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Tom Oliver

The Trial - Franz KafkaThe Trial - Franz Kafka

The Trial - Franz Kafka

This is one one of those books that people tell you to read when they actually haven't finished it themselves (you know who you are). I don't think anyone would mind me saying that its a painful read, because surely that was the author's intention. It's about a guy who lives in a world that is governed by an impenetrable court system, the workings of which nobody understands. He gets arrested randomly and put on trial without explanation. Nobody knows what the charges are (except maybe the high judges?) so its very difficult to defend himself. There is what they call an "advocate" who offers to help the protagonist with the trial. However the help he provides consists of various sycophantic offerings to court judges who happened to have been acquaintances from the past. The protagonist also finds himself entangled with various female characters with tenuous connections to the courts, who for some reason show great romantic interest in him. They offer to help in one way or another by providing the protagonist with some sort of 3rd-hand information about the courts, which nevertheless fails to translate to much advantage in the proceedings. The setting of the book is no doubt dystopian, and reminds me of the Maoist witch hunts described in the book Wild Swans. For me it served as an unsettling reminder that there are people in this world who would quite happily construct such an opaque bureaucracy as described in the book. If the consequences of the court's ruling were not so dire, it could even be interpreted as comedic, but the sinister aspect of it all seems a little too real and a little too plausible for it to make me laugh.

I may have been a bit harsh. Overall I am glad to have read this book.

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