OxfordKafka24 Oxford University Kafka

Each Oxford student receives free copy of Kafka’s Metamorphosis

This week, each student at the University of Oxford received a free, limited-edition copy of Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis, as part of the university’s #OxfordKafka24 campaign which marks 100 years since the death of the author. Copies were also gifted to branches of the Oxford City Libraries.

The Metamorphosis is Kafka’s most famous work, published in 1915. The novella tells the story of Gregor Samsa, a salesman, who wakes up to find he has turned into an insect. Humans can no longer understand what he says and his family are horrified by his transformation. The novella explores themes of alienation, betrayal and absurdism as Samsa struggles to come to terms with his new identity.

Professor Martin Williams, Pro-Vice-Chancellor of Education at Oxford University, said: “University should be an opportunity to expose yourself to new ideas and thinking from outside your own discipline. #OxfordReadsKafka offers all our students a brilliant opportunity to do just that, by sharing their own perspectives on Kafka’s iconic text, and reflecting on the interpretations of others.”

Home to the Oxford Kafka Research Centre, the university is a leading institution for Kafka studies and holds the largest Kafka archive in the world in its Bodleian Libraries. The campaign follows the unanimous choice by the university to promote Kafka as the next author in the Bodleian’s Great Writers series, which launched with Chaucer: Here and Now in December 2023.

As part of the campaign, the university is hosting a series of events celebrating the centenary, including public installations, dance, theatre, and talks. This includes a pop-exhibition at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, public readings at the Sheldonian Theatre, and a a performance of Jitterbug, an interactive street event, in central Oxford, between the 31st May and the 4th June.

The Bodleian’s Weston Library is also putting on an exhibition, Kafka; Making of an Icon, from the 30th May to the 27th October. This will feature material from the Bodleian’s archives, including Kafka’s papers, notebooks, drawings and photographs. The notebooks held by the Bodleian also include the original manuscripts of two of Kafka’s unfinished works, Das Schloss (The Castle) and Der Verschollene (America), alongside several short stories.

Richard Ovenden, Bodley’s Librarian and Director of Gardens, Libraries and Museums at Oxford University, said: “100 years after his death, younger generations continue to learn from and be fascinated by Kafka’s life and works – many of which are held in the Bodleian archives. We therefore saw this as a perfect opportunity to celebrate his legacy and enduring influence.”

An exhibition as part of the campaign will also be held at the Morgan Library and Museum, in New York, from the 22nd November to the 13th April, 2025.

(Image Credit: Bodleian Libraries Website)

(Image Description: Kafka on a pink and yellow background)