“Samsa in Love”

Illustration by Javier Jaén, from thenewyorker.com.

Illustration by Javier Jaén, from thenewyorker.com.

This week we discuss “Samsa in Love,” written by Haruki Murakami and recently published by The New Yorker, in which–in a backward parallel of Kafka’s classic–Gregor Samsa is an insect who becomes a human. Murakami is a best-selling, award-winning Japanese author who is known for his surreal fiction. Notable titles include IQ84, Kafka on the Shore, and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. Murakami has won the Franz Kafka Prize, among others, and Wikipedia describes his work as being “marked by a Kafkaesque rendition of themes of loneliness and alienation.” 

Questions to consider regarding this story:

1. Would this story “work” if we did not have the preexisting context of Kafka’s piece? If yes, in what ways? If not, why not?

2. Discuss how Murakami’s simple sentence structure lends credence to the MC’s POV, or not. What techniques does Murakami use to SHOW Samsa’s previous state?

3. How does Murkami’s use of the Prague Spring as setting develop the story? What kind of commentary does Samsa’s predicament and growth provide, in conjunction with the Prague Spring?

4. Discuss Samsa’s journey to love. How does the love story inform the piece as a whole? How does Murakami’s decision to make Samsa’s love interest a hunchbacked locksmith impact the story?



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