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The Trial [Paperback]

Franz Kafka , David Wyllie
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

July 22 2009 9780486470610 978-0486470610
"Someone must have been telling lies about Josef K., he knew he had done nothing wrong but, one morning, he was arrested." From its gripping first sentence onward, this novel exemplifies the term ""Kafkaesque." Its darkly humorous narrative recounts a bank clerk's entrapment — based on an undisclosed charge — in a maze of nonsensical rules and bureaucratic roadblocks.
Written in 1914 and published posthumously in 1925, Kafka's engrossing parable about the human condition plunges an isolated individual into an impersonal, illogical system. Josef K.'s ordeals raise provocative, ever-relevant issues related to the role of government and the nature of justice. This inexpensive edition of one of the 20th century's most important novels features an acclaimed translation by David Wyllie. 

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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Let us start with the end. April 23 2010
Format:Paperback
What is the story? K. is "arrested", "sentenced" and put to "death". I'm not spoiling anything because this novel is not really a story but a dreamlike description of an ordeal. What happens in the end is more or less irrelevant except for one thing. The last scene of the novel where K. is stabbed dead by two members of the "law enforcement", contains a very important clue to understand the novel. K.'s last words are 'Like a dog!' That's right, like a dog and not like a human being. At the very last moment K. finally understands that during his whole life he was only interested in what he could GET from other people and he never was concerned with what he could GIVE to other people. He lived like an animal so to speak, like a dog.

And that's the reason why he's "arrested". Let's not forget that the word "arrest" also means that someone has ceased to grow up and to develop his character. In a certain way K. is still a child. This second meaning of the word arrest is the reason why no one can tell him why he's arrested, every time that K. asks that question. K. himself is the only person who can answer that question: I'm too selfish and I have to change my ways. There is a chapter that illustrates what I mean.

When K. and his uncle arrive at the house of K.'s lawyer, the door is opened by the lovely maid Leni. K. is obviously very keen on her. There is also a senior clerk of the Court. He has taken a special interest in the trial of K.. They all meet in the bedroom of the lawyer who has a weak heart and has to stay in bed. When the important discussion is about to begin, a noise is heard from the kitchen. K. says that he will go to the kitchen to see what's wrong. With a sigh of relief he closes the door behind him. He sees pretty Leni and forgets all about the important meeting.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Awful......! May 31 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
What a challenge!!!! Did not like this book one bit! It made NO sense to me, and there was never an explantion
to "The Trial". I don't know what the Author was talking about - ever! I will not read him again. I only read it
as a Book Club choice and my only comment will be - "Painful"!!!!
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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  254 reviews
88 of 94 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Engrossing and disturbing at the same time - fantastic. Sept. 7 2005
By M. Strong - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
It's fascinating to see the divergent reviews that this book generates; for my part, I couldn't put it down. The book creates a world and atmosphere in which you become completely engrossed - it is a disturbing place to be.

The story follows Joseph K while he is on trial by a seemingly arbitrary court system. What starts out feeling like a cautionary tale about misplaced and abused power quickly gets stranger and morphs into a story of a deeper and more personal trial. Before long, you notice that K is the one who seems to be doing the work of trying himself.

I was left thinking for a long time about the meaning behind the story and a lot of its symbols and components - I don't consider the fact that I still had questions to be a bad thing. On the contrary, this one left me feeling strangely energized.

Highly recommended for people who like philosophy, examinations of the human condition, or existentialism.
46 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Disorder In The Court Sept. 1 2002
By Alex Udvary - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
We should all know the story concerning one of the greatest novels ever written, about a man being awaken to find out he is under arrest for a crime he knows nothing about, and charged by an unknown person.
It's been debated as to what is really Kafka's novel all about. Some say, it's "hero"(?) Joseph K. represents the "every man". Who has been forced to live in a world, where's man's biggest sin is being himself. The character K. like Kafka himself feels they are an outsider in a world they cannot function in. Others still, see the book as merely a semi-autobiography as Kafka's own feelings of worthlessness. We all know Kafka even doubted his own talents as a writer. But, yet again, others think that "K." is not the "every man". That he is guilty of his "sins".
So, what does all of this prove? It simply goes to show you the impact Franz Kafka has left on the world. Here we have a book published in 1925 and still causes debate as to what exactly were Kafka's intentions. If, infact, he didn't have any intentions!
'The Trial', to me is a story of a man's loneliness. It's a story of man who probably is guilty of what he is charged with. And we slowly read about his desent into a world of paranoia. I've heard some people agrue that what happens to "K." is all merely a dream. None of it ever really happened, but, it was "K." himself who brought this punishment on himself. Sort of like how Kafka himself did by never marrying the girl he loved, by living in the shadows of his father, who he adored, and never having an self confidence. If what happens in 'The Trial' is a dream, you can bet "K." learned something.
There's something about Kafka that fasincates me. He is one of my favorite authors. I find Kafka himself to be just as interesting has the stories he wrote. People tend to forget or overlook something in Kafka's writing. He WAS funny. His novels all have moments that are truly inspired. One of my favorite chapters in this book deals with "The Painter". What happens has "K." trys to leave and the Painter stops him asking him if he wants to buy a painting had me laughing.
For those of you who have never read this book, I do completely recommend it. You will find the book to be fascinating. Kafka was a master of thinking up these surreal stories. You may be bothered by the book's conclusion. Not that you'll mind the final act against "K." but, you'll be bothered by the way it happens. You would have expected more of a set-up. I know I did. Others who read the book may feel the book is incomplete. And that may lead them to dislike it. You are right in your judgement that the book is incomplete, but, remember, Kafka never wanted any of his books published. There's actually a chapter in here that was never finished. And, even though it is incomplete that didn't stop me from truly enjoying this masterpiece. If you have never read anything by Kafka, this is a fine place to start. I hope everyone finds 'The Trial' to be as enjoyable as I did.
Bottom-line: One of the great works by Kafka. It touches on themes that were ahead of their time. Themes that are still around us today. An excellent example of the paranoid mind. Everyone should read this!
24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Chilling . . . April 20 2006
By Sean K - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
"You don't need to accept everything as true, you only need to accept it as necessary."

How true, for in this chilling novel, truth and justice cease to exist in a conventional sense. The traditional ideals of law and justice are inverted, as it is the accused who is blind and justice is pre-determined. Indeed, the courts and law system render an unfathomable, surreal-like existence. The accuser is kept in a dark abyss of ignorance, not only in the actual charges brought forth against him, but in the very foundation of the court system within which he is entrapped.

The "Court" operates outside the normal legal system and is a clandestine and faceless bureaucracy. It seems as if everything belongs to the Court, for they can invade the lives of the accused with impunity - in their home, their workplace, and even into the recesses of their mind. Indeed, the psychological torture and self-abasement is one of the key tools of the Court. The only interaction one has with this system is through low-level judges, magistrates, and lawyers in dank, hidden courtrooms. Yet, one has to devote his life (or what's left of it) to seeking influence from mysterious characters. For the actual facts of the case matter none, but the influence of the others matter the most. Yet, any defense is completely futile, for no one can escape their ultimate fate. Judgment is handed down by High Level "deities" who no one knows. It seems as if the best one can hope for is to forestall the trial through an endless cycle of influence peddling and evasive action, for to receive an actual acquittal is only a legend and not within the realm of possibility.

In a sense, the accused is condemned as soon as he is arrested. Although he is ostensibly free, the mental weight of the impending trial and the complete ignorance of the charges and laws reduces the accused to a shell of a man. The oppressive, stifling torment of the Courts is echoed in the actual living spaces of their offices, as they contain only the most stale, unhealthy air of the attics of tenements in the slums of the city.

The fact that "The Trial" was published posthumously and is unfinished, does bring forth some irregularities. Some of the characters, such as Miss Burstner, are alluded to having a more important role, but this is never explored. Other ephemeral characters come and go without explanation, as they are just blips on the radar in Josef's incessant march toward his ultimate fate. There are also gaps in the storyline with no explanation. However, given with the tone and surreal nature of this novel, this seems to fit.

Honestly, my review doesn't do this book justice. It is an enthralling, suspenseful read. It leaves a strange taste in one's mouth and an unsettled feeling in one's soul. I would put this in the same category as Orwell's 1984. Overall, I consider this a must-read.
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars And yet another Kafka scam/sham; No Translator??? March 16 2010
By Hillel Broder - Published on Amazon.com
For your convenience, I've copied/pasted below what I wrote for my review of the same publisher's "Metamorphosis". Looks like they're going for the Kafka scam superfecta...Reader's note: Replace the "Corngold" edition (of the Metamorphosis) with the new Schocken edition of "The Trial" (trans. Breon Mitchell)--a far superior translation to a translator-less "Original Version".

From my review on the same publisher's "Metamorphosis":

As a graduate student of Kafka who has bought multiple works of his off of this site, I am appalled to learn that yet another publisher, republishing Kafka's work in English without noting the name of the translator, claims to have done so in an "Original Version". If you're a Kafka scholar, then you would notice this as fishy from a mile away; this sham, therefore, is probably intended for the unsuspecting Kafka newbie who will be doubly disserviced with a shoddy (and unacknowledged) translation and no critical essays or scholarly footnotes.

But wait, there's more!

Let's be clear: Kafka wrote his "Original Version" in a (mostly school and self-taught) German. This publication is in English, and so it must, therefore, draw on one of the many fine translations now available. Note, of course, that the publication information listed above does not detail the name of the translator. This is doubly appalling: it is misleading to those who are not Kafka scholars and want to take Kafka seriously. They may think this is some "authentic" or "original" version, both of which are--by definition--false claims.

Personally, if you want the best (and most recent) translation, I'd recommend purchasing Stanley Corngold's translation, available through the fine Norton (Critical) series. There are a few critically acclaimed translations out there--and as every reader of Kafka knows, the translation makes all the difference!--but Corngold does a good job sticking to the surface of the language (e.g. he oftentimes draws one's attention to the intended puns or word play in Kafka's original German text). Either way: At least Norton acknowledges the presence of a translator, and it perturbs me greatly, as it should you, that this publisher does not acknowledge its translator. Either they ripped off someone else's work and did not acknowledge it (most shameful and most likely), or they developed their own, in-house translation and are embarrassed to take credit (even more shameful and disturbing, though intriguing).

Let's be even clearer: Corngold's edition The Metamorphosis (Norton Critical Editions) is over 200 pages, with footnotes, critical essays, and a bibliography. It costs $11.50 off of this website. This latest edition is $14.00 and is 56 pages long. This is a re-printing scam if I ever saw one, especially since the story itself in Corngold's edition only takes up 39 pages (with footnotes). This publisher must have printed it in size 15 font just to bulk up the book. A super-sham!

One final, parenthetical note: Walter Benjamin, a German literary and cultural critic--whose seminal essay "The Task of the Translator" explores the impossibility of communicability through translation, and who is perhaps now recognized as one of the most insightful Kafka critics--would be utterly disgusted by such a Kafka sham in its claim to an "Original Version".

As someone embarking on a lifelong journey with Kafka, do yourself a favor: don't buy this edition. Buy Corngold's--it's jam-packed with all sorts of great stuff.
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars My Introduction to Kafka Jan. 24 2004
By Christopher Braden - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I liked the Trial. In my quest to read the top 100 fiction books of the last century, I picked up what is probably Kafka's seminal work. (this was listed at number 92) I found this book to be a somewhat poignant discussion of how our society judges people, how perception is reality, and how in life, you rarely get a fair trial. I also saw Kafka's work as unique and unlike any of the other books I've read on the top 100 list. Kafka's style is straight-forward and concise and his sentences are packed with meaning. There really isn't a lot of superfluous verbiage or flowery, overly-descriptive prose. As with most of the classics, this book is worthwhile if you're looking to get something out of it beyond the storyline.
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