The Trial by Franz Kafka
New york : Alfred A. Knopf, 1950. Eighth printing. Hardcover. 296 pages ; 19 cm. $2.75 dust jacket with the dust jacket edges worn out. Pages are clean and unmarked. Binding is firm.
FRANZ KAFKA occupies an extraordinary position in modern literature. On the Continent, tribute has been paid to him by such men as Thomas Mann and André Gide, in England by Aldous Huxley, Frank Swinnerton, Rebecca West, and Herbert Read, and in America by Conrad Aiken, Clifton Fadiman, and many others, Yet Kafka wrote only a few books and until now only one of these, The Castle, has been available in the United States.
The story of The Trial is ag follows: Joseph K., a respectable functionary in a bank, is suddenly arrested one fine morning as he gets out of bed. He does not know the reason for his arrest, and his captors re. fuse to explain it or to name the authorities on whose behalf they are acting. He is soon set free again, but afterward, he is sumo moned before tribunal after tribunal, is forced to hire an advocate, though that does not help him materially, and passes the rest of his life in fighting a charge of whose terms he remains ignorant, During this long, fascinating and mysterious business, in which he does not quite believe to the end, he experiences all the alternations of vain hope and justified despair, and finds himself in the strangest situations, some of them horrible and some, curiously enough, comic. He is finally executed in a peculiarly gruesome manner.
This is a mere outline of the story, which is enthralling in itself for its mixture of wild imagination and sober realism.
FRANZ KAFKA was born in Prague in 1883 of a well-to-do family. He received a doctorate in law from the University of his native city, but except for a very short period, he never practiced his profession. He preferred to pursue knowledge and an understanding of the universe, even if it cost him his life. Years of privation broke his health, saddling him With tuberculosis, and in 1924, in his forty-first year, he died.
During his lifetime Kafka permitted the publication of only a few volumes of short stories, all literally wrenched from him by Max Brod, the distinguished German novelist who was his most intimate friend. The Trial, like The Castle, was published after Kafka's death. The remarkable circumstances surrounding its original publication, and incidentally thing about the mind and character of Kafka himself, are revealed in Dr. Brod's Epilogue to this novel.
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