In a 1965 interview to Robert Hughes Vladimir Nabokov named the greatest prose works of the 20th century as, in order, "Joyce's Ulysses, Kafka's The Metamorphosis, Biely's Petersburg, and the first half of Proust's fairy tale In Search of Lost Time.." In "Lectures on Literature," most of which he probably had written long before E.W's article "A dissenting opinion on Kafka" (first published in the early fifties in "Classics and Commercials"), VN explains why he chose to consider Gregor a beetle after presenting the readers with a precious definition of art :
" have to have in you some cell, some gene, some germ that will vibrate in answer to sensations that you can neither define, nor dismiss. Beauty plus pity - that is the closest we can get to a definition of art.[...]beauty must die:beauty always dies, the manner dies with the matter, the world dies with the individual. If Kafka's 'The Metamorphosis' strikes anyone as something more than an entomological fantasy, then I congratulate him on having joined the ranks of good and freat readers.[...] Gregor has six legs...he is an insect. Next question: what insect? Commentators say cockroach, which of course does not make sense. A cockroach is an insect that is flat in shape with large legs, and Gregor is anything but flat..."
It's interesting to notice that in his correspondence with Wilson, Nabokov mentions (letter 169, of Aug.29,1947):"I liked your Kafka and Sartre articles," although his friend's views were in strong contrast to his own.
Here are some excerpts from EW's article: "why...should this artist have gone on past boyhood accepting the role of cockroach for which, like the hero of Metamorphosis, he had been cast by the bourgeois businessman? [...] Dante, whose religious vision is all an exercise in control and direction, makes even his pagan Ulysses urge his men not to sleep before evening and tells them they were not made 'to live like brutes but to follow virile courage and knowledge';whereas Kafka is at his most characteristic when he is assimilating men to beasts - dogs, insects, mice and apes - which can neither dare not know.[...] What he (Kafka) has left us is the half-expressed gasp of a self-doubting sould trampled under. I do not see how one can possibly take him for either a great artist or a moral guide."
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