View Full Version : between all the translations

05-24-2013, 04:18 PM
what words do different translators use to describe Gregor in Metamorphosis?

the one i read referred to him as a cockroach, but based on this forum, i've heard he was also referred to as vermin, vermit, and insect. any others? what do you think suits him best? i am aware that the generally most accepted term for him is "unclean animal unsuited for sacrifice."

cheers :)

Charles Darnay
05-25-2013, 11:09 AM
I tend to side with the latter: "unknown animal not suited for sacrifice". I have also read "creature" - which is not faithful to the original language, but I like it.

The point is that he is something unidentifiable An insect or vermin creates too clear an image in the reader's head (which is why many settle on it) - but it is supposed to be unclear: grotesque in the pure abstract form.

05-27-2013, 01:51 PM
It really bugs me (no pun intended) that so much meaning can be lost in translation. BUT i suppose it's not easy.

05-28-2013, 07:37 AM
I agree that the cockroach is a bit too presumptive. 4ungeziefer' in German is indeed everything that is not suited for slaughter under Jewish law. However, Kafka writes of Gregor's 'Kriechen', which has the following definition in German: '(von bestimmten Tieren) sich mit dem ganzen Körper dicht am Boden oder unmittelbar über dem Boden gleitend, meist nicht schnell fortbewegen' ([of certain animals): to move along, most often not fast, sliding the whole body closely to the floor or directly against the floor'. In other words 'to crawly'. So the idea that the animal which Gregor has turned into is something more icky than a rat (which could also be some kind of Ungeziefer' according to the Jewish definition) is not so very far-fetched.

But I think that word crops up later, so probably Kafka wasn't aiming for this to be clear from the start (indeed it was probably not clear to himself either), or maybe the idea 'Ungeziefer' recalled images of crawling in his head without the animals in itself rather being anything that crawls so to say.
Maybe they should have translated that word rather with animal or even 'it'. I'm not sure whether that works.