The Trial (53)
by Franz Kafka
There’s only a handful of authors who get their own adjectives. The most famous is probably one of my favourite authors, George Orwell and the term ‘Orwellian’ which describes a policy of brutal control (usually by a government) usually including propaganda, misinformation, surveillance and ‘doublespeak’.
Franz Kafka is one of the only other authors who have their own adjective…however ‘Kafkaesque’ whilst often confused with ‘Orwellian’ means something totally different. You see whilst the techniques used in Orwellian novels are clear…in Kafka it’s never particularly clear whats going on!
It’s why Kafkaesque means ‘having a nightmarish, illogical or bizarre quality’ and “The Trial” optimises the Kafka style.
It’s about a man who gets accused of a crime. Throughout the story the man (or the reader) never finds out the specifics of the crime.
Not only does the man receive any clarity about his crime, there’s also a massive amount of confusion about how he defends himself and how to prove his innocence. Whilst there are apparent laws (and courts and judges) in this dystopia the main character never works out how to navigate a legal system which seems to have rules, but where so much remains unclear…
The book is a darkly comedic look at a world where bureaucracy reigns, the ‘powers that be’ are unknown. Think of dealing with your local council but far far worse.
It’s also a book which paints a picture of a society where all too often dictatorships have used to control the populous. It’s disturbing that this was written and published before the rise of Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia where ‘Kafkaesque’ techniques were used in both countries and in many more dictatorships across the world even today…
So, whilst Kafka ‘The Trial’ isn’t always a particularly easy read it’s a darkly amusing interesting book worth a few hours of your time.