The Last 30 Pages of Franz Kafka’s The Trial

I’ve been summoning up the will this last month to finish off the last thirty pages of The Trial, waiting for that suitable hour I feel I can waste in the mechanical process of reading a document which has long ceased to hold any interest for me. There comes a point occasionally in my reading books when the only impetus to go on is a statistical one: I’ve read 130 pages, and I want to read the remaining 30 so I can count it against my yearly total (with many books, it is the recognition of this fact that induces me finally to give in).

So I begin to read.

Here is a good quote almost straight away. “Every hour spent away the office grieved him.” This would fit in nicely with the theory I’ve been constructing that Kafka actually loved bureaucracy (or his characters did, at least), for bureaucracy – with its ordered structures – represents a comfortable rationality, from which they are discomposed by this irrational guiltiness (as we take comfort in God or science, and are frightened by nothing). – But a couple of other sentences on the subject a little further on are less definite on this issue, so I decide to drop it – and, as a consequence, lose the interest even of my own ideas which Kafka for a moment has inspired.

It is getting trying now. I have entered into that state which causes me to believe that if I merely move my eyes across each word, even though my brain is unconnected from their meaning, this would be justified as having read them. But I feel it’s not enough, and have to go back over a passage – and again, and again, as my mind continually wanders away, discovering instead almost anything in the world outside Kafka which might for a moment distract it – trying to make at least a superficial sense of it, for long since have I lost any interest to delve into the depths of these passages; – probably there’s nothing to be discovered down there in any case, as I’ve heard it said.

What does this chapter have to do with the rest of the book anyway: the priest, and his story about the doorkeeper, which I’ve read before somewhere – and then this long quasi-religious textual analysis of the same, which I haven’t. This reminds me of that long passage earlier on in which one character details aspects of the legal system over several pages (it seemed at the time like about ten).

But this is no doubt where Kafka left it all incomplete – whether he died, or had just become as tired of it all as I am (as perhaps I’d like to believe) – there seem large gaps in the text, and I feel there are references to things which only remain in Kafka’s mind. This ending is clearly implying things which have never been narrated. No doubt, in its full manifestation, the book would have been about 600 pages: – and would that it were, for then I’d have given up reading it long ago – and what’s more, I suspect people in general would be far less reverent of Kafka.

Oh, that’s how it ends! – Well, I’m not really sure that’s in keeping with anything.


2 thoughts on “The Last 30 Pages of Franz Kafka’s The Trial

  1. I finished a re-read earlier, and yes it was a little tedious and disconnected in places. It’s an interesting theory about the book being a fragment of an unwritten 600-pager, but I’m not sure Kakfa had the stamina for efforts on that scale. Anyway, the Kafka that we have been left with didn’t have the stamina.

    I’m freshly amazed at the insistence (especially of Guardian Books Blog commenters) that The Trial “is about” tyranny, totalitarianism, faceless and harmful bureaucracy etc. As you say, K yearns for the solid order and comprehensible politicking of his bank, and abhors (physically reacts against) the bizarre, Being John Malkovich-esque world of the courts, hidden in attics and between floors of slums. Surely the quasi-mystical conclusion you describe here is the final proof that this is a book about personal crisis, not some kind of manifesto or cry-for-help from the politically oppressed?

    I enjoyed the book – in parts – and am struck again by how incredibly odd it is.

  2. I did read through some of the comments in The Guardian on Jordison’s article, but felt the need to hold back from involving myself with Kafka (since everyone took it that he was without question a genius). I also felt Jordison was wrong about the prescience of Penal Colony re WWI and WWII; reading it recently, it struck me as a fine examination of colonialism, particularly of the late c19th variety (say, German involvement in Namibia or what have you).

    The joy in bureaucracy which is in the background of Kafka’s The Trial, (did I write this before?) I suspect was taken from Walser, whom K revered: – Jakob von Gunten finds his life’s joy in living as a cog in the machine; even now I can recall exactly the sense of this joy which Walser transmits. In fact, joy seems to be the essential basis of Walser’s world.

    Am reading Robert Walser’s The Robber at the moment. Now there’s an odd novel – post-modern madness.

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