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92 of 98 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Engrossing and disturbing at the same time - fantastic.
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...
Published on September 7, 2005 by M. Strong

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42 of 46 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars And yet another Kafka scam/sham; No Translator???
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...
Published on March 16, 2010 by Hillel Broder


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92 of 98 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Engrossing and disturbing at the same time - fantastic., September 7, 2005
By 
M. Strong (Milwaukee, WI USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Trial (Paperback)
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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47 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Disorder In The Court, September 1, 2002
By 
Alex Udvary (chicago, il United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Trial (Paperback)
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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42 of 46 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars And yet another Kafka scam/sham; No Translator???, 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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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Chilling . . ., April 20, 2006
By 
Sean K (Anaheim, CA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Trial (Paperback)
"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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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars My Introduction to Kafka, January 24, 2004
By 
Christopher Braden (Herndon, VA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Trial (Paperback)
I liked the Trial. In my quest to read the top 100 fiction books of the last century, I picked up what is probably Kafka's seminal work. (this was listed at number 92) I found this book to be a somewhat poignant discussion of how our society judges people, how perception is reality, and how in life, you rarely get a fair trial. I also saw Kafka's work as unique and unlike any of the other books I've read on the top 100 list. Kafka's style is straight-forward and concise and his sentences are packed with meaning. There really isn't a lot of superfluous verbiage or flowery, overly-descriptive prose. As with most of the classics, this book is worthwhile if you're looking to get something out of it beyond the storyline.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Law Is a Gas, January 24, 2007
This review is from: The Trial (Paperback)
Kafka was a master of examining the human condition through the surreal and the absurd, and here he delivers stark insight on the origins and legitimacy of law and order. Unfortunately, this novel was incomplete at the time of Kafka's death, and it shows. The book gets off to a stirring and disturbing start as the protagonist, Josef K, has been arrested by unidentified officers who refuse to tell him the nature of the charges, and he embarks on a bizarre quest through a barely legitimate legal system, not just trying to learn his fate but trying to figure out what he did to displease the authorities. Via the surreal legal apparatus as described in the story, Kafka effectively satirizes the weak foundations of legal and political power in modern societies, along with the human weaknesses of those who profess to have authority over others.

Unfortunately, after the brutal satire and mind-bending surrealism of the early parts of the novel, things begin to unravel for the reader, as it becomes fairly obvious that Kafka had not adequately fleshed out several thematic ideas and character developments. Conversations become interminable and directionless, while characters such as Block the businessmen and Huld the lawyer are poorly drawn mouthpieces for philosophical discussions, rather than empathetic human characters. The tail end of the novel also becomes unorganized with a very long detour into the fable of the gatekeeper (the "In the Cathedral" chapter) that badly disrupts the reader's interest in K's fate. The climax and conclusion as presented here return to the spooky surreality of the early portions of the novel, but are also under-written as compared to the more robust earlier chapters, leading to the suspicion that Kafka may not have meant for the book to be released in such an incomplete form. But aside from such readability issues, there's a reason this book is a classic, and that's because K's struggle through an absurdly unfair judicial process really casts a harsh light on how absurd real legal authority can be. [~doomsdayer520~]
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Still captivating, March 25, 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: The Trial (Paperback)
When I first read this book 4 years ago, I thought it was the best book I have ever read. It had intrigued me like no other book. As a current freshman in college, I have read many books since (including Kafka's other classics The Castle and Amerika) and still, no book can capture me the way Kafka has in the Trial. The story of Joseph K. is a story for the ages. The complete confusion and naivety in Joseph K.'s life as well as his futile attempts to understand it pull the reader in and makes us look at things from his point of view. It is this ability that I love so much in Kafka. I have read The Trial many times, and each time I am just as entwined in the the confusion and suffering as the first time. A must read for any Kafka lover or any lover of literature for that matter. B.Nichols
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars We Live in a Kafkaesque World, May 26, 2007
This review is from: The Trial (Paperback)
I thought The Trial worked well as a commentary about the oppressiveness of the legal system in a corrupt society or as a commentary about someone's guilt that keeps bothering them. It shows the Kafkaesque world as being an oppressive, absurd one in which the accused becomes helpless before a court that makes decisions by personal influence, rather than on objective evidence. The court attempts to make K. helpless by keeping him off balance with many baffling situations which do not make sense and by frustrating him with their slothful pace. Furthermore, the court is all pervasive and owns everything. The accused becomes dependent on lawyers and spends all his time on the case. A Kafkaesque world is one of helplessness brought on by absurdity, oppressiveness, and unpredictability that weakens the will of the accused.

Personal influence on and experience with the court officials and lawyers is what will determine the outcome of the case, not what the evidence is. Uncle Leni suggests K. should use his "influential friends" to help his case. He complains that Joseph has been rude by leaving the presence of the lawyer and head clerk of court to seduce the lawyer's mistress while he tries to influence them to his nephew's favor. He says that K. is dependent on the lawyer for the outcome of his case. What really matters is "...counsel's personal connection with officials of the Court; in that lay the chief value of the defense" . In another scene, the painter explains that K.'s case will be determined by the influence his helpers have on the court, not on the evidence that he brings to the court. The painter urges K. not confuse personal experience with the written law; the painter's personal experience is what really matters, not what is written in the law about the innocence of the accused.

Secrecy, ambiguity, confusion, and indefiniteness are strategies used by the court to keep the accused helpless, off-kilter, and anxious. The accused wonders when the trial will ever begin or end. The lawyer Huld admits that he does not know what the charges are and will not be able to find out what they might be until later. The court is based on secrecy and "remoteness from the populace" which leads to absurdity and corruption. It is impossible to determine the hierarchy of the court as a whole and the subordinate officials do not know what is going on in the higher courts because of secrecy. This makes it hard to understand individual cases because of the disjointed nature of the system. The judges do not know what happens to the case after they have ruled on it and it is sent to the higher offices. Keeping the accused unsure of how they stand with the court leads to a feeling of helplessness. Accused people learn early on that is better to conform to the procedures of the court rather than urge reform because this would upset the vengeful officials and would possibly make the system more ruthless. Officials are unforgiving of a trifle offense and then suddenly forgiving over a bold jest.

The wheels of justice turn so slowly that the final destination is never reached; all attempts to speed up the process are fruitless, even as the accused concentrates more time and effort on his case. Nothing is ever firmly completed; even lawyers may have the cases taken away from them after reaching a desired point. Then the accused would be out of the reach of the lawyer in some remote higher court and all the pleas that were completed become waste paper. In K.'s case, "...progress had always been made, but the nature of the progress could never be divulged". K. becomes dissatisfied with the slow process with which his case is proceeding and blames it on the lawyer. K. decides that he will fire the lawyer and petition the court daily to conclude his case with a "not guilty" verdict. K. becomes so engrossed in the case that he can no longer concentrate on his job.

The court is everywhere and owns everyone, especially those who are guilty. The painter says that the accused is always considered guilty by the court and nothing will change their minds. The painter also says that "...everything belongs to the court". The painter then says that his studio and all attics are part of the court as he shows him the doorway to the court that is part of his studio. K. concludes that he should "never be caught napping" because the court can appear in the most unlikely places.

The Trial seems to be the guilt-ridden hallucinations that come from Joseph K.'s own psyche. That would explain why courtrooms are in attics and punishment is carried out in an office closet. Joseph K. functions normally for a while and then suddenly a new improbable situation occurs regarding the guilt that he feels, but cannot justify. The priest tells K. a parable in which a man sits by the doorkeeper for the rest of his life by his own free will. Perhaps this refers to K's situation; he is caught in the legal system because he wants to be. Secondarily, the novel is a satire on the "injustice system" in which an innocent person is arrested and gets trapped in something he will never get out of.
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43 of 54 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars KAFKA'S BEST: A TRIP INTO THE ABSURD, March 1, 2002
By 
Luciano Lupini (Caracas Venezuela) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Trial (Paperback)
If you are into existencialism or if you are worried about the meaning of your subjective life and the absurdity of the workings of modern society, this is a book you must read. Or maybe, if you read this though provoking masterpiece, you will start to think seriously about these issues and other aspects of the individual, and its daily relationship with society, bureaucracy and power.
This book was published poshumously in 1925 (Kafka died in 1924), and is considered by many philosophers and critics the best that he wrote.
The description of solitude and of the alienation of the modern human being is at the core of all Kafka's opus. We could consider that K. anticipated some recurrent themes of the existencialists. His detailed and realistic description of the human individual existence reveals its absurdity and irreality. From a metaphysical perspective, the absurd is based on the absence of God and the impossibility to understand anything that goes beyond rationality. From the social standpoint, it stems from the suffocating or controlling character of modern society. Struck by these complexities, the individual can only seek refuge in his small personal reality, renouncing reassuring answers and certainties.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars You will be frustrated, just like the protagonist, February 20, 2001
By 
Carl A Olson (Minneapolis, MN United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Trial (Paperback)
In some ways the Trial is one of the best books ever written. It speaks to the reader not just through character, dialogue, and plot, but by the way in which it affects the reader. K., the unnamed protagonist, is accused of a crime and he is unable to determine what it is or what to do about it. He becomes understandably frustrated.
What makes this book so interesting is that Kafka writes in such a way that frustrates most readers. He leaves things out, he doesn't explain things that simply beg to be described. While I read this book, I was under the impression that I was being almost deliberately misled about what was actually going on. It wasn't until the end of the book that I realize that Kafka was putting me through an ordeal that gave me a glimpse into what his protagonist was enduring.
That makes the Trial a brilliant book, but because it so successfully frustrated me and never really made amends for its evasions, I cannot say that it was a completely satisfying read.
Kafka takes an oppositional stance toward his reader. He does this for good reason, but I am not used to combat with an author.
The Trial is like an exquisite but cruel practical joke, played at your expense.
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The Trial
The Trial by Franz Kafka (Paperback - October 11, 2011)
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