Evolutionary biologist, Richard Dawkins, has been roundly mocked on Twitter after expressing his view on Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis.
Kafka’s 1915 fantasy novella tells the story of a salesman, Gregor Samsa, who wakes one morning to find himself suddenly transformed into a ‘monstrous vermin’, commonly interpreted as an insect, and how Samsa struggles with this change in condition.
Scholars and literary folk have since tried to analyse and interpret the text using psychology and sociology in an attempt to decipher allegoric or symbolic meanings in the text.
The debate continues as to what Kafka meant to convey through the novella, which for many literary critics is part of the fun.
For Dawkins, however, this aspect has passed him by and he continues to be baffled and agitated by it, exclaiming on Twitter: “Kafka’s Metamorphosis is called a major work of literature. Why? If it’s SF (science fiction) it’s bad SF.”
Kafka’s Metamorphosis is called a major work of literature. Why? If it’s SF it’s bad SF. If, like Animal Farm, it’s an allegory, an allegory of what? Scholarly answers range from pretentious Freudian to far-fetched feminist. I don’t get it. Where are the Emperor’s clothes?— Richard Dawkins (@RichardDawkins) June 5, 2021
Dawkins continued: “If, like Animal Farm, it’s an allegory, an allegory of what? Scholarly answers range from pretentious Freudian to far-fetched feminist. I don’t get it. Where are the Emperor’s clothes?”
Twitter users responded in witty and mocking tones, as is usual with the social media platform.
As an empty Tweet box awoke one evening from uneasy dreams it found itself transformed in its bed into an enormous pile of pointless grump about a 106-year-old book.— David M Barnett (@davidmbarnett) June 5, 2021
Some readers explained the most basic concept of the book to Dawkins– that Samsa represents alienation and inferitority in working class communities and how one can become disliked and considered terrible when one becomes unproductive– but as some pointed out this concept is not something Dawkins would relate to.
Others also pointed out that he categorised both The Metamorphosis and Animal Farm incorrectly and that they are not in fact science fiction novels– the former is magical realism, and the latter is a political satire set in a dystopian world.
Time for Dawkins to go back to English Lit classes!