Tuesday, 4 September 2001

Franz Kafka: The Castle (1926/1951)

Translation: Edwin and Willa Muir (chapters 1-18, 1930) and Eithne
Wilkins and Ernst Kaiser (chapters 18-20, 1957)
Edition: Penguin, 1968 (Buy from Amazon)
Review number: 934

Kafka's unfinished novel, which has gained two and a half chapters not in the original published version due to the editorial work of Max Brod, inhabits a similar paranoid world to The Trial. It is not as forceful, the bureaucracy being less sinister and the tone more optimistic, but its frustrations are perhaps as a result more readily related to the reader's everyday life; in the late twentieth century and the twenty-first it can feel that life is a continual fight against the stupidity and immovability of officials.

The central character, K. - altered by Kafka from an originally first person narrative, arrives at an unnamed village. He has some kind of plan, which we never find out, other than it having something to do with the nearby castle, whose officials rule the village. (This makes him different from Joseph K. in The Trial, who of course has no choice in his involvement.) The first task he sets himself is to get the castle to acknowledge his existence, and this is really what the whole novel is about.

The Castle contains a good deal of humour, not something usually associated with Kafka, particularly slapstick in K.'s relationship with the "assistants" imposed upon him by the castle, whom he suspects - with good reason - of being spies. It's certainly the most relaxed of Kafka's works that I have read.

No comments: