Both Joseph K in The Trial and K in The Castle are victims of anonymous governing forces beyond their control. Both are atomized, estranged and rootless citizens deceived by authoritarian power. Whereas Joseph K is relentlessly hunted down for a crime that remains nameless, K ceaselessly attempts to enter the castle, and so belong somewhere. Both novels may be read as powerful allegories of totalitarian government. In America, Karl Rossman experiences Oedipal and cultural isolation, and finds that “America” is never quite as real as it seems.
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Franz Kafka (1883-1924) was born into a Jewish family in Prague. In 1906 he received a doctorate in jurisprudence, and for many years he worked a tedious job as a civil service lawyer investigating claims at the state Worker's Accident Insurance Institute. He never married, and published only a few slim volumes of stories during his lifetime. Meditation, a collection of sketches, appeared in 1912; The Stoker: A Fragment in 1913; The Metamorphosis in 1915; The Judgement in 1916; In the Penal Colony in 1919; and A Country Doctor in 1920. Only a few of his friends knew that Kafka was also at work on the great novels that were published after his death from tuberculosis: America, The Trial, and The Castle.Review:
"He is the greatest German writer of our time. Such poets as Rilke or such novelists as Thomas Mann are dwarfs or plaster saints in comparison to him" -- Vladimir Nabokov "Kafka described with wonderful imaginative power the future concentration camps, the future instability of the law, the future absolutism of the state, the paralysed, inadequately motivated, floundering lives of the many individual people; everything appeared as a nightmare and with the confusion and inadequacy of a nightmare" -- Bertolt Brecht
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