Luckenbooth and The metamorphosis of a novel (inspired by Kafka's The Metamorphosis)
Luckenbooth is a novel inspired by Kafka’s The Metamorphosis. It is set in an Edinburgh tenement building and concerns the metamorphosis of the residents’ lives over nine decades. The purpose of setting the novel over such a long period of time is to be able to show how society changes but also remains the same. The aim is to represent how wider societal structures regarding the evolution of society impact upon the individual. Each story concerns itself with a protagonist whose life is in some way peripheral to mainstream society, or who is responding to the centre from a point of Otherness. Famously, the opening line of The Metamorphosis sees travelling salesman Gregor Samsa awake as an undefined yet monstrous creature. Kafka’s opening is a climax that is unravelled through the entire story. In a similar vein, the characters’ lives in Luckenbooth are woven together by a main event that impacts on the structure and narrative. In this way my opening includes a delayed climax that can only be fully resolved at the end of the novel. Luckenbooth begins in 1910 when the devil’s daughter, Jessie MacRae leaves her Father’s corpse rammed on a clifftop on a small island in the Highlands. She gets into a coffin her Father built for her and rows across the North Sea to Edinburgh. She begins a job at No. 10 Luckenbooth Close for the Minister of Culture. She is to be a surrogate for Mr Udnam and his fiancee. An extremely violent event occurs and Jessie MacRae curses no.10 Luckenbooth Close and the lives of its residents for the next hundred years. Structurally the building houses the curse much in the same way that Gregor Samsa’s body defines his fate. In flat 1F1, 1910 we have Jessie MacRae, in the 1920s, a young woman (who used to be male) is going to a drag ball in 2F2, 1930s sees a young civil rights activist from Louisiana, living in 3F3 and working at the Bone Library Royal Dick Vet. Ivy Proudfoot is a young woman training to be a spy in the war in the 1940s. There is a seance in the 1950s that exposes much of what happed to Jessie MacRae. Beat poet William Burroughs is doing cut ups in the 1960s and attending the famous 1962 Writers Conference at Edinburgh International Book Festival. In the 1970s an Edinburgh gang fights the Triads. A miner who has a phobia of light tries to care for his niece in the 1980s. The last decade occurs on Hogmanay 2000 where a cosmic agent called Dot exposes all the secrets hidden in Luckenbooth Close for a hundred years. I wanted the final voice to be that of Jessie MacRae so we conclude by going back to the event alluded to at the very start of the novel and she tells us in her voice exactly how this all began. The accompanying critical essay Luckenbooth / ‘The Metamorphosis of a Novel (Inspired by Kafka’s The Metamorphosis) explores how the influence of Kafka’s Metamorphosis informed my re search for Luckenbooth. It discusses many of the academic texts around Kafka and Metamorphosis which deepened my understanding of why this story had called out to me so strongly as a literary artist. The essay discusses Kafka’s influences both theoretically and creatively to see how they influenced his ideology. Kafka referred to his life as literature. The art of life is something Foucault saw as part of the practice of literature. In between these theories I explore how my own fundamental approach to art, literature and life has encompassed the influence of Kafka’s Metamorphosis and how it underpins my entire approach to Luckenbooth.