Comparison of Kafka\'s "Metamorphosis" and Dali\'s "The Metamorphosis of Narcissus"


The painting that I chose to compare to the novel Metamorphosis, by
Franz Kafka, was painted in 1937 by Salvatore Dali. Dali is an established
Surrealist painter, who, like Kafka, explored his own psyche and dreams in his
work. Dali invented a process, called the "paranoiac critical method", which is
used in this painting, to assist his creative process. As Dali described it,
his aim in painting was "to materialize the images of concrete irrationality
with the most imperialistic fury of precision...in order that the world of
imagination and of concrete irrationality may be as objectively evident...as
that of the exterior world of phenomenal reality."1
The rich landscape, seems to be limitless in detail. Dali rendered
every detail of this landscape with precise accuracy, striving to make his
paintings as realistic as possible.
In Greek mythology, Narcissus was a beautiful young youth, who fell in
love with his own reflection, and then drowned while trying to embrace himself.
His body was never recovered, but a flower, which was named after him was. The
left side of this painting shows the kneeling Narcissus, outlined by the craggy
rocks of what could only be Cape Creus\'s. On the right side of the painting, the
scene has morphed into a more idyllic and classical scene, in which the
kneeling Narcissus has become the statue of a hand, holding a cracked egg, from
which emerges The Narcissus flower.
This painting reminded me of the first chapter of Metamorphosis, where
the main character, Gregor Samsa, first realizes that he is confronted with a
ludicrous fate in the form of a gigantic insect. In both Kafka\'s and Dali\'s
work, I noticed that they both implement a certain "receding" technique. Dali
tends to put an object (In this case, Narcissus) In the foreground, and the
background of the painting tends to be very crisp and detailed, yet unimportant,
compared to Narcissus. I feel the same way about Gregor, I see Kafka writing
this story with mainly Gregor in mind, as the main character and narrator.
Kafka puts this puzzled victim in the story as a clerk, yet that element of the
story tends to receded in to the plot of the story. In a way, this technique
seems to intensify the scene, which later leads up to Gregor\'s rejection by his
family, and himself.
Another similarity between this scene and the painting, is the fact
that main ‘character\'s\' in the foreground, do not move, they only grow. Gregor
did not get out of bed the first morning of his metamorphosis, yet he did change.
In both halves of Dali\'s painting, Narcissus\'s position does not move, yet he
also grows. What is interesting about both works is that they can both be
perceived differently each time I see them. When I first read Metamorphosis, I
did not realize that Gregor was laying motionless in bed, until a second
reading. I had a similar experience with Dali\'s "The Metamorphosis of
Narcissus". I first saw this painting when I was on vacation in London four
years ago, at a Dali art exhibit. My first impression of this was simply a man
kneeling down in the water, who in the other half of the painting had a flower
growing out of his skull, and there were people living around this huge ‘statue\'.
My second viewing of this painting, in the book Dali, by Robert Descharnes,
allowed me to notice many more things. On the left panel of the painting,
Narcissus looks more human, with long flowing hair, and a solid body.
On the right panel, Narcissus can be viewed as either a human figure, or
a hand growing out of the soil, which is grasping a blossoming egg. I also now
notice that the ‘civilization\' in the background of the painting has seemed to
have advanced during Narcissus\'es metamorphosis. On the left, Narcissus kneel\'s
alone in the water, only surrounded by wilderness, as the painting progresses
narratively from the left side to the right side, civilization seems to have
advanced, human beings are present, there is a house at the base of the mountain
in the distance, a statue in a courtyard, and there is a cow grazing in the
field.
With this description of the painting, the reader can hopefully grasp
the most important similarity between both Kafka\'s and Dali\'s work, both objects,
or persons, (Gregor and Narcissus) however you perceive them, go unnoticed, yet
life continues to go on around them. Both Gregor and Narcissus, in my opinion,
are important because the are the center of attention of