The Trial by Franz Kafka

April 7, 2009

the-trial As I’ve mentioned on numerous occasions, one of my goals as a reader is to tackle every book listed on the Observer’s list of the 100 Greatest Novels of all-time. I’m about 65% of the way towards my goal, and plan to read one or two books from the list each month this year. I most recently completed The Trial by Franz Kafka, and am thankful that I never have to read anything else by him as long as I live!

Plot summary (with possible spoilers): The story opens on the 30th birthday of Josef K., a mid-level bank manager who lives in a shabby apartment building. Two police officers come to his door in the morning to arrest him, though they never tell him what crime he has committed. They don’t haul him off to jail, but instead tell him to await further instructions pertaining to his court date. Josef K. is shocked at what’s going on, and initially thinks it might be some elaborate practical joke since it’s his birthday , but he soon realizes that it’s all for real.

From there, the novel follows Josef K. as he tries to find out more information about his upcoming trial. The problem is, he can’t get answers from anyone, and doesn’t even know what’s expected of him. Not knowing the crimes that he’s being charged with doesn’t help, either. He ends up getting advice (often conflicting) from other people that he meets along the way. Some of them have had direct experience with the courts, while others have just heard different things.

A year later, Josef K.’s court proceedings finally come to an end. The whole thing culminates in his execution, as he is put down like a “dog” for whatever crime he committed.

My Reaction: I thought The Trial was pure torture to read. It was so boring and drawn-out that it sometimes felt like it would never end. In fact, as I was reading it, I couldn’t help but think of another book that went on and on and on without anything actually happening: Walden by Henry David Thoreau. I would rather do anything — anything than ever have to read either of these books again!

I’m sure there are people out there who eat this kind of crap up and call it “brilliant” and “insightful”. After all, there’s a reason The Observer thinks this is one of the best 100 novels ever written. But I just couldn’t stand it. I didn’t care about Josef K. or his plight, and was relived when he was finally put down like a dog, as it meant the end of my own suffering. Ugh, this novel was irritating from beginning to end, and really leaves me with no real comments about it, other than to say that I hated it.

Is there a larger message that I’m missing? Is Kafka some deep thinker whose words and ideas went way over my head? Perhaps. Honestly, I didn’t even try to figure out any symbolism or anything like that because I didn’t care enough to spend extra time on the book. What an utter waste! I give it 1 star out of 5.

One Response to “The Trial by Franz Kafka”

  1. Thanks for suffering through this so I don’t have to! And thanks for the completely honest review. 🙂