Hear Benedict Cumberbatch Read Kafka’s The Metamorphosis


If, on the 100th anniver­sary of its pub­li­ca­tion, you want to do a radio broad­cast of a novel­la famous­ly appre­ci­at­ed for its sur­face weird­ness and more rarely appre­ci­at­ed for its sharp sense of humor, it only stands to rea­son that you’d hire a famous read­er with famous­ly appre­ci­at­ed sur­face odd­ness and more rarely appre­ci­at­ed sharp sense of humor of his own. I can only assume BBC Radio 4 fol­lowed a sim­i­lar line of think­ing when, to record Franz Kafka’s The Meta­mor­pho­sis (find the text in our col­lec­tion of Free eBooks), they brought in Sher­lock and The Imi­ta­tion Game star Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch.

They’ll air the read­ing in four parts. The first and sec­ond episodes, in which luck­less sales­man Gre­gor Sam­sa inex­plic­a­bly wakes up as an insect and faces the wrath and fear of his fam­i­ly, have already come avail­able online for your lis­ten­ing plea­sure; the next two episodes, when the insec­ti­fied Sam­sa grows accus­tomed to his new form only to come into mor­tal con­flict with his father and the new­ly dire finan­cial straits of his house­hold, will appear over the next two weeks on the pro­duc­tion’s episode guide.

And if the idea of this mun­dane and mon­strous tale told in the voice of Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch appeals to you, don’t delay. The BBC’s site will only let you stream it until June 10th (though cur­rent­ly you can find it online here.)

If you still have doubts, see also “Why Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch Is the Per­fect Actor to Read Kafka’s Meta­mor­pho­sis” by Slate’s Rebec­ca Schu­man. “Cumberbatch’s trade­mark style is a with­er­ing, per­fect­ly enun­ci­at­ed dead­pan whose inflec­tions some­how betray, three-fourths of the way through any sen­tence, sin­cere doubts that every­one will be in on the joke,” she writes. “Even bet­ter, this is pok­er face the way Kaf­ka wrote it: tinged with at least some amount of creepi­ness, thanks to Cumberbatch’s unique abil­i­ty to both look and sound like a very gen­teel sociopath.”

For less Cum­ber­batch-inclined Kaf­ka enthu­si­asts, we also have this free audio­book of The Meta­mor­pho­sis, which should remain avail­able indef­i­nite­ly. It’s record­ed by Lib­rivox.

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Relat­ed Con­tent:

Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch Reads a Let­ter Alan Tur­ing Wrote in “Dis­tress” Before His Con­vic­tion For “Gross Inde­cen­cy”

Dominic West, Stephen Fry & Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch Read From a Guan­tá­namo Prisoner’s Diary

The Meta­mor­pho­sis of Mr. Sam­sa: A Won­der­ful Sand Ani­ma­tion of the Clas­sic Kaf­ka Sto­ry (1977)

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

Col­in Mar­shall writes on cities, lan­guage, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer, and the video series The City in Cin­e­maFol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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