4 / 5 Stars
Desolate, absurd and rather nightmarish.
This was a Kafka that I'd not read before, and given that it had been on my reading list for centuries, I thought it was about time that I dived in.
Immediately, you're immersed in a world of pure Kafka-ism. Things are normal and as they should be, and yet they aren't. This is an alternative version of reality, where everything looks the same, but where nothing is predictable and every aspect is a little bit 'off'. In short, it's a bit like reading someone's unsettling dream, then realising they didn't manage to wake up at the end. Eerie stuff.
Josef K wakes one day to find two guards in his room. He discovers he's under arrest and awaiting trial - only what for, no-one will tell him. In fact, throughout the book, he's none the wiser about what he's done; only that it must be bad, given the severity of people's reactions. Various people offer help but fail to come through for him, such as the elderly Advocate, the priest and Leni, the saucy madam who falls in love with all the Advocate's clients. Eventually the day of K's trial arrives... and guess what? It's a mighty bleak ending.
I like Kafka's writing, because it is so familiar and yet so alien. He's adept at drawing the reader in with this sense of normality, then totally whipping the rug out from under us with these strange, 'almost acceptable' but ultimately surreal events. I don't know if it's just me, but I find his works quite 'visual' too - I could easily envisage them in a black and white film!
There were a few places where the book dragged ever so slightly, but all in all, an unusual and defining read. I always have respect for the author who does something completely different, and let's face it, when it comes to strange and unsettling literature, Kafka pretty much defined the genre.