The Castle by Franz Kafka (translated by J.A. Underwood)

Like The Trial, The Castle is the story of an unfortunate K who gets lost in a world of opaque bureaucracy. Unlike The Trial, K has not been punished for a crime he does not know about, instead he has been hired as a land surveyor by an administration at a Castle, who don’t know why they hired him in the first place, K is left puzzling over why he remains at the village by the Castle interacting with the people there.

He has a relationship with a barmaid who he later finds out he has to marry so gets engaged to her, he meets a landlady who is hostile to him. There are many more characters and scenarios K comes across in the story and because he is there by mistake they end up giving him a job in the village anyway. Once K gets to know more about the world he has entered he realises that the people of The Castle are separate from the villagers and look down on them, using the women for example to satisfy their sexual needs.

The Castle by Franz Kafka

As in The Castle like in The Trial you never know an awful lot of what is going on until it is disclosed to you. K certainly does not. What the people of the Castle do exactly is not wholly known. K goes into the world at first with the best intentions but is left scratching his head as he plunges himself into this new society when all he needed to do was leave as soon as he could.

The Castle is famous for being one of Kafka’s unfinished works. For me this actually added to the story making it even more Kafkaesque (I really wanted to avoid saying that but it can’t be helped here). K is stuck in this world now, he likely will not leave. K is like a loud western tourist who shows up in Japan postwar or some other part of the world they know little about and has probably committed cultural faux pas after faux pas without realising it. K instead of taking a step back, ends up getting involved with and having a number of conversations and interactions one after the other, forgetting why he is there in the first place. Already as I type this (and especially when I was reading it) I am aware that I also am falling down the rabbit hole of writing about the conversations and scenarios along with K himself so I will stop there.

To anyone who wishes to read this, I highly recommend a certain degree of patience and to simply plunge into the story along with K and to take a step back after the end of each chapter to go over what you have read. I preferred The Trial by Kafka as the better story but that was purely because I found the story easier to follow, The Castle is intentionally making sure that you get stuck with K about what is going on and in a way that is they beauty of the novel.

[Penguin Classics, reprinted 2000. Fist published in 1926]

The Trial by Franz Kafka (translated by Idris Parry)

In short, this is a book about a man who is charged for something he has no idea of what it is. His conscience is at the least, clear.

The Trial by Franz Kafka (Idris Parry translation)

This is a book about man who gets so lost in the bureaucracy and the technicalities of his case along with other barriers put against him that he forgets to dwell on what exactly it is he’s been charged for.

the has been charged for and from the start the first man to tell him of his charge says it is not his job to tell him. Things get worse for the protagonist from there on in.

There’s a part of the book where someone tells him of unwritten rules when dealing with certain judges which is just as baffling to him a school the standard du process of the case. His lawyer isn’t helpful to him either.

The fact that the protagonist Josef K’s frustrations are some what familiar to us is what makes this book truly remarkable.

Franz Kafka

If you’ve ever been wound up by jobsworths of some degree that you’ll understand some of K’s frustrations.

I don’t know if it is because of the nature of the plot but in my mind’s eye K’s world was in shades of grey, I never felt any colour coming through though I do think that was intentional by Kafka showing us what type of world it is. This is a world of tedium an doing things in a particular no to upset kart. There are processeses that nobody quite understands an yet everybody has to follow.

This was an unforgettable book for me and I liked how Kafka sends you on the journey of the story with K and your with him throughout the whole tale. Many of the characters including K himself aren’t perfect and some are detestable. There were even some lines and actions of K where I was wishing he didn’t do that or say what he said and already I’m forgetting that it’s just a story. This is what made me love The Trial. Karla made me support K and also made me annoyed by him when he did something I didn’t agree with. I was getting annoyed by K as if he was real and no all

I suspect this story would go over the heads of some people but for the rest of us, I can’t recommend it enough.