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Metamorphosis: A Life in Pieces

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When a trapdoor opened in Robert Douglas-Fairhurst’s life – the abrupt diagnosis, in his 40s, of multiple sclerosis – he couldn’t help thinking of Gregor in Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis, a young man who’s changed into a giant beetle, imprisoned in bed, legs waving feebly in the air. Other authors include Beckett, Burgess, Joyce, Keats, Tennyson, Heine – among many, many others – and, of course, Kafka – varifocal lenses on other worlds. No one would be able to enter his room without first disinfecting themselves in a decontamination area.

We use Google Analytics to see what pages are most visited, and where in the world visitors are visiting from.You either struggle against that, or you relax into it, and it turned out that I was one of those who could relax into it. While it was entirely possible that 20 years could go by and I wouldn’t notice any difference, it was also possible it could be the trigger for all kinds of disastrous things happening to my body.

We are experiencing delays with deliveries to many countries, but in most cases local services have now resumed. Though Samsa is at first cared for by his family, it isn’t long before he becomes a prisoner in his own bedroom, where eventually he dies. Written by an entertaining storyteller and offers a rare insight into a situation that few people will have to face, but that it does us good to contemplate.

Finally, as recorded here mostly in journal entries, his arduous treatment began, much of it spent in an antiseptic bubble and with various setbacks along the way. Finally, out of the tragedy of a randomly afflicted life, comes life-affirming laughter, a humanity, courageous but not ostentatious, and a defiant Nietzschean gaiety. What I needed was laughter,’ Douglas-Fairhurst says, and later, ‘the worst was not, so long as I could still look at it with a comic squint. In 2013 he was a Judge of the Man Booker Prize, and in 2015 he was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

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