Title: The Trial
Author: Franz Kafka
Originally published: 1925
This is a top shelf book.
I thoroughly enjoyed The Trial by Franz Kafka. This was my first foray into Kafka’s writing and although I had often heard the term “Kafkaesque”, I had never delved into that world myself. After I read a novel I enjoy going online to check out what others had to say about it. I never want to read the public’s reviews beforehand in case they blur my own personal vision of it. It seems that although this book is generally highly rated, the public had the following things to say about it:
– self indulgent
“Boring” came up a lot. I never found myself snoozing due to The Trial but it wasn’t a quick and easy read. At times there are paragraphs that extend for pages, sometimes twelve pages at a time, and it can get a little difficult to keep up. I found if I lost my way simply flipping back a page and starting again helped me find the plot again. Don’t be ashamed to do it – no one should be watching you read that closely anyways, should they? Give this book a little more time than you might be used to, you will probably need it and the text deserves it.
Overall this is a story about bureaucracy and the lowly man trying to fight it. Joseph K. finds himself arrested and on trial for a crime that is never revealed, not to him or the reader, and consistently swallowed into the belly of an unknown, oddly engineered court system. He meets countless people along the way and while I read some complaints that many of these people were undeveloped I feel that they were just as developed as they needed to be given the circumstances: K. is the one on trial and this is his story, and Kafka never completed this manuscript and it’s possible there was to be more development in later drafts (though I doubt it and don’t think it necessary). This felt like more of an allegory than a complete and total novel and therefore I don’t think that everyone in it needs to be developed to their utmost potential. Many of the bit parts are simply buoys designed to carry K.’s story along and assist in delivering the message intended by Kafka.
Like many of his contemporaries, Kafka is making a statement on society, totalitarian regimes, and the absurdity of bureaucratic conventions. It wouldn’t be difficult to imagine this being written today with absolutely nothing changed. It is strange, it is slightly scary in a psychological way, and it is very stern about its feelings on how society runs.
I would read this again and probably get more out of it the second time. Much like 1984 by George Orwell, a revisit is sometimes necessary to pick up on those small details that mean so much more now that you’re primed and ready for them.
All I ask is that you give The Trial a chance. It’s not easygoing and it’s not a lighthearted novel but it is worth the time. If you are at all interested in politics, law, or why society is so messed up, you’ll love this book.