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The Trial (Penguin Modern Classics) Paperback – 29 Jun 2000

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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: 12.9 x 1.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (74 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 7,172 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
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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

55 of 58 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan James Romley on 9 Feb. 2004
Format: Paperback
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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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By "darrenlightbown" on 22 April 2003
Format: Paperback
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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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By David Williams on 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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