Thursday, 10 March 2011

The Trial

by Franz Kafka


I got to the penultimate chapter and the 'twist' that he was dead all along came to me like an angel, and after struggling through the pompousity of the book until that point, I was rapt that Kafka had tricked me thus. "Brilliant," I remarked, sucking on a Dunhill.

I put the book down, cleaned up the cat vomit, made a coffee and decided to do some post-read research on the internet. Turns out he wasn't dead. I misunderstood. I searched and searched, but nobody who knew a scrap about The Trial thought he was dead. I'm the only one, but jesus wept, Kafka died having not finished any of his novels; they exist only as weighty literary fragments with narrative ommissions and who is anyone to tell me I read it wrong? Not Kafka, not his mates, not the scholars and bookworms who reckon The Trial is all about the futility of trying to control elaborate situations, and/or some sort of abstract commentary on labyrinth-esque beauracratic structures and their accompanying architecture.

It's about death, you cunts. It's about judging one's own life, and getting into heaven, or not. It's the opposite of what everyone seems to agree it's about. It's about taking responsibility, not flailing one's arms and learning how to give up in the face of overwhelming complexity.

The advocate? An angel. The Law? God. The Frauleins and Fraus? The temptresses. The other clients? Souls, awaiting judgment of their own. Why am I the only one that saw the book like this? Am I dumb? How did I misinterpret the story so enormously?

All in all, I thought the book was, well, not bad. The main character, Joseph K, was an insufferable and pompous twat who I failed to sympathise with. I cared little for the outcome of his trial. I did enjoy the scenes when he was at work, at the Bank (always with a capital B), and his mind was wandering as his work piled up. That rang true. I've measured out my life in coffee spoons - and negelected admin. I stare at my computer screen at all the emails from clients and I often think, "Why are they emailing me? Can't they leave me alone? All these questions?", and like Joseph K, the only solace from the stresses of having to perform menial work tasks is the occassional thrill of a bosom in my palm.

But beyond that, Joseph K and I have little in common. I was happy to watch him suffer, but when the revelation that he was dead all along came I experienced a pang of guilt that I disliked him so. And in the final chapter when he was beheaded (in my interpretation, because he didn't quite understand he was dead, the guardian angels had to behead him so that he could come to grips with his purgatorive state) I decided that really, all along, on some level, I did like the dude. Hats off to Kafka at any rate. I'd avoided reading him for this long, but now I've ordered Metamporphosis from The Book Depository dot com for $2.41 (free shipping!).

I give it a B-.


PS: I've read heaps of books in the past year that I never bothered to review. I'm over blogging in many ways. But just want to note here that I give Bertrand Russell's 'History Of Western Philosophy' an A. Mind-numbingly awesome.


Cath said...

Good to know you haven't been completely idle. I read Metamorphosis, and wandered why I wasn't smoking crack through the whole thing. Although I never looked too much for deeper meaning in the novel - maybe there was some reason to be represented as a big cockroach. I await your thoughts!

Perseus said...

Perhaps my problem was that I looked to hard for deeper meaning. Rare, that. When I bother to find deeper meaning in things I am invariably disappointed.

The surface is where all the action is, after all.

The deep is murky, dark and horrifying.

Perseus said...

TOO hard.

obtuse-a said...

oohhh arrggh ohhh
would love to talk to you about this

Lewd Bob said...

Kafka is the classic undergraduate hero. I picture them (the undergraduates) now, sitting on retro couches sipping cheap red wine, perhaps inhaling a joint and discussing how amazing (everything's fucking 'amazing') Kafka is.

Meanwhile Gangrene, the kind of hippy among them, strums a guitar and sings Pink Floyd's Mother. Jonathan, Angel's older brother, walks in and announces his distaste for Kafka. Angel is horrified and embarrassed, thinking her friends will think she's uncool because her brother doesn't get Kafka. Jonathan, however, gets Kafka, but just thinks he's a cunt. He wants to fuck Angel's friend Tina, but doesn't let on.

Perseus said...

Obtuse: Yes, alright then, but aren't you on the other side of the planet?

Lewd Bob: That's the funniest thing I've read this year.

eat my shorts said...

I've never read any Kafka and always thought I should have.

Maybe I will one day.