Tuesday, 29 May 2012

The Trial by Franz Kafka (4.5/5)

GoodReads says: 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.

I say: Oh my word, how I do love me some Kafka. And The Trial merely cemented that love.

It starts off with Josef being arrested in his home for a crime he allegedly has committed, yet knows nothing about, and can get no information about either. He says that he is innocent, and as the men have no instructions to detain him, he goes to his office at the bank as per usual. As the story progresses he finds himself in court, gets a lawyer that tells him he has to file paper after paper, and meets other men who have been trying to prove their innocence for years.

And throughout all of this, he has no idea what it is he is trying to prove himself innocent of.

It’s absolutely brilliant.

One of the reasons I love Kafka is, of course, the way he twists and turns his stories while confusing the protagonist and reader alike. Unlike some other authors who have the protagonist confused, yet give the reader some clues here and there, Kafka doesn’t do that. Regardless of how I turned the dialogue around, there were no clues to be found, which is wherein the brilliance lies.

The reader is free to take away from the story as much as he/she pleases.

Josef goes from being calm and assured that his case is going to be over as soon as he is able to assert his innocence. But as time passes and he seems to be getting nowhere, his calm slowly dissolves into a sort on panicky madness. He starts behaving strangely, is increasingly paranoid since he doesn’t know who to trust, and finds himself in the most random of scenarios.

I laughed so hard at some of the absurdities in this novel.

I always recommend Kafka, even though I know that it’s not everybody’s cup of tea. But even though I don’t like being in a perpetual state of confusion, there is a glimmer of hope in The Trial (and his other works) that keeps Josef (and me) going, because I want to see it through to the end.

And speaking of the end; I’m not going to say more than that I find it poetic.

Unfortunately, Kafka never finished The Trial, which is evident in some parts of the story – especially towards the end. It does take away some of the magic, which is why this gets a 4.5/5, but it’s not enough to render the story completely incoherent.

Well, no more than Kafka intended.

*I downloaded The Trial from Manybooks.net, so there is no cover. Instead, I have attached an illustration for the manuscript of The Trial drawn by Kafka himself.


  1. This book sounds like a horror story! I can't imagine going through something like that. Of course it also sounds completely intriguing! I haven't read any Kafka and am only familiar with The Metamorphosis. From your review, it does sound like my cup of tea though, so it's definitely worth a try. And Manybooks.net is new to me. I'm off to check it out!

  2. I think I'd classify it more like a thriller than horror - that whole suspence element you get in thrillers without the necessary fright of a horror (my own personal definition of the concepts). I actually think you might like this, based on what you usually like. The Metamorphosis is great as well, but on a different level. What really disturbed me about that was the way that his family changed towards him after the metamorphosis. It's a short read, so definately try it if you get the chance.

    And Manybooks.net is the best site ever for free classic literature. Anything older than 75 years is there. You could also go to Project Gutenberg (pretty much the same books), but I just prefer the outline of Manybooks.