comes to the truth, every high-minded person rejects namby-pamby etiquette. On the other hand, if that writer were to take his trousers off when company came, you can be sure it would look quite different, and I'm ready to accept it as a token of his good sense that he refrains from doing so. But then he shouldn't bedevil me with his delicate sensibilities!

♥ After those shots I woke up—and here my own recollections gradually begin—in a cage between decks on the Hagenbeck steamer. It wasn't a four-sided cage with bars all around; instead, there were only three barred sides attached to a crate, so that the crate formed the fourth wall. The whole thing was too low for standing erect in, and too narrow for sitting down in. And so I squatted with bent, constantly trembling knees, and, since at first I probably didn't want to see anyone and felt like being in the dark all the time, I faced the crate, while behind me the bars cut intro my flesh. This way of keeping wild animals right after their capture is considered advantageous, and, with the experience I have today, I can't deny that, in a human sense, it is really the case.

But at that time I didn't think about it. For the first time in my life I had no way out, or at least not straight ahead of me; right in front of me was the crate, each board tightly joined to the next. True, between the boards there was a gap running right through, and when I first discovered it I greeted it with a joyful howl of ignorance, but this gap wasn't even nearly wide enough for me to push my tail through, and all mt ape's strength couldn't widen it.

They told me later on that I made unusually little noise, from which they concluded that I would either go under, or else, if I managed to live through that period, I would be extremely trainable. I lived through that period. Muffled sobbing, painful searching for fleas, weary licking of a coconut, banging the side of the crate with my cranium, sticking out my tongue whenever someone approached—those were my first occupations in my new life. But, throughout it all, only that one feeling: no way out. Today, naturally, I can only sketch from hindsight, and in human words, what I then felt as an ape, and therefore I am sketching it incorrectly, but even if I can no longer attain the old apish truth my description isn't basically off course, and no doubt about it.

And yet, up to then, I had had so many ways out and now no longer one. I had boxed myself in. If I had been nailed down that couldn't have subtracted from my freedom of action. Why so? Scratch the skin between your toes till it bleeds, and you still won't find the reason. Press yourself backwards against the bars until, they nearly cut you in two, you won't find the reason. I had no way out, but had to create one for myself, because without it I couldn't live. Always up against the side of that crate—I would definitely have dropped dead. But, for Hagenbeck, apes belong at the side of the crate—so I stopped being an ape. A lucid, elegant train of thought, which I must have somehow hatched out with my belly, because apes think with their belly.

I'm afraid that it may not be clearly understood what I mean by "a way out." I am using the phrase in its most common and most comprehensive sense. I purposely do not say "freedom." I don't mean that expansive feeling of freedom on all sides. As an ape I might have known it, and I've met human beings who long for it. As for me, however, I didn't desire freedom then, and I don't now. Incidentally: human beings fool themselves all too often on the subject of freedom. And just as freedom counts among the loftiest feelings, so does the corresponding delusion count among the loftiest. Often in vaudeville houses, before my act came on, I've seen some pair of artists do their trapeze routine way up near the ceiling. They swung to and fro, they rocked back and forth, they made leaps, they floated into each other's arms, one held the other by the hair with his teeth. "That, too, is human freedom," I would muse, "movement achieved in sovereign self-confidence." You mockery of holy Nature! No building would remain unshaken by the laughter of the ape world at that sight!

No, it wasn't freedom I wanted. Only a way out; to the right, to the left, in any direction at all; I made no other demands; even if the way out were a delusion; the demand was a small one, the delusion wouldn't be any bigger. To move forward, to move forward! Anything but standing still with raised arms, flattened against the side of a crate.

♥ I didn't calculate, but I did observe things very calmly. I watched these human beings walk back and forth, always the same faces, the same motions; it often seemed to me as if it was just a single person. Well, that person or those persons were walking around unmolested. A lofty goal hazily entered my mind. Nobody promised me that, if I became like them, the bars would be removed. Promises like that based on apparently impossible terms just aren't made. But if the terms are met, later on the promises turn up exactly where they were formerly sought in vain. Now, there was nothing about these humans in themselves that allured me all that much. If I were a devotee of that above-mentioned freedom, I would certainly have chosen the ocean over the kind of way out that offered itself to me in the dull eyes of those people. At any rate, I had already been observing them long before I thought about such things; in fact, it was the accumulation of observations that first pushed me in the chosen direction.

It was so easy to imitate people.

♥ Things went that way all too often during my course of instruction. And to my teacher's credit: he wasn't angry with me; true, he sometimes held his lit pipe against my fur until it started to get singed in some spot that was very hard to reach, but then he would put it out again himself with his gigantic, kindly hand; he wasn't angry with me, he realized that we were both fighting as allies against ape nature, and the difficulty was more on my side.

♥ ..I grasped a liquor bottle that had been accidentally left in front of my cage, uncorked it according to all the rules as the people paid increasingly greater attention, put it to my mouth and, without hesitating, without twisting my lips, like a drinker from way back, with rolling eyes and gurgling throat, really and truly emptied the bottle; threw it away, no longer like someone in despair, but like an artiste; did actually forget to rub my stomach; but, instead, because I simply had to, because I had the urge to, because my senses were in an uproar—in a word, I called out "Hello," breaking into human speech, leaping into the human community by means of that outcry, and feeling its echo, "Listen, he's talking," like a kiss all over my sweat-soaked body.

I repeat: I didn't imitate human beings because they appealed to me; I imitated because I was looking for a way out, for no other reason. And that victory still didn't amount to much.

♥ And I learned, gentlemen. Oh, you learn when you have to; you learn when you want a way out; you learn regardless of all else. You observe yourself, whip in hand; you lacerate yourself at the least sign of resistance. My ape nature, turning somersaults, raged out of me and away, so that my first teacher nearly became apelike himself, and soon had to give up the instruction and go to a sanatorium. Fortunately he came out again before long.

♥ That progress! That penetration of rays of knowledge from all sides into my awakening brain! I won't deny it: it made me happy. But I also admit: I didn't overestimate it, not even then, let alone today. Through an effort that hasn't found its match on earth to the present day, I have attained the educational level of an average European. Perhaps that wouldn't be anything by itself, but it is really something when you consider that it helped me out of my cage and gave me this particular way out, this human way out. There's an excellent German expression: sich in die Büsche schlagen, to steal away secretly. That's what I did, I stole away secretly. I had no other way, always presupposing that I couldn't choose freedom.

When I survey my development and the goal it has had up to now, I am neither unhappy nor contented. My hands in my trousers pockets, the wine bottle on the table, I half recline, half sit, in my rocking chair and look out the window. When a visitor comes, I receive him in a proper manner. My impresario sits in the anteroom; when I ring, he comes and listens to what I have to say. There's a performance almost every evening, and my success probably can't get much greater. When I come home late at night from banquets, learned societies or friendly gatherings, a little half-trained female chimpanzee is waiting for me and I have a good time with her, ape fashion; in the daytime I don't want to see her, because her eyes have that deranged look which bewildered trained animals have; I'm the only one who recognizes it, and I can't stand it.

All in all, however, I have achieved what I wanted to achieve. Let nobody say that it wasn't worth the trouble. Anyway, I don't want any human being's opinion, I merely wish to disseminate information; I am merely making a report; even to you, gentlemen of the Academy, I have merely made a report.

~~A Report to an Academy.
Tags: 1910s - fiction, 1st-person narrative, 20th century - fiction, 3rd-person narrative, animals (fiction), anthropomorphism, bohemian - fiction, czech - fiction, ethics (fiction), fiction, foreign lit, law (fiction), literature, medicine (fiction), my favourite books, novellas, parenthood (fiction), philosophical fiction, prison life (fiction), satire, short stories, social criticism (fiction), surrealist fiction, translated
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