This is the first writing by Kafka I’ve read that I haven’t been impressed by. And unlike the Trial, when they say it is unfinished, they really mean unfinished, like it cuts off in the middle of a sentence. I don’t understand why this was published, or why people continue to read it today.
The story is about ‘K’, who arrives in a nameless town, and at the center of this town is a ‘the castle’ which may or may not be an actual castle, but contains offices and officials who may or may not have influence over people in the town. K wants to get into the castle for a reason we never learn, and makes nearly zero progress toward this goal for the entirety of the writing.
I think the point of it was the paranoia and confusion of impenetrable bureaucracy, but I’m not totally sure. Similar to The Trial (which also features a character called ‘K’) K is overwhelmed at every step by incomprehensible rules, but unlike the Trial, in which he is trying to find out what he’s been accused of, or at least be done with his trial, in the Castle we have no idea what his objective is other than ‘get to the castle.’ We have no idea who he is or where he came from, what was his life before.
The only part of the book that I really liked was when the story of Frieda’s father trying to remove what he sees as a ‘black mark’ on his daughter because she did not meet an official who asked her out for a drink. After she does this, every wrong thing that happens to the family, he perceives as being because the officials have them on some kind of the list. He expends all his energy trying to contact these officials in the castle (which he, like K, cannot get into) and spends all his money trying to bribe them, all when they have not even confirmed that the family has any black mark at all.
In the end, I wouldn’t recommend it. There was too many long, seemingly meaningless conversations, and not enough of K being foiled to make it as claustrophobic as The Trial was. Mostly I was just bored.
I’m reading Perfume: The story of a murderer, by Patrick Suskind, and am impressed with the amount of detail he’s put into describing smells. It is an underused sense, in writing, and maybe that is part of why it seems so amazing, but I’m really being drawn into the strange way this character perceives the world.
Scents are so varied, and so strongly tied to memory and emotion, that it’s a wonder they aren’t more widely used in descriptions. People are just so visual in everything we do, that the other senses get overwhelmed…
Cause I haven’t been writing every day, I feel the write is just draining out of me. So this is me trying to fill it back up again.
Reading: I finished listening to Heart of Darkness and found it a bit disturbing, and also very well written. It was referenced in Rings of Saturn by W.G. Sebald, which I loved so much, and that’s why I picked it up. I’m now listening to the Castle, by Kafka, and it’s very similar to The Trial in that he’s overwhelmed by senseless bureaucracy. In this one though, he’s trying to do something (get to the castle) and being impeded, instead of having something thrust on him. I also finished Burial Rites, and got a bit bored in the middle parts, cause it’s all about what happened, and I don’t really care what happened. I want to know how she feels, what she’s thinking, how it affects her. The details of how she got into the situation are kind of meaningless to me.
I’ve also been wasting a lot of time playing chess, which is distracting me from writing. Oh well, what can I do but follow my interests! I must make it a point to write some today…
Scientists found one preserved in amber. And as expected, it has feathers.
Things like this from the impossibly distant past always give me a strange feeling. This is a piece of what was once a living, thinking, feeling being. It lived and thought and felt differently than us to be sure, in ways we can’t rightly imagine, but it existed, it was real and alive, and a part of it still exists, and is in our hands. This is part of a creature from before humans existed.
It’s boggling to think about, and that feeling is probably why some people choose to believe in the fantasy that the earth is five years old, or whatever. Because the truth is so grand and awe inspiring and humbling that they’d rather stick with their own fantasy that existence is only composed of what they can fit in their head.