Franz Kafka’s famous story about Joseph K., a financier who gets in a spot of bother with the authorities, spends a fair bit of time trying to figure it all out, doesn’t get very far.
Well, this was definitely one of the ‘Should’ read books. I’m glad I read it – partly, because some masochistic cluster of nerves tells me that it’s good for me. But it was also a bit of slog and I didn’t necessarily look forward to my reading lunches. It’s a bit like going for a run. It’s not exactly pleasant experience, but there’s an exhilaration that comes when you progress. I should say that I didn’t hate it.
The subject is a bit bleak: the inhumanity of the Law. Joseph K. is arrested for some unknown reason – in the process of discovering what’s going on, he comes face to face with the true incomprehensibility of the Law. I’m sure there’s a bunch of complicated ways to look at The Trial. My own guess (and drawing from what little I’ve read/recollect) runs as follows: the book is a black-humoured condemnation of the fascism and totalitarianism latent within bureaucracy. The Law is All!
There are some dreadfully slow parts, and it’s arguable that the protagonist seems to make all the wrong decisions (a view held by a few friends of mine). But Kafka casts him as an underdog at the same time – I ended up cheering for him, even when he did crazy things like telling his advocate to go suck a fuck. And the final sections of the novel is powerful. There’s a lesson to be had in how to pace your novel when you want to make a single point (political or otherwise) very strongly. There’s a really beautiful bit in a cathedral that will stay with me for a while as well.
I don’t want to revisit it any-time soon; that said, I feel like a better human for having made it to the end.