When Gregor Samsa woke up one morning from unsettling dreams, he found himself changed in his bed into a monstrous vermin. With this startling, bizarre, yet surprisingly funny first sentence, Kafka begins his masterpiece, The Metamorphosis. It is the story of a young man who, transformed overnight into a giant beetlelike insect, becomes an object of disgrace to his family, an outsider in his own home, a quintessentially alienated man. A harrowing -- though absurdly comic -- meditation on human feelings of inadequecy, guilt, and isolation, The Metamorphosis has taken its place as one of the mosst widely read and influential works of twentieth-century fiction. As W.H. Auden wrote, Kafka is important to us because his predicament is the predicament of modern man.