Vladimir Nabokov Makes Editorial Tweaks to Franz Kafka’s Novella The Metamorphosis

Vladimir Nabokov admired Franz Kafka’s novel­la, The Meta­mor­pho­sis. Hence the lec­ture that Nabokov ded­i­cat­ed to the work here. But he also saw some small ways to word­smith the sto­ry, or at least the Eng­lish trans­la­tion of it. Above, we have some edits — the nips and tucks — that Nabokov scrib­bled on his per­son­al copy of Kafka’s most famous work.

In 1989, Nabokov’s lec­ture on The Meta­mor­pho­sis was actu­al­ly turned into a tele­vi­sion pro­duc­tion star­ring Christo­pher Plum­mer. You can watch The Meta­mor­pho­sis — A Study: Nabokov on Kaf­ka online. It runs 30 min­utes. Of course, you can also down­load your own copy of Kafka’s near per­fect work of poet­ic imag­i­na­tion, to bor­row a phrase from Elias Canet­ti. Vis­it our col­lec­tions of Free eBooks and Free Audio Books.

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Relat­ed Con­tent:

Take Vladimir Nabokov’s Quiz to See If You’re a Good Reader–The Same One He Gave to His Stu­dents

Vladimir Nabokov Names the Great­est (and Most Over­rat­ed) Nov­els of the 20th Cen­tu­ry

Vladimir Nabokov Talks About Life, Lit­er­a­ture & Love in a Metic­u­lous­ly Pre­pared Inter­view, 1969

Vladimir Nabokov (Chan­nelled by Christo­pher Plum­mer) Teach­es Kaf­ka at Cor­nell

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Comments (2)
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  • Good to see this post­ed! I use both the lec­ture and the 30 min. video in my class­es. I think, though, that Nabokov was improv­ing on the trans­la­tion, rather than Kafka’s orig­i­nal Ger­man.
    But maybe not!

  • Lee Warner says:

    Ich habe “Die Ver­wand­lung” in Deutsch gele­sen, und auch danach den kom­men­tar von Nabokov. I found Nabokov’s com­men­tary inter­est­ing. I found the short film with Christop­er Plum­mer on Youtube and watched it with inter­est. He did a very good job of rep­re­sent­ing Nabokov. To add to the com­ment made by anoth­er on this site, I agree that he was only seek­ing to improve the Eng­lish trans­la­tion and not the orig­i­nal Ger­man. Often in the com­men­tary Nabokov speaks of trans­la­tors mis­un­der­stand­ing the orig­i­nal. Remem­ber that although V N lived in Berlin for a while, his three best lan­guages were Russ­ian, Eng­lish, and French.

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