Cover to Cover with The Metamorphosis

One morning, as Gregor Samsa was waking up from anxious dreams, he discovered that in bed he had been changed into a monstrous verminous bug.

He lay on his armour-hard back and saw, as he lifted his head up a little, his brown, arched abdomen divided up into rigid bowlike sections. From this height the blanket, just about ready to slide off completely, could hardly stay in place. His numerous legs, pitifully thin in comparison to the rest of his circumference, flickered helplessly before his eyes.

“What’s happened to me?” he thought. It was no dream.

The Metamorphosis is the classic tale of a man who wakes up as a giant beetle. At first, his family is unperturbed and find great pleasure in caring for Gregor. As time passes, however, they grow bored with having an insect upstairs and slowly neglect him. The book ends with Gregor wasting away into nothing – both physically and emotionally starving to death. How’s that for terrifying?

Unsurprisingly, many of the official covers draw on beetle imagery:

Recent official redesign Peter Mendelsund's cover Original cover

I’ve always been fond of Peter Mendelsund’s minimalist cover (centre), which also appears on an Out of Print shirt I’ve always coveted. 

And maybe it’s because this novella is often assigned in English classes, or maybe it’s because I’m not the only one touched by the tragic tale of Gregor Samsa, but the internet is full of amazing cover redesigns. As you might guess, the trend of beetle imagery continues:

Michael Miklosic's cover John Vogl's cover Jamie Accashian's cover Salene Jang's cover Mina Bach's cover Nicholas Grinere's cover

From left to right and top to bottom: covers by Michael Miklosic, John Vogl, Jamie Accashian, Salene Jang, Mina Bach, and Nicholas Grinere (who has a great name and an even better website).

I love a lot of these takes on the cover, but I have to say that Vogl’s take on Kafka is my favourite – portraying Samsa’s sister peeking into his room to care for her brother. Of all the family members, she is the most patient and kind with the beetle – and when she eventually stops caring for him, it’s only because he pushes her away.

Like I said, tragic.

Cover to Cover is a weekly project comparing and critiquing the various covers of popular novels. Find more posts in this series here – and feel free to link to your blog in the comments if you do one of your own!


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