Book Review – The Trial by Franz Kafka

Intro:

Books are a big love of mine. I have been reading books since i can remember myself. I guess my mum played a huge role in it. She is a total bookworm, so there was always something new around worth spending your time on. Starting from tales, then the glorious Greek mythology that i was so intrigued by, Aesop’s Fables, Enid Blyton adventure stories, J.R.R.Tolkien, Harry Potter and many more greek writers. I was so fascinated by reading that i even had a list of the books i had read – by the time i was 11, the list contained more than a hundred books! The list is now gone, i guess i stopped caring about quantity and starting realizing reading is all about quality.

How i found out about Kafka:

This brings us today to my decision of reading classical novels from established writers. I can’t quite remember how i found out about Kafka, but i think it has something to do with his homeland, Prague. Probably while surfing around the web for more info about this amazing city, -which i desperately want to visit soon-, the writer’s name came up and after a few wikipedia searches, i decided to download The metamorphosis. However, since i prefer books over e-books, in addition to my busy schedule, i left it unfinished. It was after a while, when visiting a friend, that i found the book in her library. The next day i have started my trip through Josef K.’s world.

The Plot:

The plot’s main character is found on Josef K.’s face, a chief financial officer of a bank, who on his thirtieth birthday, is unexpectedly arrested by two unidentified agents from an unspecified agency for an unspecified crime. Josef is an ordinary man, who although he appears to enjoy a position of power, he has no interest in any adventure or change of his routine. But when such an accusation comes to light, his life balance is overturned. He is then led to his neighbor’s room, where a mini-tribunal is held, without however receiving a clear answer about his ‘supposed’ crime. He is then let ‘free’ and told to await instructions from the Committee of Affairs.

On the next major scene, K. receives a phone call summoning him to court on the coming Sunday without specifying the time. When arriving there, he finds a huge old building in a very bad condition. While exploring the building, he finds the court in the airless, dark, crowded attic. Being absolutely sure of his innocence, he tries to defend himself against the judge, with a long powerful speech, and finally leaves the court under the impression that he has convinced a significant portion of the people in the room.
On the next week, he returns to the court, although not summoned, as his anxiety about the course of events increases.

A scene at the bank’s store room with the two agents who originally arrested him, being flogged to death, is enough to grow K.’s fear. After a visit by his uncle, he is determined to follow his advice at finding a laywer to help him win the trial.

At the next chapter, we follow K.’s thoughts on his laywer, his fears, his anxiety to learn more about his trial. Frustrated by the corrupted, complicated law system he decides to dismiss his lawyer and take matters in his own hands. He finds a court painter, who offers his help to him and set out his options about the trial: either to obtain a provisional verdict of innocence from the lower court, which can be overturned at any time by higher levels of the court, which would lead to re-initiation of the process, or to curry favor with the lower judges to keep the process moving at a glacial pace.

In his tremendous seek of any kind of help, K. reaches a church, where a priest tells him a fable:

A man from the country seeks the law and wishes to gain entry to the law through an open doorway, but the doorkeeper tells the man that he cannot go through at the present time. The man asks if he can ever go through, and the doorkeeper says that it is possible but “not just yet”. The man waits by the door for years, bribing the doorkeeper with everything he has. The doorkeeper accepts the bribes, but tells the man that he accepts them “so that you do not think you have failed to do anything.” The man does not attempt to murder or hurt the doorkeeper to gain the law, but waits at the door until he is about to die. Right before his death, he asks the doorkeeper why even though everyone seeks the law, no one else has come in all the years. The doorkeeper answers “No one else could ever be admitted here, since this gate was made only for you. I am now going to shut it.”

via Wiki.

On the eve of K.’s thirty-first birthday, two men arrive at his apartment. K. shows no resistance as he has been waiting for them. He leads them to a quarry where the two men place his head on a block. One of them holds a knife and it is that time when K. realizes his duty to finish the story alone, but he hesitates.

At the very last scene, K. is being stabbed to death while screaming his last thought: ‘Like a dog!’

My thoughts on The Trial:

This dystopic novel reflects Kafka’s resentment at the system, a powerful criticism to the manipulative power of authority and its consequences to people in and outside of it. Kafka’s use of a simple language, his lack of narrative descriptions and use of adjectives; in addition with some chapters that were left unfinished, might make it difficult for the reader to follow this macabre story. I quite enjoy reading it, full of suspense & agony about the trial’s ending, but i have to admit that it was a slow read. My favourite part consists of the priest’s fable as well as K.’s interpretation of it. Kafka presents his sense of justice but leaves the readers to decide from themselves. Many readers, philosophers, phychologists, have presented over the years their interpretations on The Trial, however i am not sure if they can prove accurate on Kafka’s thoughts. Simply put, sometimes, things are as they are. Sometimes.

My interpretation of Kafka’s message is the following; challenge yourself daily, ask yourself about your actions. Don’t wait for hints or instructions, seek your inner justice. Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself, but on the other hand, don’t afraid to fail, to quit. And above all, don’t let anyone mess with your head, THINK.

Feel free to write your thoughts on the comments.

<<Ein Käfig ging einen Vogel suchen>>,

Rachel

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