Sunday, 2 March 2014

Epilogue #5

The Castle
Franz Kafka

The final novel in the Vintage-released collection of Kafka's complete novels, The Castle, is one that's left me with a mixture of opinions and thoughts hanging in the ether -- much like, unfortunately, the story set up by Kafka in this unfinished work.

Out of the three novels, this is probably the strangest and most striking -- it's more strongly surreal than its predecessors, darker and also more absurdly humorous. We - like the protagonist, K. the land surveyor - are introduced to an odd small village that's seemingly in permanent Winter and ruled over by bureaucrats in the castle that overshadows it; we see the people who live there and their relationships with one another, we experience K.'s difficulty to do his job in this village (or even to figure out what it is) and the difficulties posed by the increasingly elaborate and deranged bureaucracy, as well as by the two comically incompetent and uncannily strange assistants assigned to him... and then...

Yeah. Unfortunately -- as well as being, in my view, the most atmospherically well-realised and gripping of Kafka's three novels -- it's also the most incomplete. Like the other two novels in the Vintage collection, this novel ends with a section put together posthumously from fragments and drafts... unlike with those two, though, this only serves to make The Castle end abruptly a little bit later than it originally would have done.

Nonetheless, it's worth reading for many reasons. The wintry, remote and peculiar atmosphere of the village is one of my favourite settings from Kafka's three novels; and the paranoia- and anxiety-inducing sense of bureaucracy that characterised The Trial is heightened with the seemingly incomprehensible system of government that oversees the village, while the novel also encompasses the more in-depth characterisation that could be seen in Amerika.

It's just a shame that it all ends so

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