Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Amaranth Bloom and Kafka’s Metamorphosis

Many of the themes in Kafka’s Metamorphosis are explored in The Amaranth Bloom. In particular, I have used Kafka's metaphor of a human turning into an insect to describe the way we can become victims of war. In my book, my characters are tortured by the circumstances in which they find themselves, just as Gregor is tortured. They live in crowded rooms, eat disgusting food, and are visited by men who are in control of their fate. I use the biological metaphor of a grasshopper turning locust as follows:

Normally the desert locust (Schistocerca gregaria) lives the peaceful solitary life of a tantric Buddhist monk. He chants, eats, drinks and even has sex in slow, purposeful, meditative moderation. But if you rub him up the wrong way, by overcrowding him and touching the back of his thigh too many times, he and his cronies—all former monks in the monastery—will renounce this life of solitary loving kindness. They’ll exchange their soft green robes for a black and yellow uniform and turn into one of the nastiest, greediest, most obnoxious gangs on earth: a plague of locusts.
“In humans this switch from nice to nasty is a gradual process,” Pa taught us. “It comes from losing confidence your descendants will have the resources they need to live a happy life. The cost of war is so great, though, that we would have used volition to evolve a much better way to build confidence, like we did with farming, if the great spiritual leaders hadn’t taught us that waging a war against evil, greed, cruelty, hate, and jealousy is the highest duty. So instead of thinking we’re fighting for confidence, we think we’re fighting against evil. But what you think is evil depends on the stories you hold in your ancestral memory. If you go back far enough you’ll see that sometimes your ancestors were right and sometimes they were wrong.”

As the protagonists in my book struggle with their own metamorphosis from child to adult and from white to black, they fight to use volition to avoid becoming insects. But after Gerry is beaten up by Letty’s father, he wakes up to find that he has lost his volition and has become an insect.  

In Metamorphosis, the food is used to represent the way his family is disgusted by Gregor. I used the recipes to show the cultural differences between Letty and the Dernison family, but also to show how what can be considered grave oppression—being reduced to eating tulip bread during WWII, for example—can be embraced as empowering, and that if we want to end war, we must stay confident and that means not allowing ourselves to be victims.