The Metamorphosis Historical Context

The Metamorphosis is considered to be one of Franz Kafka’s best-known works. It was first published in 1915 in Austria-Hungary, in what is today the Czech Republic. Kafka wrote the novel in German, and it appeared under the title Die Verwandlung. It was published in the German journal Die Weißen Blätter.

The novel, which is fairly succinct, was written over a short period of time in 1912. The first English translation appeared in 1933. This translation was the first of more than ten other English versions. After it was published, The Metamorphosis received positive feedback from critiques and led to Kafka being awarded the Theodor Fontane Prize.

The Metamorphosis Historical Context 1


Personal Context 

Kafka was the oldest of six siblings and the only boy. From a young age, he knew that he was interested in writing and the arts, something that did not please his father. He maintained a fraught relationship with his father throughout his life. Many critics have compared their real-life relationship to the one that plays out between Gregor and his father in The Metamorphosis. 

Growing up Kafka was confronted with Jewish heritage and his working-class background, as seen through his fluency in Czech. But, he also spoke German, a language that was more intimately connected with the upper classes and ruling elite. The contrast between these two different backgrounds might’ve inspired Kafka’s interest in separation, alienation, and distance. Many read deep into Kafka’s life and find themes of alienation running throughout it. 

In 1912, the year that he wrote The Metamorphosis, Kafka also wrote another of his well-known short pieces, The Judgement. It was apparently completed in a single sitting. Kafka dedicated it to Felice Bauer with whom he had recently begun a relationship.

Despite the speed with which he was writing at the time (The Metamorphosis, in less than three weeks), it took three years of convincing for Kafka to finally publish the work. 


Final Years 

Around the time the novel was published, Franz Kafka, who was living in Prague, received his draft for service in World War I. The company for which he was working at that time, The Bohemia’s Worker’s Accident Insurance Institute, at which he was a lawyer, was able to acquire a deferment for the writer. His work was considered essential to the government. A couple of years later he tried to join the army but was turned away because he had contracted tuberculosis. Kafka was put on a pension because of his illness and spent the rest of his life in various sanatoriums. 

In the last months of Kafka’s life, he fell in love with Dora Diamont who worked as a volunteer at a tuberculosis clinic. He traveled to Berlin to be with her. His pain was so great as he suffered from the disease that he was unable to eat and he starved to death on June the third 1924. 

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Emma Baldwin
About Emma Baldwin
Emma graduated from East Carolina University with a BA in English, minor in Creative Writing, BFA in Fine Art, and BA in Art Histories. Literature is one of her greatest passions which she pursues on Book Analysis.

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