The Trial by Franz Kafka was first published in 1925, one year after the author’s death. He had left instructions to a friend telling him to burn all of his manuscripts, but his friend published them instead. The Trial is the second book by Kafka that I’ve read. I enjoyed The Castle more than this one. Kafka was born in Prague, a German speaking Bohemian. He died of TB when he was 40 and obviously never knew that his surname would be regularly in use to describe impossible and perplexing situations.
The main character K. is a deputy bank manager and one morning when he wakes up his breakfast has not been taken into his bedroom by his landlady. There’s a knock at his bedroom door and a strange man enters, the upshot is that two men have come to arrest him. K. hasn’t done anything wrong and the men can’t or won’t tell him why he is being arrested.
So begins a nightmarish time for K. as he journeys to various Courts which are always located in dark and dirty attic areas which are so hot it’s almost impossible to breathe. They’re packed out with people, most of whom seem to be also accused of – something. It’s a bureaucratic nightmare. K. is still none the wiser as to what he is supposed to be guilty of, so he can’t defend himself. But for a time life goes on much as before, with him going to the bank to work, but having to attend courts now and again and K. gets used to the situation, things could be worse. Things do indeed get worse!
The book is regarded as a sort of modern day Pilgrim’s Progress, a commentary on the idiocy and futility of officialdom. We’ve probably all been there in some way when we have felt like banging our heads against a wall in frustration – although nowadays it usually means we’re hanging on to a phone listening to muzak – hoping to get an actual human being on the other end of the line!
I read this one for the Classics Club.