5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: The Castle (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)This is a terrific book; but you'll only appreciate it if you realise that the author is not trying to impress you and that you don't have to outguess him. If it helps, bear in mind that Kafka asked his mercenary pal Max to burn his writings when he died.
We shouldn't be reading them at all.
'The Castle' tells the story of a Land Surveyor who is called to a foreign country to carry out a job of work; but from the moment he arrives in the village beneath the eponymous monolith he has to justify not only his status but his very presence. As the hero's lot worsens - misled as much by his own temperament as by the duplicitous villagers and by the evasive echelons of bureaucrats who live in the castle - he never manages to do the obvious thing: to visit the castle and put his case directly. This is partly because of the disabling snow that coats the landscape, partly because of the regime's baffling protocols - but mainly because the story is, in style at least, a dream.
It is claimed that Kafka wrote his books in the first person, then replaced the 'I's with 'K's. True or not, it suggests how Kafka's novels are about the protagonist and 'his' world - not 'our' world. For instance, the typical cast of insidiously erotic women with their unsettling minor deformities (webbed fingers, obtrusive moles) are not intended as a justification of misogyny but as an indication of K's own tendency to be distracted by sex: he perverts his prime quest towards his own gratifications.
It's a cardinal Kafka quote: "There is no journey, only the goal".
The fact that 'The Castle' is unfinished adds a piquancy to this remark; although being aware of it is anything but inspiring as you plough through the snow drift of pages in which a typically Kafkan Morgana talks and talks and talks in infinitesimal detail about her family history. Again, if it helps, it's worth remembering that Kafka used to read these fantasies out to his pals in an atmosphere of boozy revelry. It's a Jewish shaggy dog story with a Bohemian sense of humour; which is not to say that its mimetic style - whose entertainment value is more apparent in the context of German grammar - doesn't have a purpose.
If we read novels merely for their conclusions it would be enough to have a synopsis. I'd suggest that Kafka's novels are among the few that can worm into a life and change it without the user being aware of what has happened... but the user has to drop his guard, first.
And if you don't want to do that why are you buying the book, eh?