Monday, November 15, 2010

The Trial by Franz Kafka

A disappointing work because I now think “Kafkaesque” means “annoying.” I had anticipated reading a story about a man caught in an absurd bureaucracy that provides insight into the limits of institutions and the importance of openness in them, but instead it was a bit of a mess without clear explanations for the actions of the characters or the situation they are in. I realize things were supposed to be unclear, but actions and concerns were inconsistent in an unhelpful way.
For example, in the beginning we are lead to believe the main character exists in a world/state/city where one has the right to know the charges they face and be able to defend themselves. This turns out not to be the case but people do not react as if this is absurd or obviously contradicts how they think things should be.
(Spoilers are involved in my examples)
The main character has an opportunity to call the state’s attorney, who is an acquaintance, to find out more about his arrest, but he does not. This is not explained.
Later on in the work, the main character meets an Information man of sorts who can supposedly answer all the unanswered questions that have been so frustrating, but he is asked nothing. This makes no sense. If he kept asking and kept being denied like it was some authoritarian police state it would make more sense.
At the very end, when he is being escorted off to die (for reasons we never know) he doesn’t seek the assistance of a police officer. Gah! Such are the parts I found really annoying.
The main character is also unlikeable as he is quite arrogant, classist and is extremely fickly with women (him sleeping with the lawyer’s helper made no sense).
If the work wasn’t as short as it was (and the fact I wanted a valid opinion on at least a little of what Kafka was all about), I wouldn’t have finished this.

I don’t think it fair to blame Kafka as the work was unfinished and on his deathbed he asked it (along with other works) to be burned. I’m not saying it should have been burned, but I don’t agree with the amount of respect this work has received.
I do not recommend this book. Instead I would suggest you (re)read 1984.


Anonymous MrPopularSentiment said...

You're right on the "unfinished" bit. My understanding is that his friend may have taken a few licenses with the work before it ever hit the presses, too. Certainly, the story goes that Kafka was pretty insane and would just write anywhere, so his friend had to piece together the novels from many different bits and pieces - which would certainly explain plot holes.

I'd say that hyping works is a bad thing in all cases. Even where it's very good, building it up in one's imagination prior to reading will make it seem less so. I haven't read The Trial, but I've really enjoyed many of Kafka's short stories. They are what they are, and as long as you can suspend your disbelief enough to gloss over all the flaws, there's a lot there to enjoy.

11:06 AM  

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