A Report to an Academy

Kafka, Franz

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack
  • Date of entry: Jan-29-1997


A former ape presents his report to a meeting of the scientific Academy. Less than five years ago, he was captured in the jungles of West Africa. While on the ship returning to Europe, the ape came to the realization that there was no way out: "I was pinned down." Even if he should escape from his cage, he knew there would be no way to go home.

However, the ape developed a profound inward calm, thanks in part to the kindness of the ship's crew. His close observation of the crew and other humans allowed him to imitate them. In general, they were easy to imitate, although some of the viler human habits like drinking schnapps were more difficult to get used to. Finally, he realized that the only way to stay out of the zoo was to become human enough to perform as an ape-turned-human on the vaudeville stage. That's what he did.


In The Metamorphosis (see this database) Gregor Samsa suddenly finds himself changed into a giant vermin. He has no choice in the matter. In this story the protagonist ape is confronted with the fact that he has lost his freedom; he can no longer live as an ape because there is "no way out." Thus, he can only gain a modicum of freedom by becoming something he wasn't: "I repeat: there was no attraction for me in imitating human beings; I imitated them because I needed a way out, and for no other reason."

Is this story about the ability to change one's life story in response to circumstance? Is it an existentialist tale about creation of one's own meaning in life? Or is it a wry comment on alienation and human nature?


First collected in Kafka's volume of short stories, Ein Landarzt [A Country Doctor] (1919). Translated by Willa and Edwin Muir.

Primary Source

The Complete Stories



Place Published

New York




Nahum N. Glatzer