A Review: The Trial, Franz Kafka

Super weird, intense, illogical, ridiculous, claustrophobic, did I say intense? Yes I did but it really is intense, long, suffocating. Genius. I loved it.

I feel the need to start a support group for anyone’s who’s read this book. In fact, when people tell me they’ve read it, there’s a certain look we give each other that lingers, a kind of ‘we’ve lived bro’ look, no-one else understands us because we’ve really been through it.

So, I have a bit of complex when I’m reading a book that I’m not getting it because I don’t understand books, I never will, I’m stupid, and that’s why all of my friends secretly hate me and have a separate WhatsApp group where they just tell each other I’m stupid and laugh. And I feel I can say that now because, put side-by-side with Kafka, I am totally sane.

It starts off, Josef K. is arrested, neither he nor the reader is sure why, but we’re like ‘ohhh he did something wrong haha I’m so clever’, but he’s never incarcerated for it and essentially let free while an unreachable justice system determines the verdict. We’re following K. through this journey of trying to discover what it is he’s done through a diegetic narrative, as chapter after chapter threatens to reveal his big crime. Only, it never comes. Not even K. understands what it is he could have possibly done. And so, we keep following him as he meets with lawyers, judges, and priests through ‘show don’t tell’ dialogue which seems to make everything more confusing and frustrating.

The places we visit with K. are suffocating interiors, we choke on Kafka’s descriptions of thick air, dusty rooms, small spaces with hidden doors. Illusory characters are woven in and out of the narrative for a hefty three page monologue and entire story of their lives, and then seem to disappear, and by the end you have to make your own mind up on who was real and who was just in the imagination of you and K. (I mean perhaps all of the women who seemed to instantly throw themselves at him in every chapter, maybe they were slightly imagined, tell me I’m wrong Franz). 

My copy is 200 pages, but it felt like twice that, it was like walking through deep, wet, cement. Like, in a clever way. The lack of breaks, in chapters, and dialogue makes it exhausting. You feel like you’re in every room, feel every damp surface, breathing in the dust – genuinely at one point I felt my asthma flaring up – Kafka matches style to context. I cannot be more nerdy about this, it is absolutely GENIUS. You dread K. entering a smokey attic, because the narrative is so unforgivably immersive.

Absolutely loyal to postmodernism (with a gentle sprinkle of The Enlightenment), the ‘down the rabbit hole’ style is similar to that of Beckett, in a Waiting for Godot, nonsensical style. Where we never find out who Godot is, we never find out why K. is on trial. It’s also an unfinished novel so haha to you if you thought you’d get closure. If you liked the insufferable frustration, illogical nihilism, and mortality salience that came with Beckett, Kafka’s going to blow ya head off.

And so, as a dedication to an unfinished novel, 

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