Kafka’s Roach

Kafka's Roach: The Life and Times of Gregor Samsa by [Estrin, Marc]

Marc Estrin

THE BOOK: Kafka’s Roach: the Life and Times of Gregor Samsa


THE AUTHOR: Marc Estrin

THE EDITOR: Fred Ramey (Insect Dreams version) Marc Estrin, and two library reading groups.


SUMMARY: Gregor Samsa, Kafka’s man-turned-cockroach, is rescued by the chambermaid, and transported to Vienna to join a carny sideshow. Six-foot talking cockroach! His adventures proceed from there to New York, Washington, D.C, and finally Los Alamos, N.M., where he arrives as FDR’s risk manager for the Manhattan Project. Not a happy ending.

THE BACK STORY: Kafka’s “Metamorphosis” was a short story published in 1915, which sent the literary world into a tizzy. Never before had his image of man turned roach, so captured human alienation, soon to blossom in The Great War. I thought the character had more potential than K alloted him. So I set him free.

WHY THIS TITLE: The “Kafka’s Roach” part is obvious. What makes for such a long book is the fateful history he lived, 1915-1945, from which we are stil reeling.

WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT: It’s fascinating, packed with historical characters accurately rendered, and as Tom Robbins commented on an earlier version, “With its crazy-legged imagination, darting insights, and twitchy wit, [it] is a creation that defies any sourpuss Raid to kill it dead.”

REVIEW COMMENTS:(for its earlier version): “Get ready for a highly imaginative ride through the cultural frontier of the early 20th century. A colossal book of characters and events that inspires tears of laughter and sadness in its rich blend of clever clever metaphor and unsettling facts. This book promises to become a pivotal literary landmark. Highly recommended.” Library Journal (starred review)

AUTHOR PROFILE: Marc Estrin’s world line approximates a cross between a fungal myceliumand a Rube Goldberg device. Writer, biologist, theater director, EMT, physician assistant, puppeteer, political activist, college professor, cellist and conductor, he is baffling, even unto himself.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: Kafka’s Roach was submitted at 900 pp, edited down to 600, published as Insect Dreams, transformed from a biography of a roach into a novel about one. The current version restores the original form, not as a corrective, but as an alternate version, packed with more events, and told in the voice of its missing narrator. Fred Ramey (its original editor at Penguin Putnam) and I have published The Insect Dialogues, a book of email exchanges concerning its original metamorphosis, and the general practice of editing in today’s world.

SAMPLE CHAPTER: (Provide link). http://marcestrin.blogspot.com/2017/11/opening-of-kafkas-roach-life-and-times.html

LOCAL OUTLETS: available by special order at any bookstore.

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Amazon, or any of the online bookstores.

PRICE: $26, $4.99 Kindle edition

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: mestrin@mac.com


Kafka’s Roach: the Life and Times of Gregor Samsa


Speckled Vanities

And Kings Shall Be Thy Nursing Fathers

The Prison Notebooks of Alan Krieger (Terrorist)

When the Gods Come Home to Roost 


The Good Doctor Guillotin 

The Annotated Nose 


The Lamentations of Julius Marantz 

Golem Song

The Education of Arnold Hitler

Insect Dreams, the Half Life of Gregor Samsa


The Insect Dialogues (with Fred Ramey)

Rehearsing With Gods: Photographs and Essays on the Bread & Puppet Theater (with Ron Simon, photographer)



Published by


Recently retired after 35 years with the News & Advance newspaper in Lynchburg, VA, now re-inventing myself as a novelist/nonfiction writer and writing coach in Lake George, NY.

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