Monday, 13 April 2009

Book review: The Trial – Franz Kafka

the_trial_largeIn my previous post, I discussed how lately I have been trying to read some modern literature classics.  I don’t think I am the type of person to ever read Dickens or the Brontë sisters (although one day I would like to try Wuthering Heights); but then again, I never thought I would be the type to enjoy chick-lit as much as I do.

The Trial by Franz Kafka is the second “classic” I have read this year (George' Orwell’s 1984 being the first). Unlike 1984 however, I didn’t enjoy reading The Trial as such but then that is Kafka’s great accomplishment with this book in that he leads his reader to feel as helpless as his protagonist.

The Trial is about a man called Josef K, a middle-class, middle management banker, who awakes one morning to find himself under arrest.  Not once in the book is he (or the reader) told what the actual charges are and in fact, he finds it quite hard to take the whole “process” seriously.

The original German title to the book was “Der Process” and in fact, I find this may have been a more accurate title as the book chronicles K’s process through court bureaucracy, learning of the seriousness of the charges as the whole matter starts to permeate into all aspects of his life.

According to Wikipedia, there have been two major interpretations of this work.  The first is that it refers to “human existence” and that the start of K’s trial is when he wakes up one morning and questions his own existence.  This is supported by the undertone throughout the book that his guilt is not entirely criminal.  I don’t personally subscribe to this theory but imagine that people better versed in religious or metaphysical texts might see the similarities.

The other interpretation is that this is a reflection of the process of marriage and social relations, mirroring Kafka’s own relationships and failed engagements.  I find this interpretation to make far more sense and can identify with the idea that once you tie yourself to someone, you are no longer in control of your own decisions.  Men, especially, often feel they are at the mercy of their in-laws once they have bought that all important ring.  Nevertheless, without giving away the story, I still find K’s closing words to be a little harsh.

This is an excellent book that was left by Franz Kafka amongst his papers when he died.  He asked that the book be destroyed but his friend Max Brod went against his wishes and published the book.  One of the chapters was unfinished and in later years it has been suggested that the chapters might have been presented in the incorrect order. 

This is a fine book and I would recommend it to lovers of modern fiction and existentialism.  It can be a bit tedious to read at times and for that reason, I give it four out of five stars.

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4 comments

  1. Kafka has got to be one of the most disturbing writers ever. I still can't shake the horror of a couple of them that I read in school.

    I absorb that stuff too much to dare to read another one of his! I guess the fact that I'm still freaked out by his writing says something about the power of it, but it doesn't make me want to pick up any more of it...hee!

    P.S. I've got a new blog now--there's been a big uproar at Today and a bunch of us got fired. So I'm on blogger now!

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  2. P.P.S. Oh, and could you at some time in future change the link to my blog on your blogroll? If you want to wait until I have more content in the new place, that's cool. It's pretty empty in there now. *G*

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  3. @ Valerie: That is absolutely ridiculous. Your blog is one of the best media blogs out there and ToDunce.com are absolutely morons! I am glad you are at Blogger though - it will make our conversations easier.

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  4. LOL...Emm! I like ToDunce.com, that's certainly fitting. And thanks for the compliment! I love your blog, too, and it's nice to be hangin' with the cool Blogger kids now. *G*

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