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.
Kafka has some way with words that makes everything seem like a slow, surreal nightmare. This story, in simple, straightforward language, manages that feeling while still being somewhat comical.
Gregor Samsa wakes one morning to find he’s transformed into a giant insect-like creature who’s smell and appearance so horrify his family that they can’t bear to be in the same room as him for more than a few seconds.
But, like The Trial, it all has the effect of a strange dream… an inevitable, existential horror creeping slowly but unerringly.
First he is sequestered to his room, only able to listen to his family or guess what they are up to. Then the furniture is removed from his room. Then the room (and he) gathers dust and trash and is left untended… and his relationship deteriorates at the same time.
And it all somehow evokes a feeling of… shrinking, of the world being stripped away until reality is a single room, a single floorboard at which your eye is pointing, unblinking.
A short, strange read. Well worth it.
I’m listening to Kafka’s Metamorphosis, and the first sentence is him waking up as a giant insect. This is how stories should be told.
So many other writers, amateur or not, would write however many thousands of words about the day before it happened–but why waste time getting there? Since the story is about him as this creature, that’s where we start.
I love how to-the-point it is, with all aspects. Something to consider in my own writing…
I’ve started reading Franz Kafka’s ‘The Trial’ and just from the beginning am already feeling upset and unsettled. I think this book may not be for me, but I’ll continue for now.
I’ve heard this book described as both a funny satire, and an existential horror story. I’m wondering if this depends on the kind of person reading it. So far, it seems like a horror to me but I can see how it might be found funny.
Being completely helpless inside the giant bureaucratic machine we live in, is pretty horrific, when described this way. I feel my anxiety rising as I go through the story. I hope I can handle it.