5 ways for German learners to read Kafka

This post contains affiliate links to Amazon. It means I’ll get a few pence if you buy anything – at no extra cost to you.

So, you’ve been learning German for a while now, you’ve had a go at reading easy articles and books and you want something different!

How about reading Kafka? To be more precise, how about reading “The Metamorphosis” by Franz Kafka in German?

Here are 5 ways to read ‘Die Verwandlung’:

Download it from Project Gutenberg

Project Gutenberg lets you read it online on your desktop, you can download it as a eBook or as a kindle version. As the book is not copyrighted anymore, you can do all this for free.

Download it from Amazon

You can also download it directly from amazon, but watch out as not every version is free. But whether you download it from project Gutenberg or Amazon, once it’s on your kindle – especially if you have one of the newer kindles – you can use the built in dictionary to help you read it. As you can see in the picture, I wanted to know what ‘ungeheureren’ meant. So I highlighted it and the dictionary told me it’s ‘immense’

I then tried the word ‘Ungeziefer’ and found it means ‘vermin’


Read it on Bilinguis

You need to read it online on the Bilinguis website, but you can have the original German text and the English version side by side. You can even listen to the German text as there is also an audio version. Just be aware that the English text is not a literal translation but the text of ‘The Metamorphosis’.

Buy it from Interlinear Books

Interlinear is a new way of reading a foreign book. It translates literally, but only when it makes sense, like in this example:

The first page of Kafka’s ‘Verwandlung’  shows, for example, that they translated ‘den Kopf’ (5th line) as ‘his head, because in English we would not say ‘the head’.

This book is not free. It currently costs $19.99 but for that you’ll get:

  • 158 standard-book pages of text
  • well over 20 thousand translated words
  • the original text with aligned Interlinear translations – allows you to comprehend and scrutinize the meaning of the notoriously enigmatic Kafka’s language
  • printable/electronically readable PDF and experimental EPUB files
  • a link where you can download the audiobook!

So, although it isn’t free, it is a lot easier to read than the free versions I mentioned earlier.

Buy a printed copy

Find one in a charity shop or car boot sale or buy it from a bookshop or amazon. Obviously, depending on where you buy it and which version you get, it will cost you. But you might get a cheap secondhand book or one from a bookstore with both languages. the advantages for having a printed copy is that you can scribble in in and add your translations, if you need any. And there are still many people who prefer printed books to ebooks or online reading.
The Metamorphosis / Die Verwandlung (Bilingual Edition: English – German / Zweisprachige Ausgabe: Englisch – Deutsch)

So, there you have it – 5 ways of reading ‘Die Verwandlung’

  1. get it from Project Gutenberg
  2. get a kindle version from Amazon
  3. read it on Bilinguis
  4. buy it from Interlinear Books
  5. buy a printed book

The choice is yours!

Tempted? Which one would you prefer?

EDIT: On Friday 20 October we spoke about Kafka in our video show ‘Ask Angelika’. We had problems with adding the sentences on screen, so I’ll add them below the video.

Franz Kafka wurde am 3. Juli 1883 in Prag geboren.
Franz Kafka was born on July 3, 1883 in Prague.

Er war das erste Kind von Hermann Kafka (1852-1931) und seiner Frau Julie, geb. Löwy (1856-1934).
He was the first child of Hermann Kafka (1852-1931) and his wife Julie, née Löwy (1856-1934).

In der Familie wurde deutsch gesprochen, mit Bediensteten aber zumeist tschechisch..
German was spoken in the family, but with servants mostly Czech.

Er besuchte ein deutschsprachiges Gymnasium.
He went to a German speaking grammar school.

1901 machte er sein Abitur und begann ein Jura-Studium.
In 1901 he graduated from high school and began studying law.

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