"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.