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Kafka: The Complete Novels
by Franz Kafka

Category: Fiction / General
464 pages; ISBN: 0749398078

Rating: 10/10  (Ratings explained)
Reviewer: Barry


A Masterpiece of confusion...

This is bleak reading. Kafka draws you into his world of eternal frustration and the abiding impression is the stuff of nightmares.

The Trial is probably the most accomplished of the novels, its theme is a less tangible "1984"; its despairing ending uncannily like that in Camus' "The Outsider". The American offers some respite in the middle of the collection and there is a beacon of hope at the end of the book. It does however still contain, for me, the most disturbing passage in the three stories when Karl is imprisoned on the balcony. The Castle is in many ways the antithesis of The Trial. While Joseph K in the latter attempts to rebel against the state, K in the former is rejected by authority. It is thoroughly disconcerting and all that prevails is bitterness and paralysis of thought and action.

I dived into these books last year and I wonder whether I have re-surfaced. The incompleteness of the stories now seems to me to throw out a challenge - but I have no doubt an insolvable one. With The Castle especially, Kafka could have gone on forever (The Vintage Classics Edition of Kafka's Complete Novels that I read has an extended version of The Castle using additional excerpts from Kafka's papers) or indeed stopped after a few pages - the result is the same.

Why then do I give the collection 10 and recommend it to anyone remotely cynical? I don't really know...


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