Today’s Google Doodle: A Tribute to Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis

July 3, 2013, would have been the doleful thinker's 130th birthday

  • Share
  • Read Later
GOOGLE

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.

MORE: Were Lost Kafka Masterpieces Stashed in a Swiss Bank?

27 comments
DonaldBlydenburgh
DonaldBlydenburgh

Thanks for the insight Nicole.  I wasn't aware of Kafka's pre-holocaust background.  If he really would have LOVED what Snowden did, then I must read more Kafka.  Snowden is my hero, someone working for the government who has the gonads to tell the people that their government is infringing upon their civil rights.  I don't think Kafka would have liked the rampant federalism and militarization of the police departments in the US of today.  The US of today is an arrogant country and a greater threat to world peace than terrorism, according to the Europeans.  The US defense budget at over $700 billion is more than all of the defense budgets of the remaining countries of the world COMBINED!  This is madness, this is Kafkaesque.

CyiaN
CyiaN like.author.displayName 1 Like

I also remember reading "The Metamorphosis" in high school. After re-reading a summary of it today, I couldn't help but wonder what demons might have been torturing Franz Kafka so much that he could literally envision himself (or at least his main character) as a disgusting "vermin". Was he battling depression, as so many gifted artists seem prone to? Or was he plagued by his seeming insatiable lust for women? Or intriguingly, was his womanizing a desperate cover for his true sexuality, which he sought to suppress? So many questions for students and scholars to examine over for another 130 years and beyond. Gotta love western lit. class!

CyiaN
CyiaN like.author.displayName 1 Like

correction to typo: "So many questions for students and scholars to EXAMINE for another 130 years and beyond...."

Wouldchuk
Wouldchuk

If  today's "doodle" represents the creativity at "google" ... they HAVE lost their way.  It causes me to wonder if they will "forward" or just "bog down" and become another stodgy, rich, and dumb corporation.

EdwardJMcMenamin
EdwardJMcMenamin like.author.displayName 1 Like

@Wouldchuk Do you read much of Kafka's work? ever?

Wouldchuk
Wouldchuk

@EdwardJMcMenamin @Wouldchuk It's not Kafka, it's that MOST doodles I see now are more "confusing/embarrassing" than they are interesting.  The doodle looks like it belongs to daily publications of Kafka's era not ours.  Again, my complaint is not "Kafka" it's "no creative inspiration" at google aka their doodles, which ALL used to fascinate and you looked forward to seeing them.  Now, Kafka made his contribution and noting his memory worthy, but knowing (even a little) of what I do of Kafka inspires a dozen different ways to creatively relate to "us" google users.  I once looked forward to the "daily doodles" now I just try not to look--"this?" So EJM, does my point make sense?  You may not agree, but it is my point.  Something is way "stupid" at Google for doodles like this in close to 2014.

s.f.emmo
s.f.emmo like.author.displayName 1 Like

the Google image does not look like what I envisioned as "The Metamorphosis" describes.  However, kudos to Google for remembering such an amazing writer.

merlinpaz
merlinpaz like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 3 Like

I agree. I hate when I see the headline of an article I don't want to read, then click the link, wait for the page to load, and then read said article, and then am forced to right a comment and post a comment about how much I didn't want to read the article I just read so obviously 2 things must be true; no one else should want to read said article and whomever placed the article on their own webpage is at fault. I mean really, there is only room on the internet for so much content. Quit wasting space in all those tubespeople!

NicoleSchulman
NicoleSchulman like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 5 Like

Not a word about Kafka's Judaism or it's influence on his work. He did all his work in the Prague Jewish Ghetto, ya' know. Metamorphosis has been frequently interpreted as a metaphor for the plight of the Jewish people in Europe leading up to WW2- a people who had always been the breadwinners of society -and then seemingly overnight were perceived as "insects" to be exterminated. Kafka's work is also hugely anti-authoritarian. He would've LOVED what Snowden did.

JenniferGilbertSams
JenniferGilbertSams

@NicoleSchulman Thanks, Nicole, for important information that helped me gain a better insight into someone I'd never heard of until tonight.     :)

devinfbailey
devinfbailey

@NicoleSchulmanKafka lived in the the middle of oldtown square.  Probably one of the most costly properties in the area. Your understanding of his inspiration is misguided.  He didn't even really consider himself a Jew. 

kingdiggery
kingdiggery

@devinfbailey @NicoleSchulman There were some traces of his heritage in certain works, but you're definitely right. 

This is also an absurd departure from what he likely meant, not to mention a shameless case of  "using-famous-dead-people-to-promote-one's-own-ideologies."

lazytrap
lazytrap like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

There is nothing "grotesque" about The Trial or The Castle.. and saying his work is a contribution to Existentialism is a revisionist comment. Influential yes, but to reduce his work to the existential is offensive.

wern0122
wern0122

Franz Kafka's birthday is an interesting topic for a story in Time.  Today's Google Doodle is NOT. It's a drawing on a website that changes on a daily basis. It looks like Time has a story about the Google Doodle 2-3 times per month... Is this in order to direct web traffic from people who click on the doodle?  

HobbesTayloe
HobbesTayloe like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 3 Like

My goodness indeed. There is so much harm in there being a link to an article, however brief it may be, that provides some background about a topic, and then (heaven forbid!) that person may then delve deeper into that topic... oh, the horrors...

XavierZ
XavierZ like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 5 Like

Yes. Google has multiple advertising clients that pay for the right to explain the doodle in an informal rotation. In return, these advertisers see an increase in traffic on their own websites, which helps them sell more ad space. Just think of the Google Doodle stories as billboards that generate extra income so Time can keep paying the journalists that write real stories.

JenniferGilbertSams
JenniferGilbertSams

@XavierZ To be a bit fair, Sir XavierZ, regardless of the Doodles' commercial reward program, I've been exposed to things I've missed in life (not for lack of trying, but for lack of schooling).  

RayMarquezIV
RayMarquezIV

@XavierZ  Well put Xavier! I love that last line (as a freelance journalist myself).