Kaph's Reviews > The Trial

The Trial by Franz Kafka
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did not like it
bookshelves: 1000-books, school-made-me, g1000-scifi-and-fantasy

Verdict: A tome of existentialist tripe so bleak and pointless there isn’t even a trial.

There comes a point in the evolution all art; visual, literary, musical, wherein those who create it eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil and become too self aware. ‘Look at this medium,’ they proclaim. ‘We have been following rules, society imposed rules limiting what our work can be, limiting what *we* can be!’ It shines suddenly and clearly before them, conventions that were never questioned are suddenly dissolved, exploded. The artist is then free to write, to draw, to compose with a clear head and a fresh soul. It is this Übermensch moment that led Duchamp to graffiti an upturned urinal and display it in the Academy. It is what led to the design of the Barbican. It is what led Kafka to write The Trial. It is a horrible, horrible moment.

I won’t mince words; I loathe this book. It manages to be all the worst parts of self-indulgent, self-effacing, ponderous and pointless. It is a hateful book. This too was forced upon by the Texas Independent School District as part of their on-going campaign to Stop Kids Reading. Up until then I had read only decent books and it was a shock to realize any crap could be a classic as long the author was foreign and the subject was avant garde. The Trial isn’t so much a story as a needlessly complicated suicide note.

A man is informed he is on trial, but not for what. Throughout the chapters he is gradually (and by his own stupid volition) separated from his friends and family. Each chapter he meets a set of unsettling people and they talk mildly depressing gibberish before disappearing from the story forever. At the end, the main character ends up in some sort of newly surreal, inexplicable and unexplained hall of light where he dies in a similar fashion. I’d call that a spoiler but there was never really another way for this book to go. There is no trial. That, more than anything really pissed me off.

Nothing occurs in this book. It’s just a collage of conversations Franz has had with the nihilistic voices in his head. They should have been put down in a diary and read by a reputable psychoanalyst, not published in 37 languages and crammed down the maw of 16 year olds. God is dead. Choice is an illusion. Reason and logic are comforting lies we tell ourselves and death is the only certainty. This is nothing we hadn’t heard before from My Chemical Romance so why our teachers thought we needed additional reasons to cut ourselves and go overboard on eye-makeup I’ll never know. Existentialism is and forever will be a dirty word to me and The Trial gets a 1.

#26
Title The Trial by Franz Kafka
When Autumn 2002
Why Read for sophomore English
Rating 1
53 likes · flag

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Reading Progress

Started Reading
October 1, 2002 – Finished Reading
January 13, 2012 – Shelved as: 1000-books
January 13, 2012 – Shelved
August 13, 2012 – Shelved as: school-made-me
May 20, 2013 – Shelved as: g1000-scifi-and-fantasy

Comments Showing 1-19 of 19 (19 new)

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Boris Gregoric Love your verdicts: a breath of fresh air.
Keep them up and coming .


Emile I agree with you about the pointlessness ("there is no trial"). It's all voices in his head, exactly. But for me, this clarity (and funnyness!) is exactly the reason for giving it 5 stars. It's strange how people who understand this novel the best tend to give it the lowest rating.


Lark This is the review I wish I had the wherewithal to write. Bravo.


Darby "...there isn’t even a trial."


Michael Scott Dear Kaph,


Interesting review. As one of the people who liked this book, I find your description following well the story and rather poorly the story behind the story--what a dreadful, alienating, debilitating experience living in a bureaucratic society can be. Having lived in Romania for a couple of decades, I found this book extraordinarily suggestive.

A presumptuous advice: try re-reading this book after you've visited one of the former Communist countries. Better and faster yet: try thinking about what you've read here after checking some of the news on the indictment of Russian oligarchs, Chinese top ministers, etc.

Cheers,
Michael


message 6: by Keith (new) - added it

Keith Three brief points:
1) From whom do you think MCR and similar bands learned such things?
2) Kafka pre-dates the Existentialist movement; in fact, he and Kierkegaard serve as its progenitors.
3) There is not a trial in court, true; the "trial" in this case is the experience itself: think "trials and tribulations," the trying circumstance of living under such broken rule.


Eitaporra Please edit your first line: it's a hell of a spoiler.


message 8: by Paul (new) - rated it 1 star

Paul Bard Glad to hear someone else noticed that miserable bad books are miserable and bad. Well done.


message 9: by Rory (last edited Jul 18, 2014 01:38PM) (new)

Rory Ritchie 'A man is informed he is on trial, but not for what. Throughout the chapters he is gradually (and by his own stupid volition) separated from his friends and family. Each chapter he meets a set of unsettling people and they talk mildly depressing gibberish before disappearing from the story forever. At the end, the main character ends up in some sort of newly surreal, inexplicable and unexplained hall of light where he dies'

...that's EXACTLY the point! How you can type that out and not have at least some small appreciation of this book as a stunning and confusing reflection on the human condition, is beyond me.


message 10: by Kaph (new) - rated it 1 star

Kaph S'not my condition


message 11: by Rory (new)

Rory Ritchie Fair call, your review was amusing nonetheless


message 12: by Kaph (new) - rated it 1 star

Kaph Cheers. I mean, clearly there are influential others who share your opinion, not least of all the Texas ISD.


message 13: by Lynn (new) - rated it 1 star

Lynn Beyrouthy Your review is identical to mine, only worded differently
I'm glad there's someone out there who shares my opinion


message 14: by Taf (new) - rated it 1 star

Taf Mupfumi I love his letters, I get this book, but I can't excuse the bland language and boring narrative because oooh, nuance...this was an all too indulgent intellect wasted on a pointless exercise. I'm actually quite annoyed.


message 15: by Taf (new) - rated it 1 star

Taf Mupfumi I love his letters, I get this book, but I can't excuse the bland language and boring narrative because oooh, nuance...this was an all too indulgent intellect wasted on a pointless exercise. I'm actually quite annoyed.


message 16: by Taf (new) - rated it 1 star

Taf Mupfumi I love his letters, I get this book, but I can't excuse the bland language and boring narrative because oooh, nuance...this was an all too indulgent intellect wasted on a pointless exercise. I'm actually quite annoyed.


message 17: by Ted (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ted Perhaps your life is such that you cannot relate to the oppressive and never ending mental weight that is so well articulated in the book. But for many it resonates deeply. For me it was the most disturbing book I've read. We throw the word, visceral, around as a euphemism, but it hit me at that level. I was nauseated.

Most of your analysis of the book I agree with. Yet I reach an entirely different outcome on its star rating.


message 18: by J (new) - rated it 4 stars

J Franz is one of the police, not the protagonist. Funny to read surface-level reviews about an author who is known mostly for his symbolism.


Gregory F this book.


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