Welcome to the discussion of The Trial, by Kafka.
Since I have not read the book before, I had no idea what I was signing us up for. I thought it would be a difficult read, and though short, I divided it into three weeks. As I started reading, I thought I’d like to better discuss it at once. But I am back to the initial idea of breaking it into three sections, to honor those brave followers who are reading along with me. Needless to say, if you prefer to show up at the end of the month and discuss the book in its entirety, I’d be thrilled to do so. I’m glad I picked this book for an impromptu book club. It’s one of those books I truly need to discuss with others.
I will discuss chapters 1, 2, and 3: The Arrest, Conversation with Frau Grubach and then Fraülein Bürstner, and Initial Inquiry, as well as my general thoughts up to here.
The first lines I had a flashback, it felt as if I had seen this arrest scene. I haven’t watched Well’s movie yet, but it’s probable I watched the movie in Spain a long time ago. If not, the first chapter had a movie like quality, or a theatrical quality to it. At this point I thought this was a mystery, a plot driven story in which a man is mysteriously arrested, and the book will let us know what this is all about.
That did not last long. The exchanges between K. and the guards, and K. and the inspector, showed me a disconnect. The atmosphere, as my friend Katie says, is opressive from the first line. I don’t know if K. doesn’t know, if others don’t know, if K. is not being honest with himself, or if he’s being object of a huge farcical arrest and process, or if they are all in a world that makes no sense, and they are players in the big stage of life.
At this point I am not very convinced that this is a mystery that will have a resolution. In all honesty, I felt disappointed by the book. But never mind that. I’d change my mind about the book every time I read some of it. I decide not to decide whether I like it or not, but to keep reading it.
I am only discussing the first 3 chapters, but I am going to say (without spoilers), that after chapters 5 and 6, (I’m on chapter 7), the book is becoming less plot oriented and more dialogues oriented.
I only knew the Kafka of the Metamorphosis. That story grabbed me from beginning to end both times I read it. The Trial is different. I feel that Kafka is using this plot, (a person who claims to be innocent who has been accused of something he doesn’t even know), to tell us what he thinks about a lot of topics, government, bureaucracy, and laws in particular, but also about relationships, guilt, freedom, paranoia, hypocrisy, life, -you name it.
Chapter 2 is my favorite so far. In a book where the characters are not that defined, but where one doesn’t feel affinity towards them, I liked Frau Grubach, (even if she was the typical old lady who doesn’t like the ways of the younger generation which she finds licentious.) The encounter between K. and Fraülein Bürstner was surreal. What’s up with the homes becoming other places? When K. dramatizes the events of the morning to Fraülein Bürstner in that strange manner, I start to see Kafka may be telling us how K. treats her the same way the inspector treated K. The book seems an allegory, as Maximilian said in his post that I partially read (I did not want to read spoilers.) Even if it’s an allegory, or an exercise to show us his opinions on many topics, I think the story has to hold by itself. I am not saying this story doesn’t hold, -it still makes me want to keep reading it, maybe I don’t like what Kafka does to me as a reader, ha ha ha.
And we come to chapter 3. I said chapter 2 was my favorite, but I admit chapter 3 was very ingenious. Is it possible that the book gets better as we think about it than when we read it? K.’s thinking is quite logical inside the nonsense. K. has to arrive to court on Sunday, yet he’s not told the time, nor specifically where (other than the district address.) He decides to arrive at 9, as for where, he’s at a building where he knows court meets, but he doesn’t want to openly ask about what floor and room. (This is a constant in the book, while K. claims to be innocent, he doesn’t know what he is accused of, and he doesn’t want others to know he is being processed.)
The trial on Sunday was surreal. I even thought there was no real trial. Yes, judge, audience, magistrate, officials, K. himself, they are all there, but nobody makes a clear statement or allegation. Much to the contrary, there’s strange things happening, such as a man assaulting the washerwoman. It was a mix of Alice in Wonderland trial, and a wild version of The Wind in the Willows.
All in all, there’s a strangeness, a lack of depth, if you wish. While K. contemplated suicide in chapter 1, his actions are not those of a congruent man. Who is he?, we don’t know. While I don’t feel repulsion or strong dislike towards K., I don’t trust him. (Maybe it’s his position in the bank, his keeping up appearances, or the way he treats women, but he is not gaining ground with me at all.)
What do you all think about these 3 chapters and the book so far?