The Trial

The TrialThe Trial by Franz Kafka
Publisher: Verlag Die Schmiede
Released: January 1, 1925
Pages: 281
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The Trial tells the terrifying tale of Joseph K., a respectable functionary in a bank who is suddenly arrested and must defend his innocence against a charge about which he can get no information. Whether read as an existential tale, a parable, or a prophecy, this hauntingly believable story stands out as one of the great novels of our times. Kafka's unsurpassed nightmare vision rings with chilling truth as it foreshadows the excesses of modern bureaucracy wedded to the mad agendas of twentieth-century totalitarian regimes.

This definitive edition includes Kafka's own drawings, as well as excerpts from his diaries during the period in which he wrote The Trial.

The Trial really has the feel of the kind of nightmare you’d have if you were to eat a very large meal and then fall asleep while reading about Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in the midst of revising for a law exam… But it’s like a nightmare in a good way… I think.

Considering how much I thought I knew about the general gist of this book, and how much it is referenced all over the place, I was surprised at how surprising I found it. I’d expected it to be much more of a parody, making fun of “the system”, bureaucracy, and common-sense defying rules in a comic, absurdist way. Instead it turned out to be rather dark satire. It is funny at times, but only through absurdity. It is lighthearted at times, but never in a way which inspires any confidence at all in the lightheartedness being justified. Instead the occasional good mood and optimism in the main character becomes frustrating when contrasted with the hopelessness we sense that he should be feeling.

And the hopelessness, while overwhelming, isn’t even obvious – it’s gradually revealed in a really brilliant way. Not through events of explicit hopelessness, but through events that just fail to deliver any real hope. Ever. It’s eerily unsettling.

This is a book that everyone should read. There is no excuse not to. It’s short, it’s a classic, and it’s really well done. I’m not sure I can claim to have enjoyed it, but enjoyment is obviously not what this book is going for. It’s a fantastic and really vivid portrayal of hopelessness and helplessness with an underlying theme of what happens when you’re caught up in a system with no care for or awareness of anything but preserving itself. And if you haven’t read this book, but feel that you pretty much know what it’s like, you might well be in for a surprise. I know I was.

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