The Trial by Franz Kafka

The Trial by Franz Kafka is a novel that a friend suggested after I pestered him with questions about law and morality. I picked up this book a couple of weeks later to read it. It is a philosophical novel that follows the journey of a man called Joseph K, who has been arrested by a mysterious authority on a mysterious charge. The crime that Joseph K committed is never revealed throughout the entire book. Eventually, he is sentenced to die, and the book that starts off as a farce ends up as a tragedy.

As with many works of philosophy, this story can be interpreted in many ways. Why was Joseph ultimately killed? Who was ultimately judging him? Who gives an institution the right to judge others? I’ve read some of the analysis around the hidden meaning in the book, but I can’t provide an in-depth analysis of what the book represents. There was one parallel, however, that struck me while reading the novel.

Often, social media posts are taken down by the platform, and the creator gets a message from a mysterious authority within the company informing them of the action. They are then given a set of steps they can take, which will be reviewed by another mysterious authority. They are given a vague reason for the deletion of the post, but the creator usually feels that these reasons aren’t uniformly applied. Nobody knows the real reason for these disqualifications. After this, ‘the trial’ of the creator can go on for an unspecified set of time, and the creator gets updates in unpredictable intervals. In many ways, the process seems to be very similar to Franz Kafka’s book.

Lastly, this novel taught me a little about the art of translation. There is a translator’s note at the beginning of the novel, and it reveals how difficult it is to translate a book and keep the original style and tone intact. So much of the information within the story lies within the writing style, and conserving that style is next to impossible. The translator makes an interesting observation; that while the charm of the original text does not fade with time, but the translations often lose their lustre as time goes by.


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