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The Trial by Franz Kafka

Title: The Trial

Author: Franz Kafka

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Type: Standalone

Genre: Philosophical Fiction, Absurdity fiction

Primary Characters: Josef K.

The Trial by Franz Kafka is classified under philosophical/absurdity/paranoid fiction genre. I picked this book as this was chosen as “Book of the Month” by Biblioraptor book club. I was very skeptical on several things when I picked this book. I had some prejudice like writing style will be difficult to read and I even had notions and doubts that I may not be able to understand this book (I still think I haven’t understood it well 😊) however I finished it in one go.

“A mind is like a parachute. It doesn’t work if it isn’t open.” 
—Franz Kafka 

This is one of the toughest reviews to write. I am by no means qualified to write about literature or philosophy. With this disclaimer: I will be writing down my views on this book.

Short Summary

To me the story represents a recognition of all the limitations that we as humans have imposed on ourselves – be it through the lens of religion, societal norms, cultural frameworks, traditions, and/or expectations of what life should be (hopes, dreams, etc.).  This is subjective aspect of interpersonal relations that we have a feeling of “rightness” or “wrongness” about. The end result to me is a plaguing self-doubt that prevents us from realizing our full potential and reaching true happiness. Perhaps it is the false sense of self-importance that is consuming our lives with a futile search for meaning and purpose; I say futile because I believe we seek it in all the wrong places. This is strictly my personal opinion. But when Kafka returns to the self-doubt and paradoxes that surround K. and his trial, the book becomes extremely engaging and you may interpret differently.

Story

Kafka’s ideas are fascinating. A man is going through a trial but doesn’t know why he’s arrested in the first place. And the reason remains unknown throughout. I can’t stop thinking about it because I have questions, questions and more questions; I have so many unanswered questions that I will never know the answer. At one point I felt like It is horrifying uncertainty, anxiety and powerlessness put into words.

Josef K. wakes up one morning with officers coming into his room and arresting him. He stands accused of an unknown crime. He is never informed of how he has broken the Law, nor he is provided with any details of his case. Court documents, legal proceedings, and even the text of the Law that determines his fate are all forbidden to Josef and often even to the officials or court functionaries that control and dominate him.

It’s very tough to provide my views on every chapters, as each chapter has deeper meaning. However, I’m writing about the topics which affected me the most.

My thoughts on Chapter 7 

This chapter dwells on the justice systems which is a dominant part of current society. This is one of the toughest chapters to interpret. I could totally relate the instance of book to current judicial systems where connections really can matter more than justice or facts. The concept of lower court, upper court, soulless bureaucracy is applicable to all of us. The current court referrals of acquittal, deferment is a part of daily life. After a while, I started to deliberate whether the novel was about authority and authoritarianism at a more generic level than the State.

So, what is it that places chains on mankind? The Courts just serve the Law. Is the Law wholly rational, or does it serve some other authority? Whose justice does it dispense?

You feel helpless against this supremely powerful intangible forces. It’s a nightmare which seems both real and surreal. You can relate to it and yet the trial in its entirety remains incomprehensible. Paradoxical in fact.

My thoughts on parable in chapter 9. 

I loved the brilliant short story told by the Priest to K. in the penultimate chapter which also summarizes entire plot. It is good to recognize that we are bounded by society and its laws and how they restrict us. But the action of helping oneself is the most important. K. has been seeking help from everyone else, he is always looking for the next person to help him. While he is waiting in rooms and hallways the entire plot by the way.

Kafka shows us the problem of waiting, but does not offer any solutions. He wants us to find the solutions on our own.  We need to find a solution by ourselves instead of getting it from others. They can only advise us on what they think is best, but in the end, it is us that need to do it. If we continue to wait for someone or something to rescue us from our problems, like the man in the parable or K., we live a life that is unfulfilled or die in shame.

Kafka shows the absurdity of life via the chronotope of the novel. In the end these questions still remain – What is the trial? Is K actually guilty or is he innocent? No one is wrong if seen through a different lens.

Maybe one sign of a great book is that it can mean so many different things to many people. This is one such great book. This book seemed to me to speak to modern/contemporary existential and social human conditions.

Have you boarded this crazy train of Kafka – “The Trial” and ended up “Kafkaesque”? What are your thoughts? Let me know

Source: Courtesy of Biblioraptor book club

4 thoughts on “The Trial by Franz Kafka

    1. Justice system explained in this book could be related well to India as well.. Since Author has written this book in German ( I read English translated version) so I think, it’s applicable to several parts of Europe as well… An wonderful classic…

      Liked by 1 person

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