Synopsis: A land surveyor,Franz K,travels to a mysterious village where his services are needed.However,some time after his arrival,he is told that he has been wrongly appointed.K then decides to stay and attempts to gain access to the authorities who govern the village at an impenetrable castle.
~ Why you will like The Castle
1.Kafka’s ultimate novel.
If you have read The Trial,Amerika and his other short stories,you will easily recognize in this book the progress made by Kafka to become the best writer he could turn into.In The Castle,his potential is fully unleashed and he puts his bizarre style to good use,just like a seasoned writer would.The Castle is also an improvement from The Trial in many other ways: almost every character in the book has had a difficult past which Kafka uses to evoke pathos;the story is not over-focused on the main character; the quest to reach the remote authority is more elaborate than in The Trial.
2.The Underlying Message.
A seemingly bizarre story,The Castle conveys the powerful and strongly relevant dystopian message that life is Kafkaesque.The book is – I quote Wikipedia,because I couldn’t put it in a better way – ”about alienation,bureaucracy,the seemingly endless frustrations of man’s attempts to stand against the system,and the futile and hopeless pursuit of an unobtainable goal.” It also falls among those books of Kafka that have greatly inspired authors like Albert Camus and Samuel Beckett.As a matter of fact,The Castle and Camus’s The Myth of Sisyphus are strongly alike in nature.In short,like The Trial,The Castle is one of those books that broaden your mind.You will gain much by reading it.
3.Unique Touch of Modernism.
It’s no news that The Castle falls among literature’s earliest modern works; this is the case with each other book of Kafka.However it is interesting to see the techniques and ideas which Kafka made use of to give The Castle the same touch of modernism that has characterized his other stories.For,in writing The Castle,Franz Kafka was for the umpteenth time,turning to his unique and bizarre modernist style.Would he finally run out of ideas for his final novel? To general surprise,The Castle turned out to be a highly original book.The more so,when we consider that it was Kafka’s longest novel.By the end of the book,you will be left wondering from where did the Czech genius draw the resources to write so unique a story!
Since the protagonists of The Castle and The Trial are both named K,I will use the same argument I employed in my review of The Trial to justify why it was a master-strike from Kafka to give such a name to his character. ”His name is K,but he is referred to as ‘K’.Why ‘K’? Because Kafka didn’t want to give him an individuality,in which case the character would seem to be living his own adventure.’K’ is not a name,but rather a code name purposed to identify the protagonist.Why did Kafka feel the need to give him a code name? Simply to help us better identify with K and his quest: his adventure is ours; K is us.”
~ Why you might not like The Castle
When I wrote posts about The Trial and Amerika for this series,I remember having deemed the language a barrier between the readers and Kafka’s world.Sadly,The Castle shares the same shortcoming.The English translation of the Old German used by Kafka – he lived in the late 1800s and early 1900s – is not as fluid and modern as you would like it to be.The language is a far cry from those employed by authors like Golding,Lee or even Wilde,and because of that,you might feel that the book is ‘heavy’.
2.The Slow Pace
As opposed to The Trial,which was straightforward,The Castle moves at a slow pace.Sure,this might be recognised as a proof of Kafka’s progress,but in the end,some readers might get impatient and wish K would have done things differently,for bear in mind that The Castle is about the quest for something unattainable.You might get irritated at K’s attitude and decide to stop reading the book midway.Besides,the slow pace at which events follow in this novel somehow softens the impact of the message it conveys.
Like all other novels of Kafka,The Castle is unfinished.But unlike The Trial and very much like Amerika, The Castle does not have an ending.In fact,it stops midway and leaves you wondering what would have happened next,the only clue of which being what Kafka told his friend Max Brod would happen to K.While some readers will hail this abrupt stop in the story as a tragic happenstance that bizarrely squares with Kafka’s style, I know that others will be hugely disappointed with the ‘ending’.
Verdict: As a huge fan of Kafka,I loved reading The Castle: the ideas were modernist and unique,Kafka once again gave me much to ponder over and the message it conveys is strong and will never wane away.But will I recommend this novel to anyone? No,for I know that,due to its shortcomings,there’s a good chance that the general reader will be easily bored and turned off by it.However,The Castle is a great book and is a must read if you’re a fan of Kafka or if you wish to gain a different outlook on life.Just be aware that it has its shortcomings and is not another version of The Trial – which I still prefer,to be honest.