Click here to read the story in its entirety on The New Yorker webpage. Haruki Murakami’s “Samsa in Love” (tr. from the Japanese by Ted Goossen) was originally published in the October 28, 2013 issue of The New Yorker.
I’ve never liked anything I’ve read of Murakami (which has been little), but obviously this is some kind of play with Kafka:
He woke to discover that he had undergone a metamorphosis and become Gregor Samsa.
So I was intrigued. In fact, what we have here is — maybe — a kind of sequel to “The Metamorphosis.”
“Samsa in Love” forms a part of a short story collection Murakami compiled, Ten Selected Love Stories, which was released in Japan last month. The collection includes stories by various writers, like Alice Munro and Peter Stamm, and includes this “love story” from Murakami. Honestly, this story is enough to make me want to read more Murakami, something that has just never sounded appealing.
When this creature wakes up to find itself transformed into the human Gregor Samsa, it has no idea where it is or what’s going on around the bed it’s in. The room is barren, other than the stripped bed. The windows are boarded up.
Samsa had no idea where he was, or what he should do. All he knew was that he was now a human whose name was Gregor Samsa. And how did he know that? Perhaps someone had whispered it in his ear while he lay sleeping? But who had he been before he became Gregor Samsa? What had he been?
Learning to maneuver the human body, Samsa crawls out of bed, stumbling around as he learns to stand on two legs. It’s all very inconvenient. Worse, as he stands up naked, he realizes with worry that the human body has no means of self-defense.
Still clumsy, probably making a lot of commotion, he makes his way to the door and finally down the stairs where he finds a curious scene:
A glass vase bearing a dozen lilies occupied the center of the table. Four places were set with napkins and cutlery, untouched, by the look of it. It seemed as though people had been sitting down to eat their breakfast a few minutes earlier, when some sudden and unforeseen event sent them all running of. What had happened? Where had they gone? Or where had they been taken? Would they return to eat their breakfast?
But Samsa had no time to ponder such questions.
Starving, he stuffs himself with the food, giving no consideration to taste. Finally satisfied, he has a moment to process. At this point, we may have our suspicions about what’s going on. Perhaps this Gregor Samsa is really Gregor Samsa, come back from being a bug (and from the dead). Locked away in his family’s past, here they have heard him emerging, and they’ve fled the house. Maybe.
The story takes an interesting turn into a love story when a hunchbacked young woman comes to the house to fix a lock, the lock on Samsa’s door. Samsa, worried about birds, lets her in. Interestingly, because she’s a hunchback in a brassier, she writhes her arms, buglike, a few times. Essentially, Samsa falls in love with her. He’s extremely interested in what she knows of the world, and, though he doesn’t understand what’s going on, he’s sexually attracted to her. Suddenly, being human isn’t such a ridiculous proposition.
A sequel to “The Metamorphosis”: what an interesting, and even somewhat touching, love story. Amidst all of the emotional poverty of the original, and amidst the troubles going on in Prague outside the door in this story, here’s a strange moment of connection.