I couldn’t believe it when I got offered a chance to do a retranslation of Franz Kafka’s immortal tale of filial angst and degradation, The Metamorphosis. It’s been one of my favorite stories since I first read it as a high school student: the terror of grotesque self-discovery, the sadness, the alienation, that unforgettable image of an apple violently embedded in a back that had at first seemed hard as armor and now was mysteriously penetrable. I read it again, in German this time, as a college student, and then many times thereafter, often in the classroom, shepherding groups of intermediate-level German students through its pages and basking vicariously in the thrill they were experiencing at being able to use their hard-won language skills to enjoy something so spectacular. Kafka’s German is stunning. It’s deceptively straightforward, and this is how he manages to pull off the feat of making utterly implausible occurrences (young man wakes up one morning as a giant bug – WTF?) seem somehow possible and real, at least psychologically real. He’s a master of suspended disbelief. We’ve all had dreams in which the strangest transformations occur, making it easy enough to imagine what it would be like to experience a metamorphosis in real life.