I Think

The Trial

Read my first Kafka last weekend, The Trial, the story follows the trial of Josef K, the protagonist, who has absolutely no idea what his trial is about. The book is funny, the absurdity of being tried for a crime that is not specified throughout the course of the trial is, if not anything else, comical, but it had a nervy edge to it, it was like the funny you experience when you hear your boss crack a joke and are unsure if it was a joke or not and whether it would be alright to laugh out loud at it and so on.

Consider this, K is accused of a crime, the nature of which is not known to him and is impossible to glean from the courts, for the proceedings are conducted at whim, without his knowledge or his presence, and even if it were conducted in his presence, it would be near impossible to mount a defence without knowing what the hell he is accused of. He tries hiring a lawyer, who, it turns out, is only slightly better placed than him in learning the nature of case. Sure enough, he fires his lawyer and considers taking up the case himself. The whole affair is so terrifyingly ridiculous that one cant help doubting if it is nothing more than a fabrication of a deranged mind.

The book maintains its humor almost till the end where things take a rather bleak turn. The doorkeeper parable(an engaging read on the nature of law which can be read independent of the novel) serves as a prelude to darker things and sure enough, K meets his rather unexpected end.

Any mention of dystopia brings 1984 to mind and sure enough I ended up contrasting The Trial with 1984. While the latter deals with one man’s fight against a known enemy, albeit an insurmountable one, the former portrays the helplessness of an individual against a soulless behemoth beyond comprehension, what good is resistance when you dont know what you are resisting. In 1984, for all the troubles Winston Smith undergoes, I most definitely expected him to end up dead(it could be said that he is dead in a manner of speaking) but K… everything about the trial was so frivolous that I did not expect him to be put away, ‘like a dog’.

On the whole wasnt really overawed, one reason could be that Kafka did not complete the book and it was only published posthumously, the other could be that translation I picked up was average. Nevertheless it was a funny, dark and engaging read.