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The Meowmorphosis by Franz Kafka and Coleridge Cook

01/08/2011. Contributed by Sue Davies

Buy The Meowmorphosis in the USA - or Buy The Meowmorphosis in the UK

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pub: Quirk Books. 206 page paperback. Price :$12.95 (US). ISBN: 978-1-59474-503-4.

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It’s not a huge spoiler to say that ‘The Meowmorphosis’ is based on the classic story ‘Metamorphosis’ by Franz Kafka, about a man who turns into a giant beetle. This time the man, who is the same clerk in the same job, becomes a cute little kitten.

He is an instant hit with his sister who likes having a kitten to pet. His parents are more disturbed, Gregor is the main breadwinner and no one bring themselves to tell his manager of the transformation. It seems Gregor has been keeping the family afloat or is it simply that he prefers being in control?

As Gregor becomes more of a cat, the balance of power changes. While he is reduced to eating rotten fish and using a very large litter tray, his family must do something and start to earn their own living. It seems they have been leaning heavily on Gregor and they are released by his own entrapment.

Gregor is increasingly oppressed by his situation and being a cat he decides to escape to the outside and moves from the world of ‘Metamorphosis’ to ‘The Trial’ and ‘The Castle’. He meets other cats who were once men like himself but events take a sinister turn.

That’s when I got a bit lost. I felt rather bogged down and it took a supreme effort to finish the book. To be honest, it made me feel a bit thick as I obviously didn’t get all the allusions to the original Kafka and I felt excluded from this middle part of the although I thought the ending made sense.

There is a witty list of book club questions at the end just to reassure us that we are in the land of comedy rather than political paranoia but I admit I’ve enjoyed other mash-up books far more than this.

Although the title is quite jokey and the overall impression is a humorous spin on the original, I’m not sure I got it. It did make me rather paranoid, though, and I feel very odd every time a cat looks at me.

Sue Davies

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