The Trial

Author: Franz Kafka
Reviewer's Age: Grade 12

Most people have heard the tern "Kafkaesque" used to describe a situation that is strange or nightmarish in a vague, surreal manner. It follows, then, that this strange quality permeates all of Kafka's work: The Trial is no exception. The book opens with the arrest of the protagonist, Josef K, by a strange Court that is bent on bringing him to trial even though he has apparently done nothing wrong. K is never told of what he is being accused of, nor is he detained in the way a normal criminal would be; instead, he is allowed to carry on his life in a seemingly normal way. However, we find out as the story progresses, the Court does in fact yield a potent destructive power over the defendants it persecutes.

The Trial is probably Kafka's most vague work, and considering that Kafka's stories are by any normal standard difficult to understand to begin with, The Trial is extremely hard to decipher. This is the kind of book you would want to read if you are willing to spend hours musing over its elusive meaning, re-reading key passages in an effort to find clues that would indicate what Kafka is really writing about. Yet in its ambiguity The Trial possesses a certain power, precisely because it can be analyzed at so many levels. One can interpret the story through many different lenses; you might examine it from a political point of view, or you might take a look at it from the Freudian perspective. In any case, this book has an extraordinary depth to it. I recommend it to all of those who like not only to read but also like to really dig in deep. However, if you're looking for something cut and clear and straightforward, stay away from this book.