I was sitting on a bench in the park, reading Kafka, when a ladybug alighted on my book. Starting in a corner, she crawled everywhere and would not leave, as if the black-and-white page was still a green leaf. Clearly, she loved the story. A poor boy, exploited by his family, depressed by the weight of the human condition, one day wakes up as a wondrous (if not the prettiest) insect! At first he has some problems adjusting to the unfamiliar powers of his new body. But soon he discovers that he can crawl along the walls and ceiling of his room, unencumbered by either gravity or propriety. His formerly parasitic family learn to take care of themselves. He is finally free. Yet not all is hosannah and hallelujah. The story also has a tragic aspect. He never fully transcends his human instincts. Nor does he discover the wings which, if professor Nabokov is right, must be hidden underneath his hard, rounded back. In a key scene (in my humble opinion), he is so taken in by his sister’s screeching of the violin, as if it were the music of crickets or cicadas, that he entirely forgets to fly out of the window.

© 2009–2024, Martijn Wallage