Every now and then you hear the phrase ‘kafkaezque’ to refer to refer to something that defies logic or is overwhelming beyond all reason. It’s one of those words that I know and choose not to use for fear of using it wrong. I mean how could I use it without actually reading any of his works (before reading The Trial the extent of my knowledge was a brief summary of The Metamorphosis and the fictional Kafka’s Motorbike in the first Bridget Jones movie.
As indicated in the word ‘kafkaesque’ the entire story of The Trial just oozes helplessness in the face of a large an unseen government bureaucracy. In essence it is about a man who is under arrest (but never sees a prison) and has to deal with weird dusty attic courts and ill lawyers… and never finds out the reason for his arrest.
In the first chapter where the main character (Josef K.) is arrested and the policemen get all narky with him for asking why he was being arrested. I actually felt my hands becoming a fist as I read this on the train. Just the sheer injustice of it all! I mean, sure, Josef K. is actually a colossal dick but he doesn’t deserve any of what he got here.
I can’t even imagine the world that Kafka grew up in. The fact of the matter is that being a Czech Jew that spoke German living in Prague cannot have made his life too easy. Even a cursory Google into the history of The Trial brings up links between the victimised character and himself.
As you get further into the novel (and have a very large time jump) you begin to realise that this novel was left unfinished due to Kafka’s death. The big sign post is that the third from last chapter just ends. It makes you wonder just how much thicker he was planning to lay on the complete injustice of the novel. Also… just how many more women he was going to jump into bed with.
At the end of it all I am left without knowing how I really felt about this book. Since, like Clarissa, it is just this unrelenting downward spiral this was rather hard to read. By having Josef K. being a bit of an arsehole it isn’t as depressing than if he had been a normal person or a complete innocent (I know he is innocent… but he is still guilty of being an arsehole).
It’s an interesting book that makes me want to try out The Metamorphosis at some point. For now, I still have 77 books to go!