Catalin Negru's Reviews > The Trial: A Graphic Novel

The Trial by David Zane Mairowitz
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bookshelves: literature

Target audience: Common people, anyone passionate about the absurd fiction genre.

About the author: According to Wikipedia, Franz Kafka was a German-language writer of novels and short stories who is widely regarded as one of the major figures of 20th-century literature. His work, which fuses elements of realism and the fantastic, typically features isolated protagonists faced by bizarre or surrealistic predicaments and incomprehensible social-bureaucratic powers, and has been interpreted as exploring themes of alienation, existential anxiety, guilt, and absurdity. His best known works include "Die Verwandlung" ("The Metamorphosis"), Der Process (The Trial), and Das Schloss (The Castle).

Structure of the book: The novel has 216 pages and it is divided into 10 chapters.

Overview / Plot summary: The Trial is the story of a man by the name of Josef K. who has been charged of a crime by the invisible court which he has definitely not committed. The novel goes on to show how K tries to fight for justice and in the end is killed without being proven innocent.
There are, broadly speaking, too ways of approaching The Trial as a novel: either by assuming that the events and characters described are projections of K.’s mind, or that everything is as described and external to K. Most readings will fall into one of these two camps, the former being a smaller, more intimate portrait of a mind coming apart, and the latter a larger, more political reading. Both approaches offer fertile ground for discussion and that the novel can be read in various different ways only adds to its sustained appeal.
The Trial can be interpreted in many ways. It can easily be read as a prophecy or a brilliant evocation of the totalitarian and authoritarian police states that scarred the 20th century, before they had even come to prominence. The charge against K is not mentioned at all during the whole narrative. Moreover, the author shows through the example of the businessman Block, whose case had been going on for five years, how he was now a mere shadow of his former self and now was only concerned about his case which according to Titorelli, the Painter, would never end in absolute justice and freedom. Block even stays like a slave in the house of his lawyer, who calls for him at odd hours and who treats him like a worm. K did not want the service of such a lawyer and to obey the system and ultimately this is why he meets his end in an abandoned quarry.
From another point of view, The Trial might be a mockery of the Austrian Hungary bureaucratic system or the judicial system in general. Kafka was trained as a lawyer. The novel is suffocating thanks to the vivid descriptions and master storytelling. The heat felt in the painter Titorelli’s studio, for example, is not only felt by K but also by us the readers as well as those readers who are aware of the faulty system of justice even in our own present democratic times. The Trial gives a glimpse of the futility of justice in the modern world where everything is like a riddle with many interpretations, just like the riddle told by the prison priest to K in the novel, about the door keeper. The novel shows how justice can be manipulated and how a case can go on for years and years while the lawyers and judges make shady businesses. According to Titorelli, perfect justice is a legend while Block states that a great lawyer is never found (as in honest).
Leni is another character in the novel who fascinates. She is the nurse of K’s lawyer is madly in love with K because she finds all condemned men very attractive. In fact, K’s senile lawyer even gives K a detailed description about how people who are involved in a case seem to the judges to also look very attractive, which disgusts K.
Overall, Franz Kafka brings out truth in this work which ignites one to think about the past, present and future of one’s government and especially ones justice system. He aids us to take a long and careful look at our bureaucracy and how will the future define its justice system. Will justice be equal and available to all, or will all citizens who approach justice be suffocated the way K was suffocated when he entered the attic filled with court offices?

Quote: If he stayed at home and carried on with his normal life he would be a thousand times superior to these people and could get any of them out of his way just with a kick.

Strong points: Kafka was a master of the absurd, and The Trial is the masterpiece. There is no wonder that Kafka's writing has inspired the term "Kafkaesque", used to describe concepts and situations reminiscent of his work. Examples include instances in which bureaucracies overpower people, often in a surreal, nightmarish milieu which evokes feelings of senselessness, disorientation, and helplessness. Characters in a Kafkaesque setting often lack a clear course of action to escape a labyrinthine situation. Kafkaesque elements often appear in existential works, but the term has transcended the literary realm to apply to real-life occurrences and situations that are incomprehensibly complex, bizarre, or illogical. Numerous films and television works have been described as Kafkaesque, and the style is particularly prominent in dystopian science fiction.

Weak points: If you like the absurd, then this is the book to read. I liked to book. After I read this book I realized I do not like the genre. The entire time I was tormented by this annoying feeling “Just tell me what he is accused of!!!!!” Like an itchiness I had to scratch. I personally like stories with a clear end, preferably with people who live happily ever after; so, this is why I gave it 4 stars.


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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
November 14, 2016 – Shelved
December 13, 2016 – Shelved as: literature

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