- Paperback: 352 pages
- Publisher: Schocken; 60544th edition (December 15, 1998)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0805211063
- ISBN-13: 978-0805211061
- Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.7 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 255 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #33,306 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Castle Paperback – December 15, 1998
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“[Hartman’s translation is] semantically accurate to an admirable degree, faithful to Kafka’s nuances, and responsive to the tempo of his sentences and to the larger music of his paragraph construction. For the general reader or for the student, it will be the translation of preference for some time to come.”
—J. M. Coetzee, The New York Review of Books
“The limits of Kafka’s messianic vision correspond to the great skepticism with which he regarded the possibility of transcending the human predicament . . . At precisely the point when K. draws closest to his own salvation and to the salvation that he could offer the rest of the world, he is also farthest away from it. At precisely the moment when his spirit is called, K. is asleep.”
—W. G. Sebald
"The new Schocken edition of The Castle represents a major and long-awaited event in English-language publishing. It is a wonderful piece of news for all Kafka readers who, for more than half a century, have had to rely on flawed, superannuated editions. Mark Harman is to be commended for his success in capturing the fresh, fluid, almost breathless style of Kafka's original manuscript, which leaves the reader hanging in mid-sentence."
—Mark M. Anderson
"The Castle, published here for the first time in 1930, was the first Kafka to arrive in America. After the war, Hannah Arendt remarked that The Castle might finally be comprehensible to the generation of the forties, who had had the occasion to watch their world become Kafkaesque. What will the generation of the nineties make of The Castle, now that its full message has arrived? Here is the masterpiece behind the masterpiece."
"Sparkles with comedy, with zest, and with a fresh visual power, which in the Muir translation were indistinct or lost. This is not just a new, brilliantly insightful, sensitive, and stylish translation, it is a new Castle, and it is a pleasure to read."
"This is the closest to Kafka's original novel and intention that any translation could get, and what is more, it is eminently readable. With this exceptional translation, the time for a new Kafka in English has finally come."
From the Publisher
Mark Harman's new translation of "The Castle" was the winner of the Modern Language Association's Lois Roth Award (1999). The jury's citation read as follows:
"Mark Harman has produced a worthy successor to the long-established 1930 translation by Edwin Muir and Willa Muir. While maintaining high standards of literal accuracy and employing an English that is contemporary in its vocabulary and idiom, he has also fashioned a style that expressively re-creates Kafka's unsettling blend of the mundane and the unnerving, the wryly comic and the obliquely menacing. Harman's syntax in particular, with its controlled and grammatically subversive use of comma splices, captures the narrative's progressive mood of disorientation and bafflement. Mark Harman's translation has recharged the imaginative energy and impact of Kafka's novel, ensuring that its influence in English-speaking countries will in the next century be as powerful as it has been in this."
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Atypical or not, whether they form a statistical outlier or not, there is not one character in the town that has any redeeming virtue, except for maybe as a warning, as an example of what to caution yourself against becoming. For your intellect and attitude to have any intersection with these people is to follow the path of intellectual and personal decay, a path that will be characterized and determined by cynicism, apathy, and xenophobia.
Even if it is a structure of bricks and mortar, Castle Mount is a fiction, a place whose surreal inhabitants hold the populace in permanent intellectual bondage, with their minds polluted by an excess of veneration for authority, whether real or imagined. The populace, who are allergic to hospitality, where courtesy is never a part of communication, and who have no respect for themselves or their own potential, demand respect for Count Westwest, with the hair on their pathetic necks standing up straight when being confronted with anyone who does not show this unjustified and cognitively vacuous reverence.
K prefers to be a free agent, and therefore residing in The Castle would (rightfully) compromise this freedom and its corollary of intellectual independence. Embedding yourself in organized bureaucracy with its simulacra and exaggerated and ephemeral displays of power and you morph into the organization, with your opinions not your own but rather belong to a collection of entities and social structures that have no legitimate function. But K does not have an impulse to prejudge things, choosing instead to demand evidence for assertions about livability and suitability. His mind is intact upon arriving. The townspeople have it as their goal to remove it as quickly as possible.
Rather than a flock of crows circling around The Castle, it is more fitting to have a flock of vultures, who are ready to indulge themselves in its fallen citizens-those who have died a personal and cognitive death. It might be slim pickings for these birds though, as the skulls of the Castle dwellers will be near to empty, reflecting the lack of use of the neuronal apparatus, this being surrendered to the echelons of imagined power structures with their elitist and haughty view of common laborers who are undeserving of respect, who are invisible and indiscernible, like the F.F. Coppola maid of Mr. Waltz standing in his presence of the sitting consigliere Mr. Hayden, whose presence and humanity is never to be acknowledged.
There are many lessons to take away from this book, the most important being to always be aware of the impact of discouraging surroundings, and don’t get used to disappointments, lest one conclude that existence is naturally a dark and hostile soup, the latter of which if not watched on the stove of personality will boil over and ruin one’s emotional and conceptual apparatus, and fill it with cynicism and despair.
The first half of book is reminiscent of Kafka’s writing style in ‘The Trial’. While in ‘The Trial’ the protagonist ends up finding himself in a hearing of which he does not know the reason, in ‘The Castle’ the protagonist K. finds himself in a village with a willingness to reach the Castle that apparently rules the village. The willingness through the course of the narrative heads towards becoming an obsession until the book loses track of its plot like K. loses himself in pursuit of the Castle. The narrative in the first half is surreal. Among many strange effects, the one that stands out is the rules of social interaction in the village. They do not resemble rules of the society as we know it. K. interacts with his assistants like people interact with Dogs. The assistants also behave like they are dogs but are sent to K as people. The society seems to follow bizarre rules that seem orthogonal to modern civilizations. For instance – there is a belief in the society that people look different in different times. The village’s allegiance to The Castle is not similar to the way societies believe in religion but as if it was innate organ they are born with and have to live with. The uncanny rules of interaction and belief is what makes the first half intriguing. Unlike ‘The Trial’ the book seems to head towards a certainty that K may find a way to the Castle.
It’s around this point where the narrative takes a nose dive. Instead of emboldening the uncertainty or the frustration associated with it, the book heads into a mundane narrative and pointless discussions. While Olga’s stories highlight the bizarre behavior of the society, it’s not clear where they are headed. Perhaps it’s a depiction of the plight of K. itself, nevertheless it can be interpreted as aimless ramblings created to fill the pages without any particular aim. Towards the end, the book completely loses itself and has no sense of plot or direction. The world is no more surreal, it seems to look like an ordinary society, the words lack any mystery and the conclusion is incoherent. In the end, it shows up as incomplete work – a spark of brilliance left incomplete by its master.