14 October 2013, 19:28

“The Trial” by Franz Kafka

“The Trial” by Franz Kafka
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There are books so perfect – sometimes in an odd or even twisted way – that everything about them seems appropriate. Sometimes it’s nothing but uncanny, especially when a book reveals a lot about the world we live in as human beings, and even more so when it reveals – or should I say, represents –something really disturbing. “The Trial” by Franz Kafka was published in 1925 although it had been written in 1915. 

“Written” may not be the right word here, though, because Kafka did neither finish this novel nor even arrange chapters in any logical order, which actually makes sense considering that he didn’t want any of his work published on his death. Everything was left to his friend Max Brod who was supposed to burn it unread, which he didn’t to. Instead, he rearranged “The Trial” chapters for the sake of coherence, but the story of a man arrested for some unknown reason by some people representing some authority still remains a terrible riddle.


Someone must have been telling lies about Josef K., he knew he had done nothing wrong but, one morning, he was arrested. Every day at eight in the morning he was brought his breakfast by Mrs. Grubach's cook - Mrs. Grubach was his landlady - but today she didn't come. That had never happened before.


Kafka is widely regarded as one of the writers who shaped our perception of the modern world and “The Trial” was one of his finest instruments of doing it. Along with the rest of his writing, it shows us exactly how absurd and incomprehensible our life really is and how miserable and lost we truly are. / Yet you don’t have to feel, or even be ready to feel that way to experience the strength of the novel and to realize that Max Brod was right to assume that the XXth century would be the century of Kafka. Harold Bloom in his “Western Canon” confirmed this point:


W.H. Auden thought that Kafka was the particular spirit of our time. Certainly “Kafkaesque” has taken on an uncanny meaning for many among us; perhaps it has become a universal term for what Freud called “the uncanny,” something at once absolutely familiar to us yet also estranged from us. From a purely literary perspective, this is the age of Kafka, more even than the age of Freud. Freud, slyly following Shakespeare, gave us our map of the mind; Kafka intimated to us that we could not hope to use it to save ourselves, even from ourselves.


In 1999“The Trial” was deemed to be the second most significant German-language novel of the XXth century by a committee of writers, scholars and critics who obviously knew what they were talking about. Kafka’s influence is, indeed, universal; the unique atmosphere he is known for is virtually all around us. It is challenging to exist within it on a daily basis, but it’s great for books and movies, to be sure. In 1962 Orson Welles revised “The Trial” a little bit to fit his own vision – for example, the chapters were rearranged again – and made a movie that would become his favorite. / In 1993, Harold Pinter turned the novel into a screenplay and there was another adaptation, featuring Kyle MacLachlan and Anthony Hopkins. In between, Steven Soderbergh, a renowned formalist, created his image of the enigmatic writer. His “Kafka” is a very “Kafkaesque” mystery thriller where Franz Kafka, played by Jeremy Irons, is sort of put inside his work, becoming a part of a plot against something that appears to be in charge.

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