Historical Reference of The Trial & The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka Essay
W.H. Auden considered him the representative writer of what he called "the age of anxiety", the post WWII period, and considered him part of the great tradition of "the Quest" in world literature.
Edmund Wilson thought Kafka was too weak-willed and self-pitying to be elevated to the status of major novelist, as Auden and others thought.
Issac B. Singer famously said that "one Kafka per century was enough."
Considering that on his deathbed Kafka asked Max Brod, his friend and posthumous biographer, to burn all his manuscripts, you could argue that the teller, not the tale, should have been trusted in this case.
I, however, am very happy that Brod didn't fulfill Kafka's dying wish, because the world would have been deprived of one of the most original and innovative writers ever.
Kafka's novels and stories are not "realistic", as everyone knows, and as everyone also know, THE TRIAL is about the persecution, conviction, and execution of Joseph K., whose crime is never mentioned, and who agonizes through a nightmare filled with increasingly frightening, ostensibly banal, horribly decisive events.
I think the most important point to bear in mind while reading THE TRIAL or any of Kafka's other novels and stories is that while they're arguably allegorical/symbolical, the "meaning" is neither definite or definiable. Unlike, say, MOBY DICK, where the whale is clearly the pool of Narcissus to the various protagonists, Kafka's characters don't know why they're subjected to their ordeals, nor what their antagonists intend, even though a reader could wrongly diminish the intended ambivalence with a facile interpretation. To read Kafka critically, you have to abandon this sort of simplistic reading.
THE TRIAL is about paranoia, guilt, punishment, but beyond that, the individual reader has to define the terms more precisely. Is there another writer in world literature who offers this kind of unique reading experience?