The Trial

The Trial by Franz Kafka

It’s finally time to read Kafka.

1) “‘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. Yours, Franz Kafka.'”

Kafka told his friend Max Brod to burn all his work. But he didn’t and now we know who Kafka is.

2) “Someone must have slandered Josef K., for one morning, without having done anything wrong, he was arrested.”

In the prologue, the translator talks about how this first sentence was tricky to translate – particularly “slander” and “without having done anything wrong” since it sets the premise for the entire story.

3) “K. knew there was a slight risk someone might say later that he hadn’t been able to take a joke.”

That awkward moment when you either choose to be serious or go along with the joke, but you don’t know if it’s actually a joke.

4) “Such long reports surely can’t be totally meaningless.”


5) “Everything was unchanged, just as he had found it the previous evening when he opened the door.”

One of the most disturbing moments of the book.

6) “The only proper approach is to learn to accept existing conditions. Even if it were possible to improve specific details – which, however, is merely an absurd superstition – one would have at best achieved something for future cases, while in the process damaging oneself immeasurably by having attracted the attention of an always vengeful bureaucracy.”

There are too many situations where it’s not worth the risk to speak up.

7) “‘That’s a poor combination. Justice must remain at rest, otherwise the scales sway and no just judgment is possible.'” – K.

Not sure what literary device this is, but it’s a good one.

8) “‘Those are the law court offices. Didn’t you know there were law court offices here? There are law court offices in practically every attic, why shouldn’t they be here too?'” – the painter

Another disturbing moment when K realizes he’s trapped in the “legal system” and can’t escape.

9) “The defendants are simply the most attractive. It can’t be guilt that makes them attractive, for – at least as a lawyer I must maintain this – they can’t all be guilty, nor can it be the coming punishment that renders them attractive in advance, for not all of them will be punished; it must be a result, then, of the proceedings being brought against them, which somehow adheres to them. Of course some are even more attractive than others.” – the lawyer

The most haunting idea is that K is assumed to be innocent, but it doesn’t change anything. He keeps on being prosecuted and at some point drives the prosecution himself by hiring lawyers. Does it even matter if he’s guilty?

10) “‘The court wants nothing from you. It receives you when you come and dismisses you when you go.'” – the priest

What is justice? What is law?

The Trial is very psychologically disturbing because it’s so real. What would I do if a court accused me for no reason and I could never be proven innocent?


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