Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Mini-Reviews: The Metamorphosis and The Secret Agent

I've decided that I won't be doing full reviews of books that are well known or are like a hundred years old. Not too useful. Instead, I'll save more in depth reviews for books published, say, in the last 5-10 years (by the time I'm finished reading). Saves me some time too. So just some thoughts about these two fine books:

The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

My first Kafka read. I was expecting quite a bit from Mr. Kafka. And I was not disappointed. This is really a virtually flawless tale. Really enjoyed it. The focus is not the language (I read a translation, so I guess I didn't miss much - despite what people say about translating German to English) but on the plot, the actual story, on Gregor Samsa, who overnight becomes a giant insect and has to confront (or be confronted with) his family in this state.

I felt all of Gregor's pains. In the micro scale it is a rather simple story. Gregor is an insect. He has to deal with that. His family has to deal with that, with him. But in the macro scale it is quite an interesting and thought-provoking scenario that examines the attitudes of others in a society and in a family toward individuals that disrupt the order of things. It is interesting how completely myopic people are to the feelings and suffering of such individuals, and how self-absorbed they are. It seems that individuals, in being different, though through no fault of their own, are an inconvenience to society, which, like a natural law, seeks self preservation through conformity and, counterintuitively, through self gratification. It is by seeking their own needs and wants, in a very Smithian way, that the wheel continues to turn. At least, that's what I got out of the tale.

I'll definitely be reading more Kafka.

The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad

Very well written, especially considering English was Conrad's third language. A very good

However, a bit longer than it needs to be. Some of the chapters drag on. Not without reason. Usually, they're to add to the suspense, but I don't think it's necessary to stay inside a character's head for a whole chapter just to get the idea that she's terrified, for instance.

Still, a very keen analysis of the psychology of anarchy and terrorism. Force, to the Professor, a character Ted "Unibomber" Kaczynski expressed deep affinity with, is strength. Strength in a society that is weak. Crime, then, is an expression of force, force that society needs to "wake up." Nothing can happen with society in its weak and dull state. Science, technology are to blame. Nothing can move the masses. Except force. (Kaczynski read the book dozens of times, which obviously motivated his murderous acts.)

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