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The Castle: A new translation based on the restored text Hardcover – February 24, 1998

4.1 out of 5 stars 120 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

They are perhaps the most famous literary instructions never followed: "Dearest Max, my last request: Everything I leave behind me ... in the way of diaries, manuscripts, letters (my own and others'), sketches, and so on, [is] to be burned unread...." Thankfully, Max Brod did not honor his friend Franz Kafka's final wishes. Instead, he did everything within his power to ensure that Kafka's work would find publication--including making some sweeping changes in the original texts. Until recently, the world has known only Brod's version of Kafka, with its altered punctuation, word order, and chapter divisions. Restoring much of what had previously been expunged, as well as the fluid, oral quality of Kafka's original German, Mark Harman's new translation of The Castle is a major literary event.

One of three unfinished novels left after Kafka's death, The Castle is in many ways the writer's most enduring and influential work. In Harman's muscular translation, Kafka's text seems more modern than ever, the words tumbling over one another, the sentences separated only by commas. Harman's version also ends the same way as Kafka's original manuscript--that is, in mid-sentence: "She held out her trembling hand to K. and had him sit down beside her, she spoke with great difficulty, it was difficult to understand her, but what she said--." For anyone used to reading Kafka in his artificially complete form, the effect is extraordinary; it is as if Kafka himself had just stepped from the room, leaving behind him a work whose resolution is the more haunting for being forever out of reach.

From Library Journal

Upon his death in 1924, Kafka instructed his literary executor, Max Brod, to destroy all his manuscripts. Wisely refusing his friend's last wishes, Brod edited the uncompleted Castle, along with other unfinished works, ordering the fragments into a coherent whole, and had them published. Brod's interpretation of the work as a novel of personal salvation was accepted and strengthened by Willa and Edward Muir, who translated it into English in 1930. Recent scholarship, less willing to accept Brod's version, has led to a new critical edition of the novel, which was published in German in 1982 and which purports to be closer to Kafka's intentions. Harman's translation represents this edition's first appearance in English. Harman's stated goal as translator is to reproduce as closely as possible Kafka's style, which results in an English that is stranger and denser than the Muirs' elegant work. A necessary acquisition for anyone interested in Kafka.?Michael O'Pecko, Towson State Univ., Md.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 325 pages
  • Publisher: Schocken; 1st edition (February 24, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805241183
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805241181
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 7 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (120 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #732,210 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Robert Moore HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 3, 2004
Format: Paperback
Franz Kafka was obsessed with dreams, and THE CASTLE is his attempt to depict the modern world of corporate and governmental bureaucracy as a crazed nightmare. The novel possesses the logic of dreams, and there is a dreamlike quality to everything that happens in the book. As in a dream, people and situations transform effortlessly into something entirely different, as when one of the young, silly assistants of the protagonist K. suddenly appears to be a much older, decrepit man. Though his transformation is absurd, it is part and parcel of the logic of the village dominated by The Castle.
I first read this novel years ago when the only option in translation was the Muir translation. This new complete translation, which includes a large section that Kafka's friend and literary executor Max Brod decided to excise, transforms the novel into an entirely different book. For one thing, the section that Brod left out indicates even more vividly the degree to which the novel is concerned with depicting the more horrific aspects of modern bureaucratic life. For another, the manner in which the text simply breaks off in mid-sentence reinforces the nightmarish quality of the book, for just as we wake up from a dream, never able to complete the tale, so we break away from the narrative, never knowing what K.'s fate is.
The novel contains more a situation than a plot. K., a surveyor, arrives in a village having been hired by the local Castle, presumably to survey. Instead, K. quickly learns that he may not have been hired at all, and manages to break rapidly a number of laws of which he was utterly unaware and whose logic is far from obvious.
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Format: Paperback
Those like myself who seldom read fiction but enjoy looking at the world through different lenses may find the reading of this work rewarding. K's travails evoked memories of my time in the military (in Southeast Asia): nothing is as it appears, days of boredom are interrupted by moments of bewildering activity, people have whole menus of hidden agendae, one struggles to attain goals that later prove empty of significance, chance meetings turn out to have been pivotal, and apparently chance meetings turn out to have been carefully staged for one's benefit (or detriment!). K lives in a world very much like ours... where the puppetmasters are unknown strangers, and our companions turn out to be very unlike what they appear. If this novel has any practical value (heresy!) it is as a manual on techniques of 'how to navigate in the dark.' For those who doubt it, one can navigate in the dark, but one must use one's ears (distant sounds of crashing waves, the echoes of thunder, the direction of the seabreezes). The biggest obstacle to finding one's way is a full moon -- one can see the sea, but the stars (far more important!) disappear from view. ... All in all, I liked Kafka's book. As each of the characters around him reveal the reasons behind their bizarre behaviors, they become 'normal' humans, disappointing but less weird. K is in some ways a lightning rod, provoking his very upset neighbors into revealing the reasons for their anger and frustration with him. After awhile one doesn't even care any more about The Castle and its occupants; the village is more real and surviving in it is a lot more important than escaping from it.
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Format: Paperback
I read somewhere that Kafka used to read the newly-written chapters of THE CASTLE to his friends who would laugh uproariously along with the author. I found this the scariest thing about the book, indeed one of the strongest clues that late 20th century America is immeasurably distant from early 20th century Austria-Hungary. This book will give you nightmares. It is nothing so childish as a Hollywood horror movie, but a somehow crumpled, twisted, horrifying view of human nature, especially as manifest in bureaucracies. K needs to speak to someone to get something done. He approaches the castle where the lord lives. The whole story involves his endless efforts to speak to someone, anyone, who can help him contact the servant who has the ear of the clerk who can speak to the courtier who might be able to talk to the cousin who occasionally is known to have the ear of the lord. And of course, K is continually frustrated. Not to mention you, the reader. It is the stuff of the worst nightmares. Thus, though it is extremely unpleasant,without any hint of beauty, love, or human feeling, THE CASTLE is a most powerful novel, one of the best I have ever read. I can't say I liked it, but it impressed me no end. If you have ever read anything else by Kafka and liked it, you will definitely like this one. It was never finished, but then such a novel can have no finish.
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Review of "The Castle" by Franz Kafka

This book made me into a Kafka admirer. He brings life to characters in otherwise drab situations and makes them seem very real. The reader feels the frustration, absurdity, the pettiness and the powerlessness in a personal way. You feel the haughtiness and aloofness of the Castle staff as if they were a part of your own community. You feel the pettiness and delusional gossip of the townspeople as if you were seeing it first hand. The story is riveting and the pace seems fast even when there is little action.

The story starts with the protagonist (identified only by his initial, K.) walking to what sounds like a routine surveying job. Soon he is frustrated by a very confusing series of obstacles. As the story develops the obstacles become more chaotic. K.'s original purpose in going to the castle is never fully elaborated and his motives seem lost or stolen. The forces acting upon K. are shrouded. It seems as if some invisible force has plotted to test K. to the limit of human endurance of tolerance of ambiguity.

Kafka combines the themes of:
social class commentary,
alienation from a heartless social system,
absence of any protective power,
fear of strangers,
fear of change,
search for the meaning of life,
inscrutability of authorities,
indifference of forces ruling human fate,
persistence in the face lost purpose,
abuse of power
acceptance of pointlessness goals.

As the plot progresses it takes on a surreal nightmare quality. Is the protagonist having a nightmare, going insane or confronting the reality of his situation?

There is no end to the frustration.
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