Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Trial by Franz Kafka

It's too easy to compare Franz Kafka's The Trial to his The Metamorphosis. Most of us did (or at least should have) read the latter at some point during high school. Consider its opening line: "As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed into a monstrous vermin." However, if we learned anything in high school English it's that the metamorphosis referred to by the title is not Gregor's. He, in fact, has always been a disgusting insect of a person. The bodily transformation is just an afterthought. The metamorphosis is experienced by his suffering family who, by novel's end, have left Gregor behind for a better future.

So it is with The Trial. Again, the opening line: "Someone must have slandered Josef K., for one morning, without having done anything truly wrong, he was arrested." Note two things. First, blame is already being deflected to someone else. Second, his implied innocence is qualified by not having done something "truly wrong"; wrong perhaps, but not truly so. Pathetic. Josef is such a sniveling, unguided soul, willing to latch his fortunes to anyone willing to talk to him that the only trial is that of society for having to deal with such a miserable person. He's always been guilty and it is he - not the unspecified charges and nebulous court system - that is the cause of his own eventual demise. Plus, the sexual subtext of his relationships with women is just creepy.

For me, The Trial didn't break any new ground relative to The Metamorphosis and simply repeated a tale of an individual's relationship with society. Forced to choose between the two, I'd go with The Metamorphosis.

I received no compensation of any kind for this review.

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