Quotes from ‘The Trial’ by Franz Kafka

Read the review for the book

These are a few excerpts from the book with a little commentary from moi (okay, more than a little).

A woman’s hands will do many things when no-one’s looking

This is K. thinking about a woman who is doing a lot of work around the house while her husband is nowhere to be seen. It is true isn’t it. How many times have you left your room in a mess and come back to find it in perfect order. thanks to mom; who not only cleaned up your mess, but also went grocery shopping, cooked some delicious food, did the laundry, cleaned the house, took out the trash etc. So, while you are out with your friends or at school and dad is at work, mom transforms into supermom.

Or is it something sinister that Kafka is hinting at? No, I’d rather go with my interpretation.

Don’t take it so hard, Mr. K.,” she said, with tears in her voice and also, of course, forgetting the handshake. “I didn’t know I was taking it hard,” said K., feeling suddenly tired.

Haha! The classic, you-don’t-know-you’re-suffering-until-you’re-told.

He had no wish at all to humiliate himself before the committee by being too punctual

Too much sincerity is a weakness of character.

K. went further into the street, slowly, as if he had plenty of time now, or as if the examining magistrate were looking at him from one of the windows and therefore knew that K. had found his way there. It was shortly after nine. The building was quite far down the street, it covered so much area it was almost extraordinary, and the gateway in particular was tall and long. It was clearly intended for delivery wagons belonging to the various warehouses all round the yard which were now locked up and carried the names of companies some of which K. knew from his work at the bank. In contrast with his usual habits, he remained standing a while at the entrance to the yard taking in all these external details. Near him, there was a bare-footed man sitting on a crate and reading a newspaper. There were two lads swinging on a hand cart. In front of a pump stood a weak, young girl in a bedjacket who, as the water flowed into her can, looked at K. There was a piece of rope stretched between two windows in a corner of the yard, with some washing hanging on it to dry. A man stood below it calling out instructions to direct the work being done

In the end he decided to climb up the stairs, his thoughts playing on something that he remembered the policeman, Willem, saying to him; that the court is attracted by the guilt, from which it followed that the courtroom must be on the stairway that K. selected by chance. As he went up he disturbed a large group of children playing on the stairs who looked at him as he stepped through their rows. “Next time I come here,” he said to himself, “I must either bring sweets with me to make them like me or a stick to hit them with.”

The two excerpts above show the way Kafka has used amazing realistic descriptions to lend great depth to this story. There’s also a part where he describes Leni scraping off the wax off Josef’s trousers and in the flow of reading, this has great effect on the reader and is more than just a filler. It puts you in that place with the characters.

..two small lads with sly faces like grown-up scoundrels held him by his trouser-legs until it had; if he were to shake them off he would have to hurt them, and he was afraid of what noise they would make by shouting

Exactly. So, it is not compassion for a fellow human being that prevents the man from lashing out, rather it is the fear of being caught.

Even the slightest uncertainty in the least significant of matters will always remain a cause of suffering.

Uncertainty sucks.

We’re only being punished because you made a complaint against us. Nothing would have happened to us otherwise, not even if they’d found out what we’d done.

No reaction without action first.

..almost every defendant, even very simple people, begins to think of suggestions for improving the court as soon as his proceedings have begun, many of them often even spend time and energy on the matter that could be spent far better elsewhere. The only right thing to do is to learn how to deal with the situation as it is. Even if it were possible to improve any detail of it – which is anyway no more than superstitious nonsense – the best that they could achieve, although doing themselves incalculable harm in the process, is that they will have attracted the special attention of the officials for any case that comes up in the future, and the officials are always ready to seek revenge.

Dr. Huld, the lawyer, talking about the tendency of the defendant to get too involved with his case and how that leads to his downfall.

He would try to mislead K. with hopes that were never specified and to make him suffer with threats that were never clear.

This is the theme of the entire novel and while this statement talks about the lawyer, everyone confuses K. and nobody tells him anything that he wants to hear or know.

“You are Josef K.,” said the priest, and raised his hand from the balustrade to make a gesture whose meaning was unclear. “Yes,” said K., he considered how freely he had always given his name in the past, for some time now it had been a burden to him, now there were people who knew his name whom he had never seen before, it had been so nice first to introduce yourself and only then for people to know who you were.


trail facebook cover

The court doesn’t want anything from you. It accepts you when you come and it lets you go when you leave.

A deeply contradictory statement and unashamedly so, made by the Prison Chaplain when K. asks what the court wants from him. Sums up the novel beautifully. All that K. suffers is his own doing, after all.

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