Disoriented and consumed with guilt for a "crime" he does not understand, Josef K. must justify his life to a "court" with which he cannot communicate. The defendant can only ask questions, but receives no answers to clarify the surreal world in which he is compelled to wander.
Through the court's relentless bureaucratic proceedings and absurd juxtapositions of different hypotheses of cause and effect, the whole rational structure of the world is undermined. The trial of Josef K. becomes a chilling existential metaphor for life itself, where every sentence is a sentence of death.
©1998 Schocken Books, Inc.; (P)1998 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
"Howard's British accent and deep monotone set the proper dark tone for the book....Howard acts as our intellectual guide by emphasizing key passages and marking them as worthy of interpretation and discussion." (AudioFile)
I doubt that I can add much to what's been written about this book. I had thought that I had read all of Kafka's works, but somehow I had missed this cornerstone.
There are times when we feel that everyone else knows something, but we're somehow in the dark. Perhaps it's the halftime flash which our disinterest kept us from seeing. These times are even more sinister when the knowledge pertains to us. Perhaps our co-workers know we're being let go. Perhaps our prospective employers are getting negative reports behind our backs. This story is that paranoia on steroids: somehow almost all of society is part of an obscure police state and everyone around us is playing a role while we naively carry on with our achievements and status--winning the wrong game.
K evinces inviolability and rightness, yet the machinery of the omnipresent police state continues to draw the noose. Like Eugene Ionesco's Rhinoceros, all are converting and turning, or perhaps unseen were already changed. Now it is K's turn and his choices lead impotently toward dissolution.
I can see why people liken Invitation to a Beheading to this book, but they are dramatically different. Both are absurd and surrealistic, but Nabokov's is bright balls and circus absurdity with almost everything out in the open. Kafka's is a nightmare absurdity of dark hallways, dead ends, false hopes, and entrapping sirens.
As to this recording, there are odd splices of another voice occasionally, but otherwise, the narration is quite good.
Everyone knows about Kafka's The Trial and has enjoyed it in written form. I sought out this volume to revisit a classic for my own benefit. The reading was wonderful in this format and, of course, the writing was excellent. I did not, however, find this version satisfying and have reflected on this for several days.
I have come to the conclusion that some literature you enjoy for the printed word. Swann's Way: In Search of Lost Time comes to mind. There is a joy in absorbing the text by sight that I don't seem to get in listening to this classic.
The experience of other readers may well be different and I would encourage anyone to take a chance on the audio version of this work.
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