Venus in Furs and Gregor Samsa


Illustration by Rohan Daniel Eason

 
 

The name “Gregor Samsa” appears to derive partly from literary works Franz Kafka had read. The hero of The Story of Young Renate Fuchs, by German-Jewish novelist Jakob Wassermann (1873–1934), is a certain Gregor Samsa. The Viennese author Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, whose sexual imagination gave rise to the idea of masochism, is also an influence. Sacher-Masoch (note the letters Sa-Mas) wrote Venus in Furs (1870), a novel whose hero assumes the name Gregor at one point. A “Venus in furs” literally recurs in The Metamorphosis in the picture that Gregor Samsa has hung on his bedroom wall. The name Samsa is similar to “Kafka” in its play of vowels and consonants: “Five letters in each word. The S in the word Samsa has the same position as the K in the word Kafka. The A is in the second and fifth positions in both words.”

It might make sense since Gregor Samsa appears to be based upon Kafka himself. As when Kafka suffered from insomnia, he feared he was repulsive and a burden to his family, during which time his sister was his caretaker.

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