The Trial is one of the great works of the 20th century - an extraordinary vision of one man put on trial by an anonymous authority on an unspecified charge. Kafka evokes all the terrifying reality of his ordeal.
© and (P)2007 Naxos AudioBooks Ltd.
I like this reading much better than the other two I have heard (George Guidall and Geoffrey Howard). The sedate, if somewhat mincing, tone seems just right. Rupert Degas does not try to voice-act, which probably couldn't be done anyway. A slow reading, as befits a text that is highly suggestive in almost every sentence. That's on the reading.
As for the book, need I say anything? If you are new to Kafka, this is probably the long novel you are most likely to find interesting. It is focused and well executed in comparison to the others. (Amerika, which is his first novel, seems unfocused because there is no obvious central or abiding motif. The Castle, which is his last, is not exactly well written throughout. Many of its passages may seem flat and boring unless you, the reader, are doing some active part.)
I find that the best way to read Kafka is to read it like some genre piece you read only for the action. Just to find out what happens, never bothering your head about the 'meaning' or anything like that. If the book is not interesting to you at that level, it's just not for you. Why bother when there are other books to suit other tastes?
To me, the most interesting passages in The Trial are Fraulein Burstner, Fraulein Montag, and the first visit to the advocate including Leni.
The least interesting are the opening scenes (the Arrest), the First Hearing, and the Cathedral (including the 'Before the Law' inset).
I love reading and listening to books, especially fantasy, science fiction, children's, historical, and classics.
On his thirtieth birthday, "though he had done nothing wrong," Josef K. wakes up to find two strange men in his apartment: they are there to arrest him. The men eat his breakfast and refuse to say why he's been arrested and which authority they are working for. When he is made to meet their "Overseer," who comes to K.'s apartment building to formalize his arrest, K. is again denied any explanation, but is also told that he is free to go to work and to carry on with his life as usual--if he wants to. And K., having a promising career as a senior clerk in a bank should be happy to go to work, shouldn't he? But why were three minor employees from his bank present during his interview with the Overseer? And how is he supposed to prepare to defend himself during his trial if he has no idea what crime he's been charged with or what organization is prosecuting him?
Thus begins Franz Kafka's short novel The Trial (1925), a ten-chapter nightmare in which K fluctuates between trying to survive his plight by staying calm and playing along (though his few apparent supporters interpret that as disturbing indifference) or by rebelliously learning everything he can about the secret court that has put him on trial so that he can successfully defend himself and possibly even reform the entire system. The more K. learns about the secret court (which has its chambers in the attics in decrepit low income housing buildings around the city) from the various people involved with it whom he encounters (a magistrate, a thrasher, a court painter, a chamber master, an usher, a prison chaplain, a fellow defendant, a defendant groupie, etc.), however, the more confusing his case becomes, because he cannot be certain whether the people offering him information, advice, and support are trying to help him or to make him look guilty, let alone whether they are expressing objective facts or subjective opinions. Moreover, all their explanations of the secret court and the prognoses of his trial and the possible courses of action to resolve it multiply contradictorily, rendering direct and confident action quite difficult.
Kafka seems to take a perverse pleasure in imagining and explicating every possible angle of this secret court and the effect it would have on a thoughtful and seemingly innocent person ensnared by it. Apparently, Kafka had not really finished The Trial when he died in 1924, which adds to its mysterious and disturbing dreamlike power, because new scenes and foci and figures suddenly replace old ones and time passes inconsistently. Be that as it may, the novel does work towards a savage, sublime, and religious climax and resolution.
The Trial is a surreal nightmare that suggests disturbing truths about justice, freedom, humanity, and modern metropolitan life. It explores how the machinery of the bureaucracies that regulate our lives degrade, dehumanise, and alienate us. As one character puts it, "the court is an organism," which implies that the myriad people who work for it are cogs in the system. The novel also explores the degree to which we are all both innocent and guilty. When K. says, "But I'm not guilty. It's a mistake. . . . How can a human being be guilty? After all, we're all human beings, every one of us!" The court prison chaplain replies, "That's the way all those who are guilty speak." Even if K. is innocent of any specific crime, he may be guilty of feeling superior to people of lower classes, and of neglecting people who care for him. Finally, when forced to assess our lives, how can we gauge the degree to which we are innocent or guilty? Aren't we all living in the prison of the modern world, complicit in our own imprisonment?
The translation by David Whiting seemed natural and strong. Rupert Degas gives an excellent reading of the novel, clear, intelligent, and appealing, subtly modifying his voice for different characters and moods without drawing attention to himself as reader. To compare Degas' reading of the novel with George Guidall's, perhaps Degas emphasizes K.'s thoughts and Guidall his emotions, so that Degas' version is more intellectual, Guidall's more expressive. And (I was told by a friend) Degas pronounces K. as in German, "kah," while Guidall pronounces it as in English "kay."
Fans of bleak, surreal, fantastic, comical, horrible, alienating, and humane literature by the likes of Camus, Beckett, and Murakami, and of course fans of Kafka's short fiction, should "enjoy" The Trial, but people who want competent, bold, active heroes like Jason Bourne or Ethan Hunt, punishable head honcho villains, solved mysteries, and happy endings, as well as people who dislike dreams in which they find themselves late to an important appointment and then find themselves unable to find its room because they are lost in a labyrinthine and changeable conglomeration of halls and stairways and then realize that they are clad only in underwear, should probably steer clear.
rupert degas' deferential tone is perfect pitch for the telling of the story. K is a character who is both confused and knowing, resigned yet impudent and degas' tone is so right that as david foster wallace put it:
"the deeper alchemy by which Kafka's comedy is always also tragedy and tragedy is also an immense and reverent joy"... comes right through.
the great gatsby. they are both modernist masterpieces and written a few years apart yet so different they may as well have been written in different centuries, not different countries.
he's almost mincing, demure yet impudent tone, but reading not performing is so perfect for interpreting this story. also, the there are many characters in the story and he manages to juggle them all very well. i wish he'd read the castle, though.
well, there are parts from which you can't/won't tear away but there are others for which you are grateful you have a narrator because they very tedious and opaque. no doubt this was deliberate so on the part of the author, but it's no crime for the common reader to cheat.
Finishing this book was a struggle. I kept listening in hopes that some of the mysteries presented in the book would be resolved in an interesting way. Unfortunately, my hopes were rewarded with continued boredom. There was a lot of waiting for the punch-line but very little pay-off in the end.
After listening to the book, I researched its origins and learned that when Kafka died the book was still incomplete. This may explain the overall poor flow of the narrative.
There were a few standout details such as a character known only as "The Thrasher" who refuses to stop his sadistic punishments despite generous bribes. A reoccurring theme deals with the credibility of the officials, judges and lawyers who are working on the trial. The main character is gradually immersed in paranoia as he try to decide who is with him and who is against. Who is two-faced or even three-faced.
This book could have been great if these moments of "fear and loathing" were interconnected in a coherent and timely way. Instead we are just presented with example after example of ominious but indistinct action taken towards the character. There is an interesting allegory towards the end, but overall the stories length and slow build do not justify any of the possible symbolism contained in the plot.
If you are interested in older literature involving crime, trials, suspicion or guilt, you would be better served by listening to "Crime and Punishment" by Doestoevsky.
This is my first Degas. I thought he did a good job. However, the plot was so flat and badly timed (by the writer) that I had trouble being sure just how to rate Degas's performance.
Very slow and difficult to maintain an interest. Although the concept is a good one, and it has a lot going for it in how it unfolds, the storytelling is cumbersome and I found it difficult to maintain an interest in this book despite a good few hours of listening. This cannot be a book for pleasure as a result, and what you get from it means it is hardly a book for enlightenment. Unfortunately I am unable to recommend it.
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