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56 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Crime & Punishment
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...
Published on 9 Feb. 2004 by Jonathan James Romley

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
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. As an essay, it has valuable and profound philosophical reflections about human made systems and their evolution to the point of being destructively self sustaining, where an individual is transformed in just a footnote of a lost document. But as a...
Published 18 months ago by David Fernandes


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56 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Crime & Punishment, 9 Feb. 2004
This review is from: The Trial (Penguin Modern Classics) (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... whilst the references to detective fiction and the mystery genre is general, are the aspects that made me want to take this out of the library in the first place. Kafka’s work is very demanding, so don’t be surprised if it takes you a couple of attempts to really relax into the mood and intent of the story. However, once you finish this book, you’ll understand why so many people proclaim it a pinnacle of literary genius, and you will certainly be glad that you took the time to experience it.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Surreal yet Superb, 22 April 2003
This review is from: The Trial (Penguin Modern Classics) (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
4.0 out of 5 stars Nameless menace stalks hero and reader, 25 May 2011
By 
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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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Reading, 15 Oct. 2009
By 
Mr. Nadim Bakhshov "Nadim Bakhshov" (Bloomsbury, London) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
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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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nice edition, 29 Mar. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
It's one of those books an educated person really ought to have read, isn't it? How handy that there's a nice Kindle edition, with interactive table of contents, at such a good price. I also did a bit of research and it seems that this is a very modern and well-regarded translation, which is more than you can expect with something this inexpensive.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking!, 10 May 2012
This review is from: The Trial (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
The Trial by Franz Kafka.
Much has been written about this book. Many opinions seem to be rife about the meaning and the basic allegory of the plot and the story.
Kafka came from a German-speaking Jewish family and lived in Prague in Bohemia.He had a background of working in a job described by his father as a `breadjob' meaning he was just earning money with no career.He worked for an insurance company where he dealt with worker's injury claims, although he had a doctorate in law. He had a five-year attachment to Felice Bauer and although it consisted only of a number of meetings and a great deal of correspondence, they were engaged several times, each time breaking it off until their relationship finally failed in1917.

Kafka completed `The Trial' in 1915, though it was unfinished and later required editing by Max Brod his close friend. It has been studied and many opinions exist of its meaning. Kafka's dying wish was that Brod should burn the manuscript, but happily, he didn't.
There seem to be several interpretations. On the one hand,the story is supposed by some to be the depiction of the futility of struggling against fate or God. Others suppose it represents Kafka as a Jew in a society where Jews were condemned openly or behind the scenes, since anti-Semitism was rife in Europe even before the First World War.

The book begins with an `arrest'. The central character, `K' (is it coincidence that he has the author's initial and all other characters have spelled-out names?), a man aged thirty who works in a bank is confronted by two men who claim he is under arrest, but free to work and move around, but that a trial will commence to determine his future.
In the following story, K becomes acquainted with a number of characters who lead him in a fanciful dance designed to indicate the futility of his attempts to battle the `Courts'. It turns out almost everyone he encounters has been or is involved with the courts and even his family know he has a forthcoming trial without his communication with them. Everyone knows he is subject to `The Process' but even K never discovers what it is he is supposed to have done. I won't spoil the ending but I think it is symbolic not real. He meets various people who claim to be able to circumvent the outcome of the court and its decision, but he is at times enraged by it all and at other times passive, resisting any help whoever it is offered by. In the end, his fate is the reward he reaps by his intransigence and his resistance to taking advice.

My own feeling about the book is that it is not as simply asseeing it as written with one message. I think there are layers of allegory. On the one hand, one could interpret it as showing how society treats minorities.There is a veiled condemnation and of the individual which is unfathomable at first, subtle and hidden, but eventually becoming frank and obvious. A Jew living in Eastern Europe might well feel that was so.
Another layer is the futility of fighting against Society's opinions. Everyone is part of a social society and whomever you talk to they are part of it and that is revealed repeatedly in the book. K finds that even places he never identified as part of his trial are part of the courtrooms and court process. He doesn't trust his lawyer - OK, he has common sense!
Yet another portrayal of the author's underlying theme requires one to see how he might have viewed society's opinion of his relationship with Felice. It was off-on. It consisted of a lot of correspondence and few `in the flesh' encounters. Could it be that The Trial mirrors his feeling about how society might have viewed his eventual refusal to lead a normal, married life? Was he ostracised as a result?
If one transgresses, society may condemn one. It might not be immediately apparent that some force is working in the background against you. The evolution of the antipathy may emerge with time and eventually result in the apex of condemnation by the very social world in which one lives. To be Jewish and to jilt someone publicly - might that not evoke feelings of guilt - even a feeling that society condemns one without any visible trial?
But in the end, what is K guilty of? Is he just guilty of digging his heels in against a manipulative, turgid system, designed to visitits hatred and injustice on anyone who chooses to be different or even be born different? He is guilty of underestimating the power of the hierarchy. He is guilty of ignorance of the very system that controls us. He is even guilty of passivity. It results in the eventual judgement where the book ends.

So, the verdict? My verdict?

This is a book that has made me think more than any other I have read since I was a teenager (the first time I read it). Recommend it? Well if you have tolerance for some boring parts and patience to reap the eventual reward of the book, then yes.Not for everyone. It's not an adventure book but as someone who works a as a tiny cog in a big machine it speaks to me as no other book does!
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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A truly excellent modern classic, 22 Sept. 2003
By 
Mr. D. N. Reece (Birmingham, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Trial (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
The Trial is the story of one man, Josef K. who one morning discovers that he is being placed under arrest, which is the start of his trial, through madness, paranoia and into the unknown, the reader follows the journey of K. along his spiral downwards as his life begins to fall away.
Throughout the book, we are never told exactly what K. is on trial for, and for a good reason too, Kafka was a brilliant writer. K. wakes one morning and is arrested for an unknown crime, but never actually convicted or placed on trial using the real sense of the word, by that I mean Judge and Jury etc. but ordered to report to a court every so often. This ordeal seems to prove impossible and we soon discover that his trip appears ludicrous, and as the book develops, we start to realise that the trial for K. has turned into a hellish nightmare of dead ends and wild characters.
K.’s frustration and paranoia is something, which, Kafka exploits to outstanding effect, in this humorous, satirical tale of one man struggling against matters, which have already been decided.
Kafka's writing style is extremely effortless, which makes reading this book even more enjoyable, you are not tied down to long descriptive passages, but descriptions of places are perfected enough to envisage the atmosphere and the surroundings. I would recommend this book to anyone who has never read any Kafka before, because although slightly more complex than Metamorphosis, it still remains an excellent book, which allows you to appreciate the author to a great degree. It also persuaded me to go out and read more books by Frank Kafka, a truly excellent modern classic.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Disturbing Novel, 17 Jan. 2006
By A Customer
'The Trial' is not an easy book to read, despite its brevity. It is rough round the edges, patchy in places and often difficult to get through.
Nevertheless, it is a stunning read. The sheer incompetence of K's tormentors is often laugh out loud funny. Yet his persistent attempts to break through walls of ignorance, silence and confusion become darkly tragic in the final pages of the book. It comes with a serious sting in the tale. I immediately re-read the book from cover to cover after the stunning ending. It makes the twisted world of 'Nineteen-eighty four' seem logical. 'The Trial' is a deeply disturbing book. Yet it's also a rewarding novel too. It requires the reader to engross themself within it to truely understand the savage world that Kafka constructs around K.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential, 8 July 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: The Trial (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
Joseph K awakes one morning to find himself under arrest & inpenitrable labyrinths of beaurocracy prevent him from even finding out the reason why. Kafka predates George Orwells 1984, but already takes it way further. This is an overly guilty, paranoid piece of work - written by an alienated German speaking Czech jew in the early 20th century - but the drowning feeling of helplesness in the face of unseen forces, which control the power in our world, is so relevent to the 21st century. That reality makes this far more unsettling than "horror" writers like Stephen King. Its also interesting how it taps into the conciousness of the time.. perhaps the holocaust could have been predicted. The true horror is when K begins to question whether he really is guilty... I would mention that for practically the same price as this book you can buy all 3 Kafka novels in one volume & they are all superb.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mesmerising - The novel that spawned the epithet Kafkaesque, and a whole spate of disquieting fiction, 13 April 2011
The story of Joseph K., who is arrested one morning and is accused of a crime that is never made explicit or stated in any way. The novel takes you through his nightmarish journey, in effect a descent rapidly into a circle of hell, from which he does not escape, but where his situation only becomes more disturbing and more surreal.

When I first read this at the age of 14, I was bowled over by it; truly overwhelmed, stunned and impressed. I returned to it at the age of 42, and re-reading it now, it remains a genuine modern classic of fiction that is one of the very best at conveying the qualities of claustrophobia, nightmare, feeling trapped, as a scenario for its principal character, Joseph K. (who narrates his tale of bizarre desperation), and similarly for the reader 'trapped' with him in his narration.

The only - and significant - negative experience on re-reading, that I hadn't recognised at all on first reading it as a teen (probably unsurprisingly, given sexist social conditioning when I was a child!) is how negative and sexually objectifying Joseph K.'s portrayal of women is; not one of them has a true identify of her own; they are all possessed and have no sense of self-worth or meaning other than as defined through men. I say Joseph K., the character's viewpoint, because in Kafka's letters to Felice and other women, I don't recall the writer having such a sexist, ugly perception and attitude towards women.

Still, highly recommended, it is a true work of literature that, having created a whole realm of fiction under the epithet 'Kafkaesque' transcends the normal boundaries of fiction and is both horror, dark fantasy, and literary at the same time (see my review of Metropole by Ferenc Karinthy, the contemporary Hungarian writer, for the one genuinely remarkable successor to Kafka and his The Trial).
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The Trial (Penguin Modern Classics)
The Trial (Penguin Modern Classics) by Franz Kafka (Paperback - 29 Jun. 2000)
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