Author: Franz Kafka
Synopsis: The protagonist, K, gets a job as a surveryor with no clear job responsibilities, so he appeals to the authorities of the Castle to figure out how to get his work done but his efforts are all futile.
This is the first of Franz Kafka’s novels that I’ve ever read cover to cover and I love it. Kafka’s books aren’t easy to read, especially if you’re someone who enjoys logical reasoning and world building. Everything is an analogy of something, so the plot is often confusing and senseless.
The first time I tried to read Kafka without any preparation for the absurdist reality I would face, I gave up after two chapters. I did finish reading that book much later, but that’s a review for another day.
My advice for reading Kafka is to do a bit of mental preparation before diving in. Don’t expect ingenious plot twists or neatly tied-up endings. He only writes absurd storylines, using reality as the medium for describing his ideas instead of the other way around.
Kafka’s stories form a genre of their own and even inspired a couple of art movements later on (dada and surrealism). I can see why now, having read The Castle. His work is thought-provoking, very impressive.
It took me a long time to read this because school got in the way, (I was studying at the time) so the first half of the book is a bit of a blur. I remember it being very rambly and comedic, even though the ending is kind of tragic.
K tries his best to get his doubts clarified and his demands heard but everyone around him tells him it’s impossible. The excuse is always, ‘The Castle is in charge. Don’t question the Castle.’
As the story progresses, this mysterious Castle is revealed to be something like the system of governance in K’s world, made up of many frustrating layers of bureaucracy and no clear overarching authority. Requests and queries are passed around like a wrapped box in pass-the-parcel and whoever receives the box when the music stops has to pay for the box.
As a result, no one wants to be the one responding to K’s requests and queries.
Eventually, K becomes just like every other character in the book, a citizen of the Castle. He starts making his own decisions instead of asking questions or demanding answers and finds himself a position within this confusing society…as a janitor.
Apparently, this role is superior to the one he had at the beginning of the story (a surveyor). Isn’t it ironic? Kafka is a genius.
The Castle is very exciting to read, very hilarious, very bizarre. K is constantly running around in circles, getting angry and frustrated without knowing why, without being able to blame or push the responsibility onto anyone in particular because the Castle is not a person.
It is the system. The exact same system we find fault with when we say, ‘Blame the system.’
But who are we really blaming? Who created “the System”? Who’s responsible for the flaws and hiccups that happen? Even if you “blame the system”, what comes out of it?
The system keeps on running, no one does anything to change it.
Those who do set out to change it often end up becoming conformed to it.
The Castle has a very simple plot, but it’s a story with profound meaning. The skill Kafka possessed to write something like this makes me speechless.
All those seemingly blasé descriptions of how the Castle gets things done, the Castle should be respected, how the Castle does so much for everyone, it all comes together to create an unexpectedly accurate portrait of modern society.
How did Kafka do this so proficiently by writing what seems like nothing at all?!!!
Well, I guess I have to finish reading that Kafka book I abandoned to find out^^