The Trial is the story of Joseph K., a well-respected functionary at a bank, who is suddenly arrested at his boarding house one morning. Two warders have been sent for him and they rudely eat his breakfast and make a nuisance of themselves, all the while refusing to reveal what crime Joseph has supposedly committed.
To save you wasting hours reading this book I will warn you now that neither Joseph nor the reader ever gets any actual information about the crime. Seemingly there isn’t even a pretext for his arrest – the point is simply that the law is a monstrous, unreasonable machine, crushing everything that gets in its way. Ok, I get it. I understand that the book is supposed to be a “nightmare vision of the excesses of modern bureaucracy”, I understand that we’re supposed to question the way we blindly follow authority – but the book has one major failing: it’s boring. Perhaps we’re meant to share Joseph’s frustration, to know how it feels to want to tear our hair out with bewilderment, but that’s not what I want in a book.
The case drags on, an advocate is employed who drags his feet, the threat of the case hanging over his head means that Joseph’s reputation at work suffers, everything starts to get a bit surreal – finally we reach what was, for me, a fairly abrupt and unsatisfying conclusion. I was past caring by that point. Kafka, for me, was a bit like Orwell but without the warmth – he’s so cranky and his prose is so dreary. Perhaps I’m giving this book a bit of an unfair slating but it did genuinely bore me rigid. Like Joseph’s case, it quickly became a tedious nightmare that just dragged on and on.