Die Verwandlung / The Metamorphosis (First Edition) by Franz Kafka



2015-06-26 10:54:25

Die Verwandlung, or The Metamorphosis, sometimes also called The Transformation, is a novella by Franz Kafka (1883-1924). The first edition of this work was published in 1915 by Kurt Wolff Verlag, Leipzig. The first English translation, unusually by a folk-singer named A. L. Lloyd, was published in 1937 by Parton Press, London.


The Metamorphosis is considered by many as one of the most significant works of 20th century fiction. It is absurdist fiction with a philosophical focus. Some regard the work as born out of schizoid personality disorder, but this image of Kafka is contested by others. The work is hugely culturally significant.

Plot, Characters, Themes

The story tells of a travelling salesman, disinterested and unable to find purpose in his life, who awakes to find himself transformed into something monstrous and insect-like, and the reactions of himself and others to this new outward form. It describes the adjustment of the protagonist and his family to the new situation, and the eventual progress of the other characters.

There are questions of translation regarding this story. There is no direct translation from the German word ‘Ungeziefer’, usually taken by English translations of The Metamorphosis to mean ‘insect’. In fact in the original German, it possesses a much vaguer meaning, ‘unclean thing’ or similar, and what exactly the protagonist has been transformed into is, according to Kafka’s own intentions, not supposed to be so specific.


The Metamorphosis, and Kafka’s other works, were not particularly well-known in his lifetime. Because of them however, he is today regarded as a hugely symbolic figure within his era, and within 20th century literature.

See main article: Franz Kafka rare books and memorabilia

Notable auction sales and collecting tips

First editions of The Metamorphosis are sought after, both in its original German (Die Verwandlung, 1915, Kurt Wolff Verlag, Leipzig) and early translations.

Die Verwandlung first edition (1915) sold at Christie’s New York for $16,450 and $17,625, both in April 2001. The same sold at Sothebys New York for $4,500 in June 2005, and at Galerie Bassenge, Berlin for 1,600 euros in October 2011, 1,700 Euros in April 2012, 1,800 Euros in April 2006, 2,000 Euros in October 2010, 2,200 Euros in October 2006, 3,600 Euros in April 2011.

First English editions (The Metamorphosis, 1937, Parton Press, London) were sold by Bloomsbury Auctions for £450 in July 2003, and £850 in November 2002, and by Sothebys London for £1,560 in March 2005.


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