Saturday, March 22, 2014

Book 51- The Trial (82 Book)

I read The Trial by Franz Kafka quite quickly. I was definitely engaged and interested in the material and I loved the sense of incomprehension and mystery that the novel presented. It seemed like a great allegory for the existential angst and guilt that we all face as humans and as I have expressed before, I love that stuff! This novel is gripping and engaging and it has been a long time since I have been able to say that about one of the books on the list.

Josef K. is a man who wakes up one morning only to discover that he is under arrest. Having no recollection of a crime, and being completely incomprehensible of the legal system he is ensnared in he limps along trying his best to live his life while he is under a trial of guilt. The novel progresses to his eventual execution at the hands of others and the reader is left wondering whether it might not be true that we are all guilty.

There are a lot of allusions to the Christian idea that we will all be tried and judged at the end of our life. "the final judgement can often come without warning, from anyone at any time". There is a reference made at one point by a lawyer who points out that the only way to escape these trials is to admit your guilt. There is also another reference to the fact that this trial is ongoing and that there will be no end. The book leaves you with the eerie feeling that you have felt the things Josef feels before and that as confused as the novel (and Josef K. ) is that there is something familiar about the whole process.

There are several references to the fact that the accused are still human beings and still beautiful even in their guilt. I love that! I have always been a big fan of human dignity and treating the worst offender with respect. "How is it even possible for someone to be guilty. We're all human beings here, one like the other." Even though we are all "guilty" in different ways (some more appalling in our eyes than others) we are all bound together by the same fate. "If, in spite of that, you're are still a gentleman then I'm just as much a gentlemen as you are" I love that on the show Doctor Who the Doctor makes frequent references to how amazing humans are. Even though his character is always rescuing humans from a horrible fate we caused ourselves, he finds us beautiful in our ability to be creative and amazing. I think that is how God thinks of us too. "If you look at them the right way the accused really can be attractive quite often".

There was also a beautiful metaphor used in the book about a man trying to enter the gates of heaven. It talks about how the gate was only for him, but the gate keeper wouldn't let him in. The man stood outside asking the gate keeper every now and again for entrance, but was frequently denied. It isn't until the end of the life that the gate is closed. Although we are all tied together by the common fate of existential guilt and anxiety. We are also alone in our "Trial". We are the only one that can walk the path set out before us and that can be a lonely feeling. We can receive help from others, but we must walk the path ourself. There is a great quote from a Mumford and Son's song that expresses this idea so well. I have always loved it. "As brothers we will stand and we'll hold your hand...but I can't move the mountains for you". The final thing the gatekeeper tells the man trying to enter heaven is "Nobody else could have got in this way, as this entrance was meant only for you. Now I'll go and close it". The man waited at the gate instead of living his life. In the end he faced remorse. The last few lines of the book, as Josef K. faces his accuses, are absolutely beautiful. I think he expresses the greatest human fear about death. Both the fear of death itself, as well as the fear of being found wanting in the end. "I always wanted to snatch at the world with twenty hands...Are people to say of me after I am gone that at the beginning of my case I wanted to finish it, and at the end I wanted to begin again? I don't want that to be said."

1 comment:

Joseph said...

I didn't recall excerpt you cited at the end...confused me a bit...but that was fitting, this book confused a number of times, but it all made sense in the end (just as your cited text). I see you read a "restored version"...probably why my version didn't contain that text. I didn't love this, but I thought it was a telling glimpse of Kafka's worldview. Nice review.