The Half Life of Gregor Samsa

 
 

Insect Dreams: The Half Life of Gregor Samsa is a sequel to Franz Kafka‘s short-story The Metamorphosis, written in 2002 by Marc Estrin.

Rather than being thrown away like trash, Gregor Samsa was secretly sold to a Viennese sideshow by the Samsas’ chambermaid. He then met various figures like Ludwig Josef Johann Wittgenstein, Oswald Spengler and Albert Einstein and witnessed American Prohibition, the Scopes trial, was involved in Alice Paul‘s feminist movement, encountered the Ku Klux Klan, and conferred with U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Robert Oppenheimer. The novel made allusions to post-World War I Vienna through the Manhattan Project in Los Alamos, New Mexico. Reciting Rainer Maria Rilke and discoursing on Spengler’s Decline of the West, Gregor attracts the attention of writer Robert Musil, who tells him that although western humanity is finished, that “Society…is in a larval state. What it needs is a larval model to lead it onward, upward, and out of the corral,” and Gregor is that larval model, his ironic task being to teach us what it means to be human.

Estrin was born in Brooklyn, New York. He attended Queens College, studying chemistry and biology, then studied theater directing at UCLA. Estrin came to novel-writing late. In the fall of 1998, he and his wife Donna were on holiday in Prague and decided to visit the grave of Franz Kafka, whose work had always been important to him. His father had challenged him to read Thomas Mann‘s The Magic Mountain during the summer before he attended college. He left a note on the grave, inviting Kafka to drop by if he ever found himself in Burlington. Estrin said that the concept, an outline and the opening episodes of Insect Dreams arrived in Vermont one morning at 3 AM, three weeks after he visited Kafka’s grave. Insect Dreams appeared from BlueHen/Putnam in 2002. Since then it has been re-released (by Unbridled Books). Through the 1960s he worked in various repertory theaters in the United States, including the Pittsburgh Playhouse and the San Francisco Actor’s Workshop. But the Vietnam War and Bertold Brecht inspired him to become politically active.

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A True Adaptation

 
 

Chris Swanton was a student of German at King’s College London, where he subsequently completed a PhD. After teaching for three years at London University he moved to what was then West Germany to take up a post at the University of Wuerzburg in Bavaria. During this time he spent a fascinating summer with the Berliner Ensemble at their “Theater am Schiffbauerdamm”, studying the production techniques of Bertolt Brecht, who had introduced the concept of “das epische Theater” (the epic theatre) with its technique of “Vefremdungseffekt” (objectivisation). The legendary playwright had died some two decades earlier, but Chris was fortunate enough to meet his daughter, the actress Barbara Berg, and his son-in-law, the actor Ekkehard Schall, both members of the Berliner Ensemble.

After returning to the UK, Chris taught at a local comprehensive school, but then had a complete change of direction when he joined the the Film Department of the BBC at the legendary Ealing Studios. He remained with the BBC for 16 years, winning a BAFTA for his contribution to the acclaimed series “Edge of Darkness” and being nominated in the following year for the Falklands drama, Tumbledown. He went on to add many more screen credits to his name.

Having long been a fan of Franz Kafka and The Metamorphosis, Chris Swanton has finally succeeded in fulfilling his ambition of making a film adaptation of the iconic novella, the first full-length English-language feature film based on Kafka’s existentialist classic.

Die VerwandlungThe Metamorphosis has captured imaginations and inspired the arts since it was written in 1912 and then published in 1915, yet the novella has evaded a true adaptation until now.