Book Review: THE TRIAL, by Franz Kafka

One of my very favorite lines, in all the books I've lately read,* is Gregor Samsa's second exclamation upon waking one morning, in Kafka's "The Metamorphosis," to find that he has somehow been turned into a large insect. His first exclamation: "What has happened to me?" His second: "What if I went back to sleep for awhile and forgot all this foolishness?"

That one line, "What if I went back to sleep for awhile and forgot all this foolishness," delighted me for weeks. I copied it out in my notebook, referred to it often and grinned, without ever being able to determine what it was about that one line that struck me so. Even now, looking back at that first page of "The Metamorphosis," I find it difficult to discern that line's appeal: something, I suppose, in the fact that Gregor is not quite alarmed, not horrified, nor resolved even to set this mess right--he is merely inconvenienced, a fact that is confirmed in the next paragraph, as Gregor bemoans choosing a career (he is travelling salesman) that requires the constant strain of rising early. He is concerned less with his buggish-ness than he is with the possibility that it might cause him to miss work.

THE TRIAL seems to operate on a similar level. I say "seems to" because I cannot claim certainty about which level, precisely, THE TRIAL operates on, and I will not try. Obviously, this review is based on how I--lowly undergraduate with nary a credit of Kafka to her name--read this book, and what I'm trying to say, delicately, is that I'm not sure what to think. I had a sense of being a part of something big and grand, but maybe that's because I've heard "Kafka!" shouted from the rooftops all throughout my short literary career, and so I am predisposed to think that my inability, at times, to understand him signifies very little about Kafka's failings. In short (though probably it's too late for that) I enjoyed THE TRIAL, though looking back I couldn't tell you what the hell happened.

To summarize the story, I present you with the first line: "Someone must have been telling lies about Joseph K., for without having done anything wrong he was arrested one fine morning." For what, his captors cannot say. It just gets weirder from there, really.

*Another favorite is the chilling "Kill the spare," of Harry Potter & The Goblet of Fire. Makes me shiver, every time.


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