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on September 7, 2005
It's fascinating to see the divergent reviews that this book generates; for my part, I couldn't put it down. The book creates a world and atmosphere in which you become completely engrossed - it is a disturbing place to be.

The story follows Joseph K while he is on trial by a seemingly arbitrary court system. What starts out feeling like a cautionary tale about misplaced and abused power quickly gets stranger and morphs into a story of a deeper and more personal trial. Before long, you notice that K is the one who seems to be doing the work of trying himself.

I was left thinking for a long time about the meaning behind the story and a lot of its symbols and components - I don't consider the fact that I still had questions to be a bad thing. On the contrary, this one left me feeling strangely energized.

Highly recommended for people who like philosophy, examinations of the human condition, or existentialism.
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on September 1, 2002
We should all know the story concerning one of the greatest novels ever written, about a man being awaken to find out he is under arrest for a crime he knows nothing about, and charged by an unknown person.
It's been debated as to what is really Kafka's novel all about. Some say, it's "hero"(?) Joseph K. represents the "every man". Who has been forced to live in a world, where's man's biggest sin is being himself. The character K. like Kafka himself feels they are an outsider in a world they cannot function in. Others still, see the book as merely a semi-autobiography as Kafka's own feelings of worthlessness. We all know Kafka even doubted his own talents as a writer. But, yet again, others think that "K." is not the "every man". That he is guilty of his "sins".
So, what does all of this prove? It simply goes to show you the impact Franz Kafka has left on the world. Here we have a book published in 1925 and still causes debate as to what exactly were Kafka's intentions. If, infact, he didn't have any intentions!
'The Trial', to me is a story of a man's loneliness. It's a story of man who probably is guilty of what he is charged with. And we slowly read about his desent into a world of paranoia. I've heard some people agrue that what happens to "K." is all merely a dream. None of it ever really happened, but, it was "K." himself who brought this punishment on himself. Sort of like how Kafka himself did by never marrying the girl he loved, by living in the shadows of his father, who he adored, and never having an self confidence. If what happens in 'The Trial' is a dream, you can bet "K." learned something.
There's something about Kafka that fasincates me. He is one of my favorite authors. I find Kafka himself to be just as interesting has the stories he wrote. People tend to forget or overlook something in Kafka's writing. He WAS funny. His novels all have moments that are truly inspired. One of my favorite chapters in this book deals with "The Painter". What happens has "K." trys to leave and the Painter stops him asking him if he wants to buy a painting had me laughing.
For those of you who have never read this book, I do completely recommend it. You will find the book to be fascinating. Kafka was a master of thinking up these surreal stories. You may be bothered by the book's conclusion. Not that you'll mind the final act against "K." but, you'll be bothered by the way it happens. You would have expected more of a set-up. I know I did. Others who read the book may feel the book is incomplete. And that may lead them to dislike it. You are right in your judgement that the book is incomplete, but, remember, Kafka never wanted any of his books published. There's actually a chapter in here that was never finished. And, even though it is incomplete that didn't stop me from truly enjoying this masterpiece. If you have never read anything by Kafka, this is a fine place to start. I hope everyone finds 'The Trial' to be as enjoyable as I did.
Bottom-line: One of the great works by Kafka. It touches on themes that were ahead of their time. Themes that are still around us today. An excellent example of the paranoid mind. Everyone should read this!
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on January 4, 2002
For all the debate and argument over what this story means, the plot of the Metamorphosis is refreshingly simple. Gregor Sassma wakes up one morning and discovers that, over the course of the night, he's been transformed into a giant insect. The rest of this novella deals with Gregor's attempts to adjust to his new condition without providing a burden for his parents (who he has spent his life supporting and, it is made clear, veiw their son as little more than a commodity to be exploited) or for his sweet younger sister who Gregor views with an almost heart breaking affection. For his efforts to not bother society with his new insect identity, Gregor is both shunned and eventually destroyed by that same society, which of course now has little use for him. As dark as that plot outline may sound, what is often forgotten (or simply ignored) is that the Metamorphosis is -- in many ways -- a comic masterpiece. Instead of engaging in a lot of portentous philosophizing, Kafka tells his bizarre tell in the most deadpan of fashions. Ignoring the temptation to come up with any mystical or scientific explanations, Kafka simply shows us that Gregor has become an insect and explains how the rest of his short life is lived. This detached, amused tone makes the story's brutal conclusion all the more powerful.
As well, for all the theories on what Kafka's "saying" with this story, the reasons behind Gregor's transformation are not all that complicated or hard to figure out. Kafka, as opposed to too many other writers since, declines to spell out the specific reasons but still makes it clear that Gregor (and by extension, all the other Gregors in the world) had allowed himself to become a powerless insect long before actually physically turning into one. As someone who as selflessly sacrificed whatever independence he may have had to support his uncaring parents and their attempts to live an "upper class" life without actually having to suffer for it, Gregor has already willingly given up all the unique traits that make one a human. For me, even more disturbing than Gregor's fate, is Kafka's concluding suggestions that, now that Gregor has outlived his usefulness, his parents will now move on to his innocent sister. In short, despite the example of Gregor's own terrible fate, society will continue on its way with the majority of us giving up our own humanity to support the whims of a select few.
From the brilliant opening lines all the way to its hauntingly deadpan conclusion, The Metamorphosis is a powerful and satirical indictment of the bourgeois condition. Over the past few decades, the term Kafkaesque has been tossed around with a dangerous lack of discretion. It seems any writer who creates an absurd or dark trap for his main character ends up being labeled Kafkaesque. However, as this story especially makes clear, Franz Kafka was more than just an adjective. He was a unique and individual writer whose brilliance cannot be easily duplicated.
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on April 20, 2006
"You don't need to accept everything as true, you only need to accept it as necessary."

How true, for in this chilling novel, truth and justice cease to exist in a conventional sense. The traditional ideals of law and justice are inverted, as it is the accused who is blind and justice is pre-determined. Indeed, the courts and law system render an unfathomable, surreal-like existence. The accuser is kept in a dark abyss of ignorance, not only in the actual charges brought forth against him, but in the very foundation of the court system within which he is entrapped.

The "Court" operates outside the normal legal system and is a clandestine and faceless bureaucracy. It seems as if everything belongs to the Court, for they can invade the lives of the accused with impunity - in their home, their workplace, and even into the recesses of their mind. Indeed, the psychological torture and self-abasement is one of the key tools of the Court. The only interaction one has with this system is through low-level judges, magistrates, and lawyers in dank, hidden courtrooms. Yet, one has to devote his life (or what's left of it) to seeking influence from mysterious characters. For the actual facts of the case matter none, but the influence of the others matter the most. Yet, any defense is completely futile, for no one can escape their ultimate fate. Judgment is handed down by High Level "deities" who no one knows. It seems as if the best one can hope for is to forestall the trial through an endless cycle of influence peddling and evasive action, for to receive an actual acquittal is only a legend and not within the realm of possibility.

In a sense, the accused is condemned as soon as he is arrested. Although he is ostensibly free, the mental weight of the impending trial and the complete ignorance of the charges and laws reduces the accused to a shell of a man. The oppressive, stifling torment of the Courts is echoed in the actual living spaces of their offices, as they contain only the most stale, unhealthy air of the attics of tenements in the slums of the city.

The fact that "The Trial" was published posthumously and is unfinished, does bring forth some irregularities. Some of the characters, such as Miss Burstner, are alluded to having a more important role, but this is never explored. Other ephemeral characters come and go without explanation, as they are just blips on the radar in Josef's incessant march toward his ultimate fate. There are also gaps in the storyline with no explanation. However, given with the tone and surreal nature of this novel, this seems to fit.

Honestly, my review doesn't do this book justice. It is an enthralling, suspenseful read. It leaves a strange taste in one's mouth and an unsettled feeling in one's soul. I would put this in the same category as Orwell's 1984. Overall, I consider this a must-read.
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on November 29, 2009
A man wakes up one day to find he has been changed into a large insect/beetle. The story follows his efforts to deal with this, and his family's reaction to the change. But it's not just a story about a man turning into a beetle, it's a clever way of writing about how a family would deal with the main breadwinner in the house becoming unable to work, and also on a wider scope, the way a family (and the world at large) reacts to someone who is disabled, or terminally ill. It could also be an analogy for how a family treats a member of the family who is now old and needs to be cared for. The man who is now a beetle, is forced to live in his room, shut away from the world, for fear that he will frighten anyone who enters the house. The man who once provided for the family, and thought of them above himself, has now become a burden on them, as they are now short of money, and have to find employment. The once able and hard-working man, transformed into a beetle, is now rejected, and his family blame him for their financial situation and the fact that they cannot move to a smaller house, because they need to have a room to keep him in.
The descriptive quality of the writing is excellent, and although it is a sad and gruesome tale, it is also very funny in parts; I couldn't help laughing out loud a couple of times.
The main thing that struck me, was that even though this story is nearly 100 years old, it is still totally relevant to today's world (and I'm not sure that's something we should be proud of)
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on February 22, 2009
Kafka's 'The Metamorphisis' is as an important story as any when it comes to short fiction, but this translation is completely inept. If you're looking into picking up this edition, I assume you know about the story or can at least look up information elsewhere. Let me just warn you that this translation is not even proofread. There are constant typos like "tilted" instead of "titled" and the like. There are also many repeated words and sentences that make no sense no matter how many times you read them. In short, DO NOT BUY THIS EDITION.
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on August 16, 2001
For the reader new to Kafka as a writer, there is a lot of baggage to be thrown off: everything implied by the cliche 'Kafkaesque' we've gathered from films, other books and the like (alienation, angst, modern man and the Absurd, the terror of totalitarian bureaucracy, etc.); everything, in other words, that has made a caricature of an original vision.
So, for the first-time reader of Kafka, there are some pleasant surprises in 'the Metamorphosis'. The novella is often very funny - Gregor's orientation to his condition (he enjoys running up the walls and hanging off the ceiling) and the reaction of his family and manager provoke some priceless farcical set-pieces. It is a Gothic story - about a salesman who turns into a monstrous vermin, and the aghast reaction of his family; there are some unexpected frissons in the story we would normally expect from the horror genre. It is a portrait of a complacent middle-class family in decline, a la Galsworthy, or a study of the artist in an impoverished family with a weak but aggressive father, like Joyce's 'Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man'. There are even elments of sentimental melodrama in the way Kafka loads up the sympathy for his monster in the face of almost caricatured hostility - I found myself welling up once or twice.
This is not to diminish Kafka's dark and frightening vision, just to suggest how much of his art depends on play, with narrative modes and genres, with narration, with reader's expectations. The horror, anxiety, unease, if you like, is actually quite marginal on the surface - the oppressive vastness of his familiar bedroom as perceived by Gregor in his new form; the endless vista of an adjacent hospital. It's under this surface that the true anxiety lies - the gaps in the narration, the unreliability of Gregor's perceptions and interpretations, the ambiguity of Kafka's language, the witholding and gradual unfolding of details. There don't seem to be any mirrors in the Samsa household, but the story is full of mirror-like tableaux - the portrait of the lady in furs; the photo of Gregor as a young soldier; the image of domestic life viewed every evening by Gregor in darkness.
If only all classics were treated with the respect of this edition. the translation is mostly smooth and fresh, with occasionally clumsy constructions and jarring Americanisms (are there really trolleys and foyers in Kafka's world?). The critical apparatus provides endless intellectual nourishment - manuscript revisions revealing the precision of Kafka's writing; an account of the story's genesis, creation and background through letters, diaries and related Kafka works; and seven critical essays from perspectives as varied as feminism, psychoanalysis, new-historicism and linguistics, some infected by the usual blights of literary criticism (e.g. undigested globs of French theory making argument and prose impenetrable; distortion of text to produce biased interpretaions), but which insightfully open up the astonishing density and ambiguity of a 40-page fable, offering ingenious, mutually excluxive, even contradictory readings that are all very plausible, and yet ultimately miss Kafka's elusive enigma.
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on June 26, 2013
I personally prefer Stanley Appelbaum's translation which flows better than the others I have read. . I hope this helps as a guide.

Here is the first paragraph from The Metamorphosis from various translations..

Stanley Appelbaum:
"When Gregor Samsa awoke from troubled dreams one morning, he found that he had been transformed in his bed into an enormous bug. He lay on his back, which was hard as armor, and, when he lifted his head a little, he saw his belly -- round, brown, partitioned by archlike ridges -- on top of which the blanket, ready to slip off altogether, was just barely perched. His numerous legs, pitifully thin in comparison to the rest of his girth, flickered helplessly before his eyes."

Ian Johnston:
"One morning, as Gregor Samsa was waking up from anxious dreams, he discovered that in bed he had been changed into a monstrous verminous bug. He lay on his armour-hard back and saw, as he lifted his head up a little, his brown, arched abdomen divided up into rigid bow-like sections. From this height the blanket, just about ready to slide off completely, could hardly stay in place. His numerous legs, pitifully thin in comparison to the rest of his circumference, flickered helplessly before his eyes."

Donna Freed (the translation found in most kindle editions):
As Gregor Samsa awoke from unsettling dreams one morning, he found himself transformed in his bed into a monstrous vermin. He lay on his hard armorlike back and when he raised his head a little he saw his vaulted brown belly divided into sections by stiff arches from whose height the coverlet had already slipped and was about to slide off completely. His many legs, which were pathetically thin compared to the rest of his bulk, flickered helplessly before his eyes.
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on March 16, 2010
For your convenience, I've copied/pasted below what I wrote for my review of the same publisher's "Metamorphosis". Looks like they're going for the Kafka scam superfecta...Reader's note: Replace the "Corngold" edition (of the Metamorphosis) with the new Schocken edition of "The Trial" (trans. Breon Mitchell)--a far superior translation to a translator-less "Original Version".

From my review on the same publisher's "Metamorphosis":

As a graduate student of Kafka who has bought multiple works of his off of this site, I am appalled to learn that yet another publisher, republishing Kafka's work in English without noting the name of the translator, claims to have done so in an "Original Version". If you're a Kafka scholar, then you would notice this as fishy from a mile away; this sham, therefore, is probably intended for the unsuspecting Kafka newbie who will be doubly disserviced with a shoddy (and unacknowledged) translation and no critical essays or scholarly footnotes.

But wait, there's more!

Let's be clear: Kafka wrote his "Original Version" in a (mostly school and self-taught) German. This publication is in English, and so it must, therefore, draw on one of the many fine translations now available. Note, of course, that the publication information listed above does not detail the name of the translator. This is doubly appalling: it is misleading to those who are not Kafka scholars and want to take Kafka seriously. They may think this is some "authentic" or "original" version, both of which are--by definition--false claims.

Personally, if you want the best (and most recent) translation, I'd recommend purchasing Stanley Corngold's translation, available through the fine Norton (Critical) series. There are a few critically acclaimed translations out there--and as every reader of Kafka knows, the translation makes all the difference!--but Corngold does a good job sticking to the surface of the language (e.g. he oftentimes draws one's attention to the intended puns or word play in Kafka's original German text). Either way: At least Norton acknowledges the presence of a translator, and it perturbs me greatly, as it should you, that this publisher does not acknowledge its translator. Either they ripped off someone else's work and did not acknowledge it (most shameful and most likely), or they developed their own, in-house translation and are embarrassed to take credit (even more shameful and disturbing, though intriguing).

Let's be even clearer: Corngold's edition The Metamorphosis (Norton Critical Editions) is over 200 pages, with footnotes, critical essays, and a bibliography. It costs $11.50 off of this website. This latest edition is $14.00 and is 56 pages long. This is a re-printing scam if I ever saw one, especially since the story itself in Corngold's edition only takes up 39 pages (with footnotes). This publisher must have printed it in size 15 font just to bulk up the book. A super-sham!

One final, parenthetical note: Walter Benjamin, a German literary and cultural critic--whose seminal essay "The Task of the Translator" explores the impossibility of communicability through translation, and who is perhaps now recognized as one of the most insightful Kafka critics--would be utterly disgusted by such a Kafka sham in its claim to an "Original Version".

As someone embarking on a lifelong journey with Kafka, do yourself a favor: don't buy this edition. Buy Corngold's--it's jam-packed with all sorts of great stuff.
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on March 15, 2010
As a graduate student of Kafka who has bought multiple works of his off of this site, I am appalled to learn that yet another publisher, republishing Kafka's work in English without noting the name of the translator, claims to have done so in an "Original Version". If you're a Kafka scholar, then you would notice this as fishy from a mile away; this sham, therefore, is probably intended for the unsuspecting Kafka newbie who will be doubly disserviced with a shoddy (and unacknowledged) translation and no critical essays or scholarly footnotes.

But wait, there's more!

Let's be clear: Kafka wrote his "Original Version" in a (mostly school and self-taught) German. This publication is in English, and so it must, therefore, draw on one of the many fine translations now available. Note, of course, that the publication information listed above does not detail the name of the translator. This is doubly appalling: it is misleading to those who are not Kafka scholars and want to take Kafka seriously. They may think this is some "authentic" or "original" version, both of which are--by definition--false claims.

Personally, if you want the best (and most recent) translation, I'd recommend purchasing Stanley Corngold's translation, available through the fine Norton (Critical) series. There are a few critically acclaimed translations out there--and as every reader of Kafka knows, the translation makes all the difference!--but Corngold does a good job sticking to the surface of the language (e.g. he oftentimes draws one's attention to the intended puns or word play in Kafka's original German text). Either way: At least Norton acknowledges the presence of a translator, and it perturbs me greatly, as it should you, that this publisher does not acknowledge its translator. Either they ripped off someone else's work and did not acknowledge it (most shameful and most likely), or they developed their own, in-house translation and are embarrassed to take credit (even more shameful and disturbing, though intriguing).

Let's be even clearer: Corngold's edition The Metamorphosis (Norton Critical Editions) is over 200 pages, with footnotes, critical essays, and a bibliography. It costs $11.50 off of this website. This latest edition is $14.00 and is 56 pages long. This is a re-printing scam if I ever saw one, especially since the story itself in Corngold's edition only takes up 39 pages (with footnotes). This publisher must have printed it in size 15 font just to bulk up the book. A super-sham!

One final, parenthetical note: Walter Benjamin, a German literary and cultural critic--whose seminal essay "The Task of the Translator" explores the impossibility of communicability through translation, and who is perhaps now recognized as one of the most insightful Kafka critics--would be utterly disgusted by such a Kafka sham in its claim to an "Original Version".

As someone embarking on a lifelong journey with Kafka, do yourself a favor: don't buy this edition. Buy Corngold's--it's jam-packed with all sorts of great stuff.
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