By Luciana Leitão
The Trial, by Franz Kafka, is one of the best books ever written. It starts with questions and it leaves you without answers. It fails to define the clear boundaries between fiction and reality, and it leaves you utterly and purposely confused. As life does.
Josef K, a respectable bank officer, is the main character. He is suddenly accused for something, and we never know for what or if he is guilty or innocent. It seems as though he is living a nightmare, except the nightmare is real. He keeps meeting different mysterious characters, that only appear once, and don’t really seem important for the story.
It was written in 1994, but only published in 1925, one year after Kafka’s death. The story seems implausible, yet more than 20 years have gone by, and a banker on trial for something we do not really understand, nor do we know if he is innocent or guilty, nor does he have access to any kind of information, seems to be on our current affairs agenda.
Kafka seems almost visionary in this tale. It seems a critique of the excessive bureaucratic system already existent at the time. It seems a critique to the state of the justice system. It seems a critique to paperwork and inhumanity, indifference to others. It reveals a very contemporary look on society.
The word Kafkaesque has entered our vocabulary for a reason. The Trial is probably it. Whenever we do not know how to explain, what to say, the reasons behind it; whenever we feel there are almost ulterior motives and explanations, or even no explanation, we call it Kafkaesque.
We are witnesses to Joseph K. downfall, a man who wasn’t really supposed to know and understand what was happening to him. Files keep disappearing, leaving his answers unattended. He asks: “We are only being punished because you accused us; if you hadn’t, nothing would have happened, not even if they had discovered what we did. Do you call that justice?” A brilliant tale about injustice.