I am reading The Trial by Franz Kafka with Silvia Cachia. Her reflection on the first three chapters is here.
Because I am reading The Trial on Kindle, I am not sure what parts belong to the first three chapters. I am currently in the chapter where K. tells his uncle about the trial, so I will discuss everything before that. A quick glance at Silvia’s post (which I will read thoroughly once I post my own reflection) confirms that I will not be spoiling anything that she hasn’t read yet.
Having read a few pieces of what we now call “flash fiction” by Franz Kafka, I know that Kafka is an existential writer with a particular obsession with the injustice of the world. K., the protagonist of The Trial, is arrested one morning for an unknown crime. The authorities never tell him why he’s arrested, and they break into K.’s house without a search warrant. In fact, it seems like no one knows his crime. Every one is simply doing the job he or she has been assigned.
Although he is arrested, K. is free to go to work. It looks like nothing has changed in his life, but he has to attend court meetings. When he does go to court, however, he learns that there isn’t a trial. There are spectators, but he isn’t charged with anything. Often, K. meets people in the most random locations.
The book seems perfect for October. The atmosphere of this story reminds me of a haunted house. Different rooms contain different terrors. At the bank where he works, K. finds two of his colleagues in a long-forgotten broom closet. They are facing corporal discipline for their involvement in K.’s arrest. It’s all so weird and dizzying. And that’s the point. K. has entered a maze that he can’t leave. No one chooses to (or perhaps can) help him.
In this first part, I was struck by the way this insanity has already affected K. At first, K. tries to appeal to justice, but he is ignored by everyone he condemns. No one cares. Later, he becomes the one who is deaf to injustice. His colleagues are being flogged in a broom closet, but, instead of helping them, he simply closes the door to drown out the sound of their screaming. K., it seems, has begun to ignore injustice. His uncle is horrified to learn that K. has been arrested, but K. tells him that none of it really matters. After all, he is free to go to work.
Even though I have only read 30% of the book, I feel like I have read hundreds of pages. The story is very repetitive and dizzying. Clearly, Kafka had a real problem with bureaucracy.
I faced my own “trial” last month when I tried to get my car registered in Pennsylvania. One clerk told me one thing, and another clerk told me something different. I got false information from a third clerk, so I ended up spending over $40 to get the documentation I needed. Grrr. Thankfully, the license and tag offices were actual working offices. I eventually got my car registered. It could have been worse :P.