The Trial

Monday, January 9, 2017

The Trial 
By Franz Kafka


“The term "Kafkaesque" is used to describe concepts and situations reminiscent of the author’s work, particularly The Trial and The Metamorphosis. Examples include instances in which bureaucracies overpower people, often in a surreal, nightmarish milieu which evokes feelings of senselessness, disorientation, and helplessness. Characters in a Kafkaesque setting often lack a clear course of action to escape a labyrinthine situation.” - Wikipedia

Considering the fact that this novel inspired the term “Kafkaesque” it’s an understatement to say it’s hard to follow. A man, K., is arrested at the beginning of the book. Throughout all of the twists and turns that follow, he never learns why he is arrested or what any of the charges against him are. He fights through one bureaucratic line of red tape after another, but with no success.

It’s a strange book, full of weird encounters, unexplained conversations, and surreal situations. But at the same time, can’t we all relate to the mind-numbing experience of trying to understand something the government has decided? We’ve all felt helpless while trying to deal with an insurance company’s absurd rules or a simple misunderstanding turning into a huge problem because a corporate entity has gotten involved.

BOTTOM LINE: I didn't love it, but I appreciate that Kafka perfectly highlighted the absurdity of bureaucracy. It was weird, but I’m glad I have a better understanding of what it mean for something to be “Kafkaesque”.


Amanda said...

I did a little digging into this book after reading it back in 2010 (I think?). It just didn't feel all the way realized, the way other Kafka works have for me, and it turned out that it was actually incomplete, and there's some debate about what order some of the "events" are even supposed to go in. Afterwards I ended up reading a graphic novel adaptation where the themes are really pulled out and maximized, and it made the whole book come together. In the end, I didn't keep my copy of the original, but kept the copy of the GN.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Amanda - That sounds like exactly what I need. I'd read that the book was unfinished when he died. It does feel that way, but he also has such a wild style. I'm sure it's a combination of both and the GN might really help.

Joseph said...

I tend to believe this novel is an allegory. The circumstances are just too implausible for even the most inept government...although, it could be a form of literary impressionism. However, as I said, I lean toward an allegory. I also didn't love it...but it is unique.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Joseph - It's definitely unique! I think all of Kafka's work would qualify for that description.