A Bug’s Life. Really.
By MARK LEYNER
“‘The Metamorphosis’ — purported to be the fictional account of a man who turns into a large cockroach — is actually non-fiction,” according to a statement released by Mr. Kafka’s editor, who spoke only on the condition that he be identified as E.
“The story is true. Kafka simply wrote a completely verifiable, journalistic account of a neighbor by the name of Gregor Samsa who, because of some bizarre medical condition, turned into a ‘monstrous vermin.’ Kafka assured us that he’d made the whole thing up. We now know that to be completely false. The account is 100 percent true.”
In the wake of recent revelations concerning Margaret B. Jones’s memoir “Love and Consequences” and Misha Defonseca’s “Misha: A Mémoire of the Holocaust Years,” the disclosure that Mr. Kafka’s work was based on reality has embarrassed editors and scholars.
“I’ve been teaching ‘The Metamorphosis’ for years, said a professor of literature at Princeton, who insisted that he be identified as P. “I’ve called it one of the most sublime pieces of literature ever written. Elias Canetti called it ‘one of the few great and perfect poetic works written during this century.’ To find out that it’s actually true is devastating.”
The actual condition of Kafka’s neighbor, a Prague salesman who didn’t return our calls or e-mail messages requesting comment, is known as entomological dysplasia, and is somewhat rare. It results in the development over time of a hard carapace, a segmented body and antennas.
In a telephone interview, Mr. Kafka was contrite and tearful. “I know what I did was wrong,” he said. “I’m very alienated from myself, but that’s no excuse to lie. I took someone’s life and selfishly turned it into an enigmatic literary parable.”
“I’m not sure how this happened,” said Mr. Kafka’s brother, B., of Oxnard, Calif. “My brother is weird, but he doesn’t have that good an imagination. A man who becomes a big bug … my brother couldn’t make that up if his life depended on it. As soon as I read ‘The Metamorphosis’ I knew it was true. Don’t they fact-check fiction?”
Mr. Kafka’s publishers are now reviewing all his works of fiction — stories about singing mice, “hunger artists” and men on trial for crimes they’re not aware of having committed — to determine whether they too are true.
“We were duped,” said E., Mr. Kafka’s editor. “The whole story is pure, unadulterated non-fiction. This guy’s a complete con man.”
Mark Leyner is a novelist and screenwriter.