Written in 1914 but not published until 1925, a year after Kafka’s death, The Trial is the terrifying tale of Josef K., a respectable bank officer who is suddenly and inexplicably arrested and must defend himself against a charge about which he can get no information. Whether read as an existential tale, a parable, or a prophecy of the excesses of modern bureaucracy wedded to the madness of totalitarianism, The Trial has resonated with chilling truth for generations of readers.
About the Author
Franz Kafka was born to Jewish parents in Bohemia in 1883. Kafka's father was a luxury goods retailer who worked long hours and as a result never became close with his son. Kafka's relationship with his father greatly influenced his later writing and directly informed his Brief an den Vater (Letter to His Father). Kafka had a thorough education and was fluent in both German and Czech. As a young man, he was hired to work at an insurance company where he was quickly promoted despite his desire to devote his time to writing rather than insurance. Over the course of his life, Kafka wrote a great number of stories, letters, and essays, but burned the majority of his work before his death and requested that his friend Max Brod burn the rest. Brod, however, did not fulfill this request and published many of the works in the years following Kafka's death of tuberculosis in 1924. Thus, most of Kafka's works were published posthumously, and he did not live to see them recognized as some of the most important examples of literature of the twentieth century. Kafka's works are considered among the most significant pieces of existentialist writing, and he is remembered for his poignant depictions of internal conflicts with alienation and oppression. Some of Kafka's most famous works include The Metamorphosis, The Trial and The Castle.
George Steiner is Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Geneva. His books include The Death of Tragedy, Language in Silence, In Bluebeard's Castle, and On Difficulty and Other Essays.
“‘[I]t seemed as though the shame was to outlive him.’ With these words The Trial ends. Kafka’s shame then is no more personal than the life and thought which govern it and which he describes thus: ‘He does not live for the sake of his own life, he does not think for the sake of his own thought. He feels as though he were living and thinking under the constraint of a family . . . Because of this unknown family . . . he cannot be released.’”
“Breon Mitchell’s translation is an accomplishment of the highest order that will honor Kafka far into the twenty-first century.”
—Walter Abish, author of How German Is It