The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka, a book review.

The Metamorphosis is a novella by Franz Kafka which was first published in 1915. It is known for the prestigious German Literary Prize, Theodor Fontane Prize. Gregor Samsa the protagonist lies awake contemplating in his body of a vermin the circumstances in which he transformed over the night. He is a traveling salesman with the immediate concern being his inability to get to work by 7, meeting the customers that he ever fails to build meaningful relations with and earning enough money to pay off his family’s debts which all now seem impossible to do in his new body and his inability to answer to door.

Over the course of The Metamorphosis the author lets us in on the personality of Gregor. He is a man overburdened by the responsibility of paying off his parents’ debts and he would have to work for the boss he detests for at least 5 years more until he can pay off these debts. Gregor shows acceptance in the face of his work life and in the face of his transformation which becomes the theme of this story. We also see that Gregor is responsible and he has shocked his workplace and his family by his inability to get to work on time given that he has previously never missed a single day in the 15 years that he has worked at that company. As the clerk suggests when he shows up at Gregor’s place to determine the reason behind his absence. When the clerk is told that Gregor is feeling ill he demands to hear the excuse from Gregor himself but he is unable to speak, or at least communicate other than in an ‘unhumanlike’ way.

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After the threatening appearance form the clerk, Gregor’s father sends for a ‘doctor’ and a ‘locksmith. He the author tries to show us the means by which Gregor’s father is trying to deal with the Gregor’s situation that he has yet to be properly acquainted with. Meanwhile Gregor tries to open the door which proves to be an arduous task given that he trying to open it using his mouth. When the door finally open which Gregor harms himself in the process of achieving the clerk tries to take off after seeing Gregor in his ‘condition’, his mother is in shock and the father is devastated.

Gregor tries to speak to the clerk realizing now that the clerk shouldn’t have sees him like that. When Gregor tries to approach the clerk his father stops him by forcing him back into his room. Grete, his sister takes care of Gregor by letting him have rotten food (which now Gregor enjoys) and moving the furniture in his room to let Gregor have space to move around and get used to his new body. Over time the lifestyle of his family changes due to the fact that he was their only earning source. We don’t get to read much about it in detail but Gregor and his father have a strained relationship that can be seem from the cruel disposition that Gregor’s father has towards him.

The family itself faces several changes such as the father taking up a job in the bank, the  mother stitching undergarments and Grete attending school to learn shorthand and french. The family rents its rooms to three gentleman that have been problematic lodgers but are an added source of much needed income.

Grete’s violin playing is introduced as an abandoned hobby that one day she decides to take up again. Whens he plays the violin the lodgers want to her it as well. Gregor when he hears the music leave his room to get closer to his sister so he can let her know he appreciates her playing but this results in the lodgers finding out the ‘creature’ in the house. The family are given a notice by lodgers of their decision to leave as well as refusal to pay for the time they have already spent.

Grete protests and says she wants to get rid of Gregor the ‘monster’ so that the family could live in peace. Her father agrees and Gregor wishes that he should die as well if it would make his family’s lives easier. Later that night Gregor dies and his death is a mysterious one as he is found shriveled by the charwoman. There is a really sad ending to the story with Gregor dying for the sake of his family same as he has lived for the sake of his family.

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Gregor’s family is depicted as selfish people who revert to seeing him as a burden as soon as he transforms and is no longer able to support them financially. We see that every member of his family is able to earn and contribute to the family’s finances yet Gregor took it solely upon himself to support his family and work tirelessly to the extent that he sacrificed his own life for theirs. We see their despicable behavior towards him from the fact that they barely sympathize with Gregor’s situation and are unable to stand the embarrassment of his situation and how it interrupts their lifestyles. We also see that their entire response towards Gregor’s situation was confining him to his room, not looking for a cure or a solution to his problem.

The metamorphosis is very insightful regarding the exploitation that people face from their own families. Gregor Samsa’s transformation can be considered a hyperbolic depiction of his mental decline due to the hectic hours he worked for his family’s livelihood.

The story in general is sad, it shows us the brutal reality of how people treat you when you are no longer an asset but a liability. While reading it you might wonder how the entire story revolves around the consequences of a man turning into an insect over night but no one mentions how or why this happens. Gregor is the altruistic symbol in contrast to his selfish family.

 “The more meekly he behaved, the harder his father stamped.” Franz Kafka , Metamorphosis

The Metamorphosis is a strange book, one you might even enjoy reading. It is hard to understand what exactly the moral here is besides not being too selfless with anyone, even your family.

Let me know your thoughts on this book in the comments below.

Momina Arif.

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Bookstagram 101

You’d be interested in finding out what exactly is a bookstagram if you are a book enthusiast, a writer, a blogger under the book-blogging niche or just someone who has been swept off of their feet by the obnoxiously beautiful images of books on Instagram   You also might have followed a certain tag to see more of these tempting images. This post will show you why you should even bother with bookstgraming. What is there to gain? How to become an A-list bookstgramer, what bookstgramers to follow for inspiration, and lastly bookstgraming hacks to make your life easier.

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The Ministry of Utmost Happiness – A review. #PrideMonth

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy  is the ultimate pick for Pride Month and it will take you places. It starts from the old Delhi, a time before Coca Cola had laid siege to the Roofafza empire. We meet Aftab when he is just a boy with a beautiful voice and a dream to change. The story takes us to a war-torn Kashmir that declares ‘normalcy’ over pools of blood and it walks us through a reminiscent India where it is luck to have been born a Hijra (Transgender) , but bad luck to have been born a Muslim.

Anjum, formerly known as Aftab now lives in a graveyard that she over the years extends the boundaries of and strategically constructs into her own ‘Jannat Guesthouse ’. One day she finds a baby left on her pavement along with puppies and it seems her dream to become a mother has come true. She is without any doubt the most vibrant of all the characters. A combination of dark humor, sensitivity and sharp edges knotted into something unique. Anjum isn’t a typical, victimized transgender character that we come across because she has an added streak of authority and dominance. This gives new and impressive dimension to the community she represents.

We come to know her hand-picked guests as well: Tilottama, puts us at a lack of words in her description as she impersonates being nothing so easily. She is retold as an emptiness that three different men who love her have to come to terms with. Many believe this Architect turned freedom fighter is written in Roy’s own reflection.  We also meet Saddam Hussain, a vengeful dalit waiting for the opportunity to avenge his father death who was a victim of the Gujrat Massacre, something him and Anjum have in common. Unlike many that requested entrance and were shunned away, Saddam Hussain is granted entrance to Jannat Guesthouse and he become one of Anjum’s closest friends.

Speaking of Prose and the writing technique I feel a sense of relief having already read A god of small things as it makes you accustomed to the chain of events that Roy never delivers in the form of a actual chain. Indeed the book doesn’t follow a traditional plot system. As you read you already know how it ends and what brought the characters to that particular end or where it started.  The plot is woven with confidence that reflects in the personalities of the characters and demonstrates Roy’s impeccable craft.

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness is a tragedy, a love story and yet it has an ending that fills us with hope. It comes off as a loud political statement sometimes and as a historical retelling at other times. It speaks of loneliness of these characters and yet the endearing company they come to have. The characters are marked with deep loss and profound victories. The Ministry of Utmost Happiness gives us the most flawed and fragile characters that put us in awe of their magnificent, unabashed survival over the course of many years.

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness is her first take on fiction since A god of Small things which despite its heightened acclaim (and Booker Prize Award), put the author under the unwanted spotlight curated by the image of a pretty face that writes a good piece of illicit romance. She renounced that image with the involvement in the non-fiction world. And after 20 years returned with a book has much of her experiences engraved in it. The book gives us a backdrop of Muslim resistance in Gujrat. It gives the leftovers of the Red Fort and The Khwabgah, surviving on the dreams of a past life as Mughal footnotes. The book moves you to tears with its depiction of the Hijra community which also becomes the most prominent feature of it.  It uses a homeless PhD. and a freedom fighter like stops to catch our breath. The reason why I picked this book for the Pride Month tag is because it is an ode to the marginalized, the minority and the misunderstood.  It is about their struggles that don’t exactly show up on the map but have helped determine the boundaries and the boundless.

Share your thoughts on about this book in the comments below.

 

Momina Arif

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How to make writing a book easy.

Writing a book is always hard. Getting it through the agents and past the editors to the publishers and all the way to the readers, having readers to begin with, is all very hard business. But the hardest part of writing is the ‘writing’. The hardest part yet is getting the pen to the paper and getting the words all out before you can decide if they’re the right ones.

The problem is that as a writer you’ve got a lot to express and more than often you have the skill to express it artistically. What you seem to lack is  the work ethic to consistently do the one thing you’re actually good at. At times you might even have the idea. It’s not that you don’t enjoy it. It’s the expectations that get in the way of the process. So here are 10 steps that if you follow will lead to nothing but pure, unedited, unaltered, practical process of actually writing.

#1 The way to really write a book is to begin writing it.

http://journalporn.tumblr.com/page/6

It may sound as the most useless piece of advice but this is only real advice. You start and it doesn’t matter how you go about it but you keep going. One chapter day or one page a day. If it takes all the strength you’ve got, write one paragraph a day. But if you want to become a writer then write.

#2 And if writing it is important, trust me finishing it is also important.

Staying motivated enough to finish is important. Writing a sentence is easy. There is no mountain between one sentence and another and yet crossing enough sentences till you get a book seems like the most overwhelming task. The idea is to be consistent so as to make it less overwhelming and to keep the interest alive.

#3 Making lots of decision.

http://shabuki.tumblr.com/post/117155964457/meganportorreal-i-think-i-write-so-much-so-one

Being can writer can mean, at times, making lots of decisions. You have to decide what your book is going to be about. You have to decide your word count milestones that you can practically achieve in the day. You have to decide what you really want to write about because the lethargy that you face when writing might as well be a sign that this theme, or this process, or even writing, is not for you. Don’t let boredom go unnoticed because there is so much we can learn from it.

#4 Let the book happen.

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One of the things that I find as repetitive advice is that you should let your trusted critiques have a look at the early drafts so they can point you into the right direction. And this is one I don’t agree to. If you let someone in on the process early on you don’t get to have the book or the draft, or the paragraph, just whatever you’ve got for the time being, all to yourself. You don’t get to write with the privilege of being completely unfiltered. And you can’t be as invested in your book if you feel in the early stages that it’s not even your book anymore, it’s just some book someone expects you to write. Isn’t writing hard enough as it is when dealing with your expectations that you go around getting involved in other people’s expectation. My advice would be to let the book happen. Writing isn’t meant to be done under a spotlight or a magnifying glass.

#5 Take the chapters seriously.

Every chapter has to be a short story of its own. It has to be a whirlwind of all the required events, all the crevices searched, all the literary devices exhausted. It has to be as complete as possible and incomplete enough to engage the reader into the next chapter. This is not necessarily a writing technique but this is how I like a book to be. I want to feel so lost reading that I’m surprised when the chapter is over that it was only a chapter that felt like a whole lifetime. This also doesn’t mean that the chapter has to be very long. It just has to be a fulfilling reading experience.

How is this writing advice? As a writer your commitment to the book should reflect in the amount of attention you paid to writing individual chapters. Individual chapters are not as paralyzing a commitment but if you write a good enough chapter you might find yourself wanting to top the last one.

#6 Blog about your book.

http://blog.bookbaby.com/2017/11/can-your-blog-become-a-book/

This might be one of those advises that contradict the previous ones. But here’s how it’s different. Blogs are different from editors or critiques. There is a variety of responses you come across and some the most unpredictable ones can make you realize something about your book. Blogging about your work is in a way staying productive while the book is in process. Blogging is can prepare you for how a ‘real’ audience will react to your work.

#7 Don’t let your ideas go missing.

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Write your ideas down on a small piece of paper and throw it in a jar. That way you have a magical jar full of ideas. If that is not interesting enough you can fill up a journal with all of these and as a writer there really isn’t anything more aesthetically appealing than the ‘written’, written word. If not that either, use Evernote which is the best app for writing out there.

#8 Leave the editing for later

The writing cannot go hand in hand with the editing. You need to write with one kind of mindset and only after you’re done with that can you do the editing and with another kind of mindset. Writing has to be done freely and without the fear of any kind of judgment. Editing is quite the opposite. You have to judge your own work like you’re the professor presented with an assignment that reeks of last minute copy pasting.

#9 Don’t procrastinate

http://journalporn.tumblr.com/page/6

As the author of many things unfinished I can say that when it comes to writing there is nothing more difficult. It’s full part procrastination with only a pinch of initiative. You can add a little reading here and there to compensate for the time you don’t spend writing. It goes far because you’ll turn in the research paper that you have due but you won’t write the poem. I do a lot of what I call ‘planning’ and not as much of ‘creating’. We can all be such wonderful writers if stop doing that.

#10 Enjoy it.

If you’re going to stress about it, which is mostly the case, you will not enjoy writing anymore. And then the worst has already happened. What makes you a writer is primarily how much you enjoy it, not how much you stress about it.

Share your writing tips, and suggestions with me in the comments and let me know if this helped you start writing.

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Momina Arif.

 

 

Featured Image Credit: Vinstage

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100 years of Roald Dahl

I am just one of the gazillion people that were transformed into avid book readers quite early and have Roald Dahl to thank for this. I pulled my first all-nighter for Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator . I remember reading about Roald Dahl himself and thinking all I want to do in life is hibernate with a box of something I like to eat preferably other than chocolate and not resurface till I have a good enough story of my own. There are so many things about him that will make you believe in books and writing and probably even witches. In the honor of his 100th birthday I have made a list of reasons why you should read some of my favorite among his works.

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Angela’s Ashes and the holy terror of a word.

Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt is a beautiful remembrance of what seems to have been a battle won against poverty. Winner of Pultizer Prize, it is rightfully a competitor of Dickens. It reminds you even so of ‘A tree grows in Brooklyn ‘ by Betty Smith.

” ’tis a sad day for the men of Ireland when they need a bird to tell them a man is dead. “

We are narrated in an authentic Irish tone that only so much as delves in innocence. It is the story of how Frank leaves Brooklyn with his parents and siblings to return to Ireland after their sister Margaret dies, leaving his parents in a demented state, unable to put themselves back together.

” I have to make up dances and tunes to go with them the way I did a long time ago when I was young. I dance around the room with one shoe because I forgot to take it off.  I try to make up words, oh, the walls of Limerick are falling down, falling down. falling down, the walls of Limerick are falling down and the River Shannon kills us. Mr. Clohessy is laughing in the bed, oh, jaysus, I never heard likes o’ that on land or sea. “

They live in a constant state of poverty because their father has a major drinking problem and fails to keep a job for longer than a week. What he earns barely survives his trip to the pub.

When they return to Ireland, they live in unhygienic conditions. They have very little to nothing to eat and drink. Angela’s Ashes seems to be telling you the tale of the unprivileged straight from the bouts of hunger. It is a tale of how people grow into adults living off of only tea and bread. Its a tale of how many people you lose, even if you do survive. The characters are real enough that you feel the void when they are no longer.

We see undying resilience and sacrifice in Angela Sheehan, who set foot in America because she was doomed to do no better. We see in her echoes of a dancing talent that never quite lived when the damp of River Shannon set in and she lost child after child.

We see Malachy McCourt, the father from North of Ireland that the South of Ireland can tolerate less than an English. We see his drinking episodes that end in him singing nauseating songs of his time as a soldier and waking his sons in the middle of the night to make them promise that they’d give their life for Ireland. We see his incapacity to keep his family fed but this man isn’t cruel. He is unlike the abusive slobs that you expect when poverty and alcohol come together. This man has very little wrong with him besides the drink. He raises his children to be faithful, kind and educated. He encourages them to do better with their lives than he did. Malachy McCourt is his own wreck but he isn’t the worst father.

” In a large ledger she gives me the names and addresses of six customers behind in their payments. Threaten ’em, by.  Frighten the life out of ’em.

My First Letter.

Dear Mrs. O’Brien,

Inasmuch as you have not seem fit to pay me what you owe me I may be forced to resort to legal action. There’s your son Michael, parading around the world in his new suit which I paid for while I myself have barely a crust to keep my body and soul together. I am sure you don’t want to languish in the dungeons of Limerick jail far from friends and family.

I remain, your in litigious anticipation,

Mrs. Brigid  Finucane.

She tells me, That’s a powerful letter, by, better than anything you read in the Limerick Leader. That word, inasmuch, that’s a holy terror of a word. What does it mean?

I think it means this is your last chance. “

There is Frank with a terrible innocence that not Limerick, not Shannon, not any door that was slammed on him could take away. We read his memoir to find layers of fascination, curiosity and when we least expect it, gratitude. Angela’s Ashes is him reading to us a tale of how he starved, and how he lost his brothers, how he lived despite the typhoid when his family and friends died from pneumonia and the ‘galloping consumption’ and the many classes of disease that found no distinction between the evident rich and poor, Protestant or Catholic, English or Irish. Yet we find him in his books and in his dream of going to America, bringing the home the wage and becoming a man but never really blighting the way he saw his father.

” I had God glued to the roof of my mouth. I could hear the master’s voice, don’t let the Host touch your teeth for if you  bite God in two you’ll roast  in hell for eternity. I tried to get God down with my tongue but the priest hissed at me, stop clucking and get back to your seat.

God was good. He melted and I swallowed Him and now, at last, I was a member of the True Church, an official sinner. “

Angela’s Ashes will you bring you the Limerick view on The Great Depression, on how Roosevelt was probably a good man, how the great war wasn’t Ireland’s problem and the English had it coming after what they did to Ireland for 800 long years. It is the tale of how Shakespeare found himself a fan base in the slums of Limerick, the holiest city of Ireland playing from a radio to blind women.

” I did not like the jackdaws that perched on the trees and gravestones and I did not want to leave Oliver with them. I threw a rock at the jackdaw that waddled over towards Oliver’s grave. Dad said I shouldn’t throw stones at jackdaws, they might be somebody’s soul. I didn’t know what a soul was but I didn’t care. Oliver was dead and I hated jackdaws. I’d be a man someday and I’d come home back with a bag of rocks and I’d leave the graveyard littered with dead jackdaws. “

It is a tale of the angel on the seventh step that brought Frank new siblings after the ones he had were taken away. The angel who told him not to be afraid.

It is prominent tale of hunger and how the how where you least expect it people share the last cigarette, the last slice of bread and sometimes even a sherry. It is the story of people who steal lemonade for their sick mother and bring home sick dogs that they give their supper to even if its the only one they’ve had in a while. It is the story of a kid who took Gulliver’s Travels to read to someone in the asylum and if I can’t sell it to you with that, you’re stupid.

” The worst thing in the world is to sleeping in your dead grandmother’s bed wearing her black dress when your uncle The Abbot falls of his arse outside the South’s pub after a night of drinking pints and people who can’t mind their own business rush to Aunt Aggie’s house to tell her so that she gets Uncle Pa Keating to help her carry The Abbot home and upstairs to where you are sleeping and she barks at you, What are you doin’ in this house, in that bed? Get up and put on the kettle for tea for your poor uncle Pat that fell down, and when you don’t move she pulls the blankets and falls backwards like one seeing a ghost and yelling Mother o’ God what are you doin’ in me dead mother’s dress? “

Angela’s Ashes broke the scale and I am forever grateful that this gem exists.

 

Momina Arif.



 

 

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Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom- Review.

Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom will make you look at life from the very perspective that its natural to die and unnatural to not live while you’re still alive. We read in turns from when the main characters Mitch and Morrie knew each other as college student and professor and when they got to meet each other again after not having stayed in touch for over 16 years. In the latter stage of the story we find out that either way much has changed. Mitch has gone from having big dreams of leading a spiritually fulfilling life and having a career in music to becoming a sports journalist and burying himself under work. Morrie on the other hand has fallen from health suffering from A.L.S. (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis), an incurable neurological disease.

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10 times the Harry Potter fandom was too funny.

I honestly don’t think J.K. Rowling had planned for Harry Potter to have achieved such domination in the realm of humour. I don’t think she had planned ahead of giving Harry enough sass to burn a house down. But among the many things Harry Potter has given the world, there’s an in exhaustive source of puns and memes that make up 70% of the good things in this world. The rest belong to the masterpieces of the fandoms of Tumblr. When they’re not depressing you with fan theories they’re making you worry why a joke this cruel is so funny. So here’s a post to bring to you some the ‘funniest’ from the world of Harry Potter. And to seriously make you wonder if Humour was just a cherry for the top.

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10 strange facts about my favourite writers

Well I was wondering about how strange all of my favourite writers are. So I made a list of 10 of the strangest facts I’ve ever read about them. And as it so happens, the list got pretty strange as soon as I started writing.

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