The Trial ★★☆☆☆
Genre(s) | Classic, Fiction, Philosophy, German Literature
Goodreads Rating | 3.99
Humpo Show Rating | 2.50
Published: 1925 (I read the 2017 edition)
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing
The Trial is the terrifying tale of Josef K., a respectable bank officer who is suddenly and inexplicably arrested and must defend himself against a charge about which he can get no information. Whether read as an existential tale, a parable, or a prophecy of the excesses of modern bureaucracy wedded to the madness of totalitarianism, The Trial has resonated with chilling truth for generations of readers.
I was drawn in to read this classic due to the intriguing plot and Kafka’s status as one of the great literary minds of the twentieth century. The opening chapter, relating to Josef’s arrest set the scene well for the unique ordeal he is about to encounter- the convoluted and claustrophic prose is already evident in these opening exchanges, for some that may be Kafka’s style, but for me, I found it grating and difficult. Many have described the use of language as nuanced and subtle, yet I found it bland, and coupled with drifting narrative, it made my reading of The Trial a trying exercise.
Kafka’s The Trial came across to me as a great philosophical and intellectual novel that is deliberately trying to achieve a status of a literary and deep-thinking novel- which he achieves as his book is still being read, analysed and debated even now. His ambitions of bringing aspects together for major discussion and thinking include: analogy of life, life in society, life under governmental control and existential questions that can never be answered. All of these aspects are still tropes in modern society, and it all makes for interesting debate, however, his obsession with focusing on these high literature aspirations contributed to a slogfest of a story that nearly bored me to sleep.
Kafka shows that there is seemingly no way to change an unknowable system created by the very people who are slaves to it. He has created a novel that focuses on the confusing nature of human bureaucracy which also reflects on the human condition, and the oppressive and never ending mental weight that humans have to live with.
The Trial was exactly that for me…a trial. A book which is written in a fashion that makes it unbearable, it is a surprise that I managed to read it. Obviously, the book is remembered for the high literature content that it possesses, but even that lost its impact on me given the unrealistic and surreal plot that had me questioning the decision making of every character that is mentioned in the novel.