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The Trial (Penguin Modern Classics) [Paperback]

Franz Kafka , Idris Parry
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)
RRP: 6.99
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Book Description

29 Jun 2000 Penguin Modern Classics

A gripping work of psychological horror, in its depiction of bureaucracy run amok Franz Kafka's The Trial skirts the line between fantasy and reality. This Penguin Classics edition is translated from the German with an introduction by Idris Parry.

'Somebody must have laid false information against Josef K., for he was arrested one morning without having done anything wrong.' From this first sentence onwards, Josef K. is on trial for his right to exist. Once arrested, he is released, but must report to court on a regular basis - an event that proves maddening, as nothing is ever resolved. As he grows more uncertain of his fate, his personal life - including work at a bank and his relations with his landlady and a young woman who lives next door - becomes increasingly unpredictable. As K. tries to gain control, he succeeds only in accelerating his own excruciating downward spiral. Maintaining an atmosphere of unease throughout, this chilling, thought-provoking novel, more than any other, is infinitely perceptive about the nature of terror and the absurd meaninglessness and futility of human life.

Franz Kafka (1883-1924) was a Czech-born German-speaking insurance clerk who despised his job, preferring to spend his time writing. Nevertheless, Kafka published little during his lifetime, and ordered his closest friend to burn the mass of unpublished manuscripts - now familiar to us as some of the most influential novels and short stories of the twentieth century - after his death. Kafka's novels, all available in Penguin Modern Classics, include The Trial, The Castle, and Amerika.

If you enjoyed The Trial, you might like Kafka's The Castle, also available in Penguin Modern Classics.

'This compelling, prophetic novel anticipates the insanity of modern bureaucracy and the coming of totalitarianism'

Daily Telegraph

'It is the fate and perhaps the greatness of [The Trial] that it offers everything and confirms nothing'

Albert Camus

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The Trial (Penguin Modern Classics) + Metamorphosis and Other Stories (Penguin Modern Classics) + The Castle (Penguin Modern Classics)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; New Ed edition (29 Jun 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141182903
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141182902
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 6,010 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"It is the fate and perhaps the greatness of that work that it offers everything and confirms nothing" (Albert Camus)

"The Dante of the Twentieth Century" (W. H. Auden) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Book Description

The classic translation of Kafka's great work of psychological horror --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
Somebody must have made a false accusation against Josef K., for he was arrested one morning without having done anything wrong. Read the first page
Browse Sample Pages
Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
53 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Crime & Punishment 9 Feb 2004
The Trial is probably Kafka is his purest form. The one book that finds each of his principal concerns in full tilt, as he layers his story of horrified paranoia and personal confusion alongside elements of personal metaphor, aspects of social and political allegory, and some of the most atmospheric use of writing I’ve ever experienced. The plot is labyrinthine to say the least, with Kafka creating a mood from the outset that will leave the reader as confused and afraid as our protagonist Josef K, before sending him (and, through the writer’s use of a subject narrative, ourselves) down into a free-falling spiral, as conflicting clues and evidence build up against us to further incriminate both the central character (and the reader) in a crime we cannot comprehend.
If this sounds confusing... (well) it is. Kafka keeps large chunks of the plot a secret for as long as he can, making the reader work all the more to decipher the clues that he weaves between the arcane descriptions and densely layered symbolism that is injected into every sentence that we read. Never at any point in time does Kafka allow us to gain more information than K. instead making us work just as hard to find out what is going on in this diabolical world of autocracy and mistrust. Anyone who has seen Orson Welles’ adaptation of the book (or for that matter, Terry Gilliam’s cult classic Brazil) will have a visual template for the kind of world that the writer suggest through his use of words and the imagery they create.
The narrative is purposely multi-layered and features moments of both horror and tension, but also has a strong streak of darkly comic absurdity and the kind of social surrealism that people like Buñuel and Greenaway do so well...
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Surreal yet Superb 22 April 2003
It is amazing just how much of a store of prescience Kafka managed to pack into his work. This nightmarish tale of bureacracy gone mad seems an awesome damnation of the police states which did come to the attention of the outside world until well after Kafka's death at the age of 41. Although 41 is a young age for anyone to die, at least it spared him the horrors of the Nazi occupation of Prague in the second world war, horrors which his family were not so fortunate as to have avoided.
The bewildering downward spiral of Joseph K is one of the true masterpieces of world literature. Arrested for a crime which he can never discover and in a court of which he has no prior knowledge, K's only outlet is meaningless snatches of affection with random women who continually let him down. The most damning aspect of the entire tale is that the courts themselves are everywhere. They reside in the attics of the tenements of the drab city in which he suffers from the bizarre circumstances out of his control. K's bemusement is relayed to the reader through numerous sotte voce moments which see him struggling to pretend that he does actually hold some influence over his own life.
Try not to begin reading this novel with too many preconceived notions of what a novel should be. This is not a Victorian morality tale where at the end of the tale the main protaganists get either their rewards or their just desserts. Life itself rarely follows such linear progression, and The Trial doesn't either.
A must read book for any wishing to term themselves as any kind of book lover. Awesome and haunting.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Reading 15 Oct 2009
By Mr. Nadim Bakhshov VINE VOICE
Format:Audio CD
Sometimes, very rarely, you stumble across an audiobook that is read so well, with so much subtlety and nuance, where the tone and voice of the reader captures the mood of the book, you want to recommend it to those wary of the author.

This is such a reading. Rupert Degas does such a good reading that it can even be studied. It will support repeated listening and will deepen your grasp of the magic and power of Kafka's prose.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nameless menace stalks hero and reader 25 May 2011
Format:Kindle Edition
This is more difficult to review than Kafka's 'The Metamorphosis' as it is fragmented and incomplete, though, strangely, Kafka gave it an ending. In fact, everything is strange about the book, which is Kafka's intention - it's clear that he wants the reader to feel as disoriented as the 'hero' Josef K, a successful senior bank official who wakes up one morning to find his lodgings invaded by secretive policeman, come to inform him he is being arraigned for trial for some nameless crime.

We never get to a trial as such, only a sort of preliminary hearing. The court and all its officials are housed in a tenement block in a poor part of town, where living quarters and offices of court are merged into one another or linked by mysterious corridors, some of which seem to open up unexpectedly, like a darker version of Lewis Carroll's Wonderland. At K's office, too, bizarre scenes and exchanges take place at the opening of a door. It all contributes to a sense that nothing is quite what it seems, and everything is menace. We can't even be sure of K; all we know about him is by his own reckoning, and although he is, in the early stages of the book, very pleased with himself there are hints of character traits which are very unpleasant, not least his lecherous and vaguely misogynistic attitude to women.

The power of the novel comes from K's growing obsession and sense of foreboding about the trial. We see him gradually disintegrate before us. The more he seeks to know the less he knows. The characters around him seem at once to know everything and nothing. The threat is claustrophobic and, like his supposed crime, nameless. The ending that Kafka gives us is ritualised and solemn - perhaps in the way that executions are universally, whether they be labelled 'legitimate' or 'illegitimate'. The symbolism is political, but the shiver is deeply and unforgettably personal.

Reviewer David Wiliams writes a regular blog Writer in the North.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars weird
This book started quite slowly for me but the underlying sinister undertones kept me reading. Just finished and feel strangely emotional as if I have experienced sone sort of loss. Read more
Published 2 months ago by austin mirams
4.0 out of 5 stars A true classic
Everything is strange about the book, which I guess is Kafka's intention - it's clear that he wants the reader to feel as disoriented as the 'hero' Josef, a successful senior bank... Read more
Published 3 months ago by E. Orr
5.0 out of 5 stars Documentary.
I used to think Franz Kafka's novel was a surreal fantasy, until I had some direct dealings with the German legal system myself. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Tricky
4.0 out of 5 stars An acquired taste
Another of Kafkas greats.
You either like kafkas work or admire it.
I personally like it, not a book for the train but on a quiet beach perfect!!
Published 6 months ago by Paul M
5.0 out of 5 stars Modern Classic - an appropriate name
This is an all-time great, an intriguing read which tells a story of angst, bureaucracy and uncertainty. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Bill Leacy
4.0 out of 5 stars Well written
Clearly a very well written book and I personally enjoyed it a lot, it is quite different though and not sure how much it would appeal to the masses.
Published 7 months ago by Miss M Rea
3.0 out of 5 stars Gems
The Trial narrates K.'s fight to defend himself from an unknown accusation made by an ultra-secretive and surreal judiciary. Read more
Published 8 months ago by David Fernandes
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
Have wanted to read this book for years, finally bought itand was disappointed, I became irritated with the main character
Published 11 months ago by aging groupie
5.0 out of 5 stars K
Strangely different on a later visit.
Attics and clerks, pride and prosaicness.
A counter balance to mine or your plump pretensions.
Published 12 months ago by ijape
5.0 out of 5 stars Short but impressive
Kafka imagination always amazes me yet again this short novel shows his talent the atmosphere the characters he creates amazes till today . Read more
Published 14 months ago by Ugur Kiziloz
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