After reading both The Trial and The Reader, it’s interesting to compare the writings of German writers that were separated by a few generations. Schlink and Kafka each write in a more or less straight-forward tone. From vivid sex scenes to more conservative scenes of affection, both writers let the audience know of what is going on in the story. The blunt nature makes each novel more amiable in terms of reading; the audience dissects the plot instead of trying to recognize it.
A lot of Kafka’s work is said to be quite similar to his real life. This might also be true with the women in his novels. Throughout The Trial, K has women wanting him, without him needing to do anything. At the beginning of the novel it says that his landlady Frau Grubach, cooks him breakfast every morning. He then later tries to apologize to Fraulein Burstner, for having strangers use her because of him. K. tries to comfort her when she is startled by a shout and ends up kissing her for no apparent reason. Later he is confronted by the women who showed him where the hearing was held. Although she is married, she is clearly attracted to him and offers to help him with his case. A cleaning lady who has met K once is already trying to help him, saying that she might be able to sway the Examining Magistrate. Leni, a nurse to the lawyer was attracted enough to K. to throw and break a plate in hoping that he would come out. She leads him into a room where recognizes pictures of judges, he uses her to find out who those people were. Sitting on his lap they kiss and fool around, she has fallen for him to the point where she gives him a key to the building for him to come whenever. Although all these women just throw themselves at him hoping to be “the one”, it seems that K. is more interested in using them for their knowledge or just as a mistress. These seem to be accurate with Kafka’s real life. Doing some research I found that Kafka had more than a couple affairs with countless women. But all these relations never went anywhere, and were purely for his own satisfaction.
While I find that Tylerwolfgangclaus presents an interesting critique of Kafka’s writing style within The Trial, I do disagree with his criticisms regarding the merits of Kafka’s writing. I fully agree that Kafka’s writing tends to be morose and dense, sometimes making it difficult to read more than a small portion of the novel at a time. However, instead of making the story more boring, I find that his writing adds a unique quality to the novel, emphasizing the claustrophobic, toxic nature of K’s adventures inside the overly-complicated judicial system system. Kafka has a unique style of writing, one that is stark, and excellent at painting surreal images that remain within the reader’s heads. I do agree with Tylerwolfgangclaus that Kafka is rather far from the typical romantic archetype, although his arguments against the complex government bureaucracy are actually somewhat similar to core romantic philosophies. It is interesting how you point out that Kafka chose to disregard the sailing plot thread entirely, which was not something I had thought of as I read the scene. I do think that perhaps Kafka added that in to demonstrate how K alienates his coworkers and supporters, choosing to remain solitude rather than receiving the help of others.
Having read several of Kafka’s short stories and half of The Trial so far, I have come to realize the similarities between all of his protagonists. A majority of critics say that there are autobiographical elements to all of Kafka’s stories (in terms of characters), and having done research on both Kafka and his writing this is becoming increasingly apparent. Here is a list of Kafka’s writings that we have read so far in class and the key aspects of their respective protagonists:
The Judgement – Georg: exchanges letters with his ‘best friend’ for years, maintaining an artificially close relationship while really keeping a very grave distance – he is very removed from his ‘loved ones’, including his own father – he is unaware of the fact that everyone around him is lying to him
A Country Doctor – the Doctor: represents traditional medicine, feels as if he is being left behind and is under-appreciated, alone and removed from society – tries his hardest to do what is morally correct and to help people
In the Penal Colony – the Traveller: a man who has been called to this society for his input on an arguably outdated killing machine, removed from this society and begins to understand – not necessarily agree with, but understand the point of view of the rejected – is asked to make a moral judgement on the killing machine from out of nowhere, put in a very difficult position
The Metamorphosis – Gregor: wakes up as a giant insect, as the story progresses he feels as if he is nothing but a burden to his family, cannot communicate with them and they are repulsed by the thought of him, he is removed from his loved ones for whom he previously lived to support – had no control over this horrifying transformation that has ruined his life
The Trial – Josef K.: somewhat arrogant, very intelligent, little tolerance, sarcastic, arrested for a crime of which he cannot know any details or really any information at all – forced to undergo this trial without the slightest idea of what he could have done – removed from reality
What do these all have in common? Every single protagonist from Kafka’s writings is removed, alienated, or alone in some way. They are all intelligent and all end up at mercy of some moral or life dilemma. Franz Kafka is known in the literary world for his dark, morally confounding, strange work. He himself is notoriously known as being an outsider all of his life. There is always a juxtaposition between the protagonist of his work and the surrounding society. It is clear that Kafka has a very personal issue with authoritative figures and the idea of society in general. What is exceedingly interesting is how bluntly Kafka basis his characters on himself, yet each story is different and each story has some obscenely crazy twist to it. There is so much reality and truth to be found in all of his writing yet each piece has surreal elements. The idea of Kafka himself and his characters has much to be explored and analyzed. Each work read is a step closer to getting to know Franz Kafka and unraveling the absurdities that occupied his mind.
After posting my previous post, I came across another anti-romantic element of The Trial. While it is merely a small piece of the story, K. is offered a chance to go sailing by a superior in his line of work. In the construction of this novel, Kafka could have played off this sailing adventure, but K declined the invitation, instead opting for a time-consuming, counterproductive interrogation. I am not going to say that Kafka should have extended a sailing scene, but it definetley would have brought a relaxing, spontaneous element to the novel instead of straying from the monotonous scenes of pothered paper-work and stiff suits. The most probable cause of avoiding a sailing scene is obvious: Kafka, being a European writer, likely did not have an appreciation for the ocean and therefore could not have been able to describe the ocean in such a way that would have accented the story. He tends to stick to writing in a world of urban conspiracy.
Is it just me, or is Kafka’s style of writing very dry? The plot of The Trial is very interesting and the characters are complex, but Kafka managed to write this novel in probably one of the most monotonous methods I have ever encountered. It is as if he and K. are anti-romanticists. For example, early in “the initial inquiry,” Kafka comments on how “the weather was dull on Sunday, and K. was very tired.” What is dull weather? Does that mean pleasantly mild or damp and overcast? This type of description, or lack thereof , gives the story a mellow, gray tint that lulls the reader asleep. Furthermore, it helps over-emphasize the formality of the plot. There is not a lot of room for humor and excitement in a story of bankers, lawyers, and authorities. While the tone in which the story is written is very serious, not much more can be expected in my opinion. Even though it can make a reader weary, if you onsider the circumstances and situations in this story, a straightfoward style of writing seems more appropriate and is probably more conducive to constructing an entertaining plot in the long run.
I just found this great article in the New York Times detailing Kafkaesque legal battles being waged over the rights to Kafka’s works. It provides a fascinating modern context to the issues previously discussed in this blog; most importantly regarding the ramifications present in publishing works against the will of the author.
You can read the article here.