Literary Mixtape: Gregor Samsa from ‘The Metamorphosis’


If you’ve ever wondered what your favorite literary characters might be listening to while they save the world/contemplate existence/get into trouble, or hallucinated a soundtrack to go along with your favorite novels, well, us too. But wonder no more! Here, we sneak a look at the hypothetical iPods of some of literature’s most interesting characters. What would be on the personal playlists of Holden Caulfield or Elizabeth Bennett, Huck Finn or Harry Potter, Tintin, or Humbert Humbert? Something revealing, we bet. Or at least something danceable. Read on for a cozy reading soundtrack, character study, or yet another way to emulate your favorite literary hero. This week: Kafka’s poor victim of metamorphosis, Gregor Samsa.

As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect. Well, mornings don’t get any more alarming than that. Trapped in this monstrous form, the mild Gregor is completely cut off from everything he knows and everyone he loves, particularly his sister, Grete. Ultimately, he realizes that his death would be the best thing for everybody, and manages to die by force of will. Given all that, we think it’s safe to say that poor Gregor would be listening to a litany of depressing music, with maybe some I-hate-the-world tracks thrown in for flavor. Here’s what we think Gregor would climb the walls, scare his family, and lament his fate to.

Click here to stream the full mixtape.

“Alone Down There” — Modest Mouse

We were tempted to suggest “Doin’ the Cockroach,” of course, but we doubt Gregor would have had enough of a sense of humor about his situation to appreciate the irony. This track is much more hopeless.

“Helena” — Misfits

Look, if you became horribly deformed and your family abandoned you after only a few halfhearted attempts at continuing to include you in their world, wouldn’t you be kind of mad? We’d be kind of mad.

“My Body Is a Cage” — The Arcade Fire

This one may be a little obvious, but we just can’t help it. What else would you listen to when you’re trapped in your own body and no one can hear you?

“Flagpole Sitta” — Harvey Danger

Sometimes when you think you’re going insane it helps to listen to ’90s music about thinking you’re going insane.

“You Are My Sister” — Antony and the Johnsons

No one does desperately sad, self-pitying and trapped-feeling music quite like Antony and the Johnsons, and this song would probably send Gregor into tears. All Gregor ever wanted was to make enough money to send his beloved sister to conservatory, but you know, then he was changed into a giant bug.

“How To Disappear Completely” — Radiohead

Because if anyone needs to pretend for a while that he’s not there, and that this isn’t happening, it’s Gregor Samsa.

“A Pain That I’m Used To” — Depeche Mode

Even though he’s now a monster, he was always a travelling salesman.

“There’s No Home For You Here” — The White Stripes

Eventually, Gregor realizes that he’s just a burden on his poor, misunderstanding family, and decides to die. That might be taking the White Stripes a little far, but that’s just us.

“I’m So Tired” — Fugazi

For when he’s reaching the end of his rope.

“Take Me Somewhere Nice” — Mogwai

If only.