This book is remarkable in that, while so much literature relies on extraordinary events or characters, the only real extraordinary event here is Gregor's unlucky transformation into a beetle. (Note, Kafka never actually says it is a dung beetle.) Everything after that is quite believeable and, while depressing, probably represents what would happen in real life and what does happen in so many people's lives that are never written about. The book manages to be both surrealist and brutally realistic at the same time.
Metamorphosis is tragic, but it also has moments of sheer comic brilliance. It is one of the few pieces I've read that actually made me laugh out loud when no one else was around. Yet even as I laughed at one ridiculous situation or another, there was a sadness to it that wouldn't let go of me, an underlying despondence that kept me perpetually close to tears. When a book affects you that much, there's something beautiful about it.
Beautiful it is, and this is a terrific version, complete with myriad literary criticisms and miscellaneous articles in the back (the "novel" itself is only something like 60 pages) covering a wide range of pertinent topics. Some of the essays are interesting, some are ridiculous; many of them make great classroom discussions (such as the interpretation that equates the notorious apple-projectile with a certain male body part). Great fun, great fun.
Seriously, this is an amazing book--not boring, as many classics are--that you could easily read in two or three hours. Heck, I did, and it turned out to be one of my all-time favorites. Trust me. This is good.
This book is even quicker than it's 60 pages implies. The words flow and you will be drawn in. I truly felt sorry for Gregor, I wanted his sister to recognize him. This book begins weird and I was not sure about it. Even as it progressed, I was wary of its path. When Gregor first retreated to under the couch and put the sheet over him, it hit me hard. This poor, helpless man was hated by everyone, for being who he was. This book told me as much about the human condition as books ten times it's length.
ADVICE: Spend 2 hours of your life and read this book. Then think for 2 days about it.