The Trial by Franz Kafka
Published by Schocken on May 25th 1999 (first in 1925)
Genres: Classics, European Literature, German Literature
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Written in 1914, The Trial is one of the most important novels of the twentieth century: the terrifying tale of Josef K., a respectable bank officer who is suddenly and inexplicably arrested and must defend himself against a charge about which he can get no information. Whether read as an existential tale, a parable, or a prophecy of the excesses of modern bureaucracy wedded to the madness of totalitarianism, Kafka's nightmare has resonated with chilling truth for generations of readers. This new edition is based upon the work of an international team of experts who have restored the text, the sequence of chapters, and their division to create a version that is as close as possible to the way the author left it.
In his brilliant translation, Breon Mitchell masterfully reproduces the distinctive poetics of Kafka's prose, revealing a novel that is as full of energy and power as it was when it was first written.
Pedantic. That really just sums it up. Also, you have to get used to the lack of paragraphing.
Chiefly nonsense. This book is made up of nonsense. It seems to go to a great deal of trouble to say things without really saying anything. In fact, it spends a great deal of time describing things that don’t matter, or contradicting itself, or being ironic. It was perhaps a bit amusing.
This is certainly clarified the most in K.’s meeting with the painter. He sought the painter’s help in the trial. The painter talks at length about court and the various options he has if he helps him, but he does contradict himself several times, as K. points out. So he has spent several pages talking without saying anything of substance. Then, when K. is about to leave, the painter succeeds in selling him several paintings that are exactly the same, while claiming they are only ‘similar’. It’s nonsense. It’s all nonsense.
There were certainly several meetings that I could really not make heads nor tails of, much less determine their importance to the story. Such as the last meeting with the preacher, who for reasons unknown decides to tell him a story about a man and a doorkeeper of the Law. Then he talks at length of pretty much every possible interpretation and opinion one might have on the story, without revealing his own opinion. It may have some relevance to K.’s trial, but I can’t see it.
Basically the main point (or at least what I got) is that the German legal system in this age was a load of nonsense. Nothing seems to make any sense. No one actually knows anything. K. is never told what his charges are, and I’m pretty sure no one actually knows. Apart from the initial hearing, there really isn’t any court action aside from what K. does on his own, for example getting a lawyer and attempting to write the initial petition (which never actually gets written). And, of course, going to see the painter.
From the beginning up until the end, everyone’s actions are completely random. Women randomly throw themselves at him in really awkward ways, but he’s flattered nonetheless. Every time he sees someone involved in the court, it’s completely random and unexpected (aside from the initial meeting). When they show up at his door for the last time, it’s fairly random (although not entirely. It’s exactly a year from the first time they do).
It ends pretty much how you would expect from so hopeless a book. The whole point was to explain how much of a waste of time the legal system was.
Good vs. Bad
Less than perfect:
This book is filled entirely with nonsense. It contradicts itself and spends a great deal of time saying things that mean absolutely nothing. Actions are random and meetings are futile. At least the characters are interesting and the ending is predictable. Would I read more by this author? Nah. Would I recommend this book to others? Yeah probably. It was recommended to me by a friend. May as well pass it on.