Today’s Google Doodle celebrates a man who didn’t see much to celebrate during his short life. Today, July 3, 2013, would have been the 130th birthday of literary titan and eternal pessimist Franz Kafka.
The Doodle pays homage to The Metamorphosis, one of Kafka’s best-remembered novellas. The dark piece features a traveling salesman who has the unfortunate and unexplained fate of turning into some sort of giant bug — the actual German “ungeheueren ungeziefer” ambiguously translates to “monstrous vermin.” The drawing shows a lighter take on Kafka’s absurdist work, portraying a cockroach coming home from a day at work. The Doodle even includes a nod to the plot by including a small, sepia-toned apple, referring to the apples that the poor salesman’s father threw at him when he found his son transformed into the creepy-crawler.
The Prague native and tormented soul has since been hailed as one of the greatest literary giants, especially for his contributions to existentialism. While his body of work, also including The Trial and The Castle, doesn’t make cozy bedtime reading with its overtones of alienation and grotesqueness, it’s contributed to the timeless collection of literature that forces us to question the human condition. “One of the first signs of the beginning of understanding is the wish to die,” Kafka once wrote in the Blue Octavo Notebooks. Tuberculosis granted his wish at the young age of forty.