89 years after Kafka’s death, ‘Bureaucracy’ is still going strong.

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It might seem weird to some readers that, in most of his works, Franz Kafka depicted ‘Bureaucracy’ as a monster.True,such depiction correlated with his tendency to write about the bizarre,but Kafka was incredibly intelligent and would never write a book devoid of any message or moral.89 years after his death,I think it makes more sense now why he depicted bureaucracy in such a way.

‘The Trial’,often regarded as an unparalleled piece of work,is perhaps the book that describes best the ruthlessness of bureaucracy.The story starts with Joseph K waking up to see that he has been arrested.He doesn’t know what his crime is nor does he know who is the authority accusing him.To defend himself,he has to write a ‘plea’ boasting the judges and asking for their salvation.Naturally,offending them would mean heading straight-away to prison,or rather to execution.Also Joseph later learns that no one has ever been vindicated by the court,and there are only two ways to avoid being arrested: obtain a temporary acquittal from the lower court which can at any time be contested by the higher levels(in which case the process will start all over again)or curry favour with the lower court to keep the process going at a glacial pace.Either way,Joseph is trapped and has absolutely no means of escape.He can only delay his arrest.

Oddly enough I was reading ‘The Trial’ and filling my CommonApp during the same period,and the comparison between the judges and the admission officers was inevitable.Nobody knows who those officers are,yet they are the ones who hold our lives in their hands.I find it disturbing that some shadowy figures,with a ‘Yes’ or a ‘No’,can forever change your destiny.But it is not only their anonymity that makes them similar to K’s judges.To be given a ‘Yes’,we have to please them;they demand extra-curricular activities which reflect the student’s leadership skills,but which the student would never have engaged in if he wasn’t applying to college.Why does one have to become somebody else in order to be accepted? Telling us that we just have to be ourselves to be accepted…is just like telling K that he only has to be honest to get acquitted;both are grotesquely false.

Even to be considered for a seat in a university,the student has to face some hurdles.For instance he has to invite his teachers and principal to fill in some forms and to write a recommendation letter,all of which should be done on-line.Did the officers take into account that some teachers might not be IT literate? Yes.This is why the student can get the recommender to do all the procedures offline and send the paperworks to the colleges involved,if,of course, he is willing to disregard: the cost incurred and the time it takes for the file to reach its destination(s).(well,if it hasn’t already been lost in transit).

Surely Kafka must have already turned in his grave at the sight of the power bureaucracy has gained during the 89 years which followed his death,he who was so outraged at bureaucracy’s oppressive nature when he was still a young man.

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5 thoughts on “89 years after Kafka’s death, ‘Bureaucracy’ is still going strong.”

  1. Good thoughts. Sadly, it seems that the red tape monster will never die. Kafka’s subject is as topical now as it was then and his style and subjects still inspire writers today. (Now I’m thinking specifically of James Kelman’s Booker-Prize-winning novel How Late It Was, How Late (1994). which is essentially a modern-day rewrite of Kafka’s Trial.)

    1. Thanks!
      As you said,the red tape monster will never die and it will only get more and more powerful in the future.This also leads us to wonder how free we really are!

      On a different note,although one of my goal is to read all the Booker-Prize winners someday,I didn’t know there was a rewrite of The Trial among them!
      Once again thanks for sharing! You have so much to give. πŸ™‚
      (I’ve gone and checked out the book!)

      1. Oh, Kelman’s is not a self-proclaimed rewrite of Kafka, actually, but critics and readers alike recognise it as one. You may wish to save this book for later – it’s not mainstream, it’s not classically classic and it’s a challenge to read. Well, and sorry for my promoting Scottish literature so much (Kelman is Scottish, obviously)…

      2. Sooner or later,I will read it! The best books of all time also include Booker Prize Winners! πŸ˜‰
        I think by the time I read the book,I will have acquired enough ‘maturity'(?) to take the challenge.
        Also it is particularly enticing because it caused a row among the jury when it was proclaimed the winner of the 1994 edition of the Booker Prize-funny that I was born in that very year!
        And yep,I smiled when I learned he was Scottish! πŸ˜‰

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