View Full Version : The Castle

04-06-2008, 06:20 PM
As it's not already been done, I'll start a thread about this unfinished work. I am 100 pages away from the end at the moment, however, and can not form an overall view of this addition to his ouvre, however as it's unfinished will I ever have a full and final view of it?

I've never read The Trial or Metamorphosis but after this one I might as well dive into that work. The sole reason for starting here is because I found it in a 2nd hand book shop... ( just in case your beside your self in wonder why I started here ):yawnb:

The Castle... a strange country where the government rules yet are almost invisible...

What does everyone think of this, and what does it add to your oppinion of Kafka?

johann cruyff
04-07-2008, 03:06 AM
I really liked The Castle.Kafka may be my favourite writer so I'm usually not too objective talking about him or his works,but he is one of the most important writers of the 20th century.

Definitely read The Trial and The Metamorphosis,they're just as good,if not better than The Castle(especially The Metamorphosis).

04-07-2008, 11:30 AM
I just have one question, I have just got to the page where the 1st edition ofThe Castle ends and the second edition, where the work is derived from notes and deletions of his work. Is it worth reading the rest of the book? Is it really Kafka's work or is someone elses creation?

Of course I will read it, as I can't leave the book unfinished. I am too intrigued.

This little world he's creating is contradictory, yet highlights the need for a whole truth..

johann cruyff
04-07-2008, 11:46 AM
Well,I remember the book ends mid sentence.That is what he had written up to the point where he stopped due to illness,IIRC,and it was later published as a novel.I wasn't aware that there is a collection of notes,at least there weren't any in the book I read...However,if it's published,and it obviously is,since you're reading it,it must be his.

04-08-2008, 08:30 AM
The fact that the Castle is unfinished just increases the power (Kafka wasn't very keen to finish things at all) of the book, after all, this way we really know K. Will really never get in the Castle.
Anyways, Kafka is awesome, read his short stories, they are less know, but equally powerful because in the end Metamorphosis or The Process are just long short stories. The Hunger Artist then, it is in my opinion the best short story I ever read. His diary and his famous Letter to his Father are equally interesting.
As far I recall, Max Brody (the dude who saved Kafka for us) is accused of some interference but I do not recall him trying to write the unfinished work of Kafka, perhaps just editing. Perhaps this edition you mention only have notes, which may be interesting. But as the dutch football player with a philosopher face above me said, what matters is that The Castle ends in a middle sentence.

04-08-2008, 08:31 AM
Right I decided to give up with the rest of the novel- too many long winded dialogues which were making my head hurt and I couldn't follow them whatsoever. They were basically verging on the rhetoric, I guess Kafka didn't have time to revise them in his very short life. So I'm gonna get a copy of his other completed works and delve into them...

04-09-2008, 06:56 AM
The Castle is a great read and the unwritten end is actually the only suitable end for the novel.

Right I decided to give up with the rest of the novel- too many long winded dialogues which were making my head hurt and I couldn't follow them whatsoever. They were basically verging on the rhetoric, I guess Kafka didn't have time to revise them in his very short life. So I'm gonna get a copy of his other completed works and delve into them...

Kafka didn't write much, and not regular. There were phases in his life, from just some hours to many weeks, where he would write a lot and constantly, being in a writing fever; but he also could not write a single line for several months. E.g. The Jugdement was written after a boring weekend in just one night, after which he had to excuse himself from work because he was too exhausted. If you read that story you will notice that it is written in one pour. He never had something like a writing routine.

08-21-2008, 02:44 AM
I had to quit the novel a while back - was getting on my nerves and just felt like reading the same thing over and over...I'm trying again...

Anyway, not sure it's quite about bureaucracy...ditto for the Trial.

To me, humans live by a traditional structure - you live by titles (higher class, lower class, boss, underling, judge defendant, you go to school, get a job, marry, have kids, retire...mainly accociate with similar economical classes and those in your field etc.) Existentialism, in part, is a free will belief that you do not have to abide by this structure. The structures are meaningless and nothing but comfort zones to feel like you have a purpose, and avoid the trouble of choosing your own will to only be outcast by society...it's merely a form of passive living for the sake of acceptance.

If anyone's read Ivan Illich, Deschooling Society or his other books, a part that was very powerful to me was - "We are trained to accept service in place of value...to confuse police (a title) with protection (value) to confuse teaching with being taught, politics for order etc". In other words, we assume roles and placeholders in life, but in essence, they mean nothing, and is merely a ritual without any end value. Kafka's work, while predating Illich by quite some time, is more or less verbatim narration of Illich's philosophy to me.

The Trial, by never announcing the accusation, allows the reader to see this in action. It's not about catching a murderer or a court actually being a functional system trying to protect the public from Joseph K, but merely about service over value, to show we live in a world of false titles and social roles. The court is shown as ineffective and accomplishing nothing...all we see is judges and examining magistrates basking in their elite titles and see how the public, and Joseph K, automatically cower to them. If Kafka wrote The Trial with a specific charge, the reader would be biased into purely believing Joseph innocent or guilty and see the court as just doing it's job...without the accusation, all that's left for us to judge is "a traditional social structure" and the pointlessness of it, yet how strongly everyone is married to it.

The reason I bring up the Trial is because, even though I've read only half of the Castle, I think Kafka is employing a similar technique. In the Trial he took away the accusation so we can only see the "traditional social structure". To me, he's doing something similar in the Castle by stripping K of an identity and we just watch him go mad trying to find it, so we have a human looking for a "structure" where it's ambiguous. Take away something that disguises a ritualist structure as value, only reveals it to be merely a ritual, merely a title, merely a "game" with no end goal. His end goal is quite unclear (like the accusation in the Trial) but despite the unclarity, K still tries to maintain and in some ways create and enforce a structure, where there is no clear end goal or purpose.

The Castle seems to be mainly about K finding his place in a confusing structure. All he is given is the title of "Land Surveyor" and he struggles to cling on to that as his importance and meaning of existence, yet can find no evidence that it gives him status. He wants to be "the man" perse, constantly looking down upon the common folk as mere peasants and those which he's too good to associate with - most of the novel is basically him proclaiming "I do not belong among you, but at the Castle" like it's his only hope for prestige and meaning. He first starts off thinking the Castle is in his debt, beneath him saying "They sure know how to pick a land surveyor" like he is doing them a great service, albeit an obscure service. Once getting inside the prestige proves difficult, he is taken aback by Klamm's letter where Kafka states he's referred to by the Castle as their underling...which has a notable impact on the otherwise cocky K. His only hope is to proclaim himself "Land Surveyor" to the common townsfolk, which is glaringly a cry for attention and worship, yet they all ignore the title and pretty much regard K as any other man, and an "outsider" or underling at times, which really gets to him. It's never clear if K is lower class, middle class, or an upper class friend of the Castle...or if the Castle really is prestigious to begin with.

Where the Trial is about a dedication to a traditional social structure despite no clear goal, the Castle seems to be about trying to find and enforce a social structure in K's case, where the structure is ambiguous. So to me the novel, thus far, seems to be about K pleading with the world that he has a place in it and has something to live for, but in reality, he's just one of everyone else...and ignores any enjoyment of life, trying to find and defend his social status, only to be a lonely victim of the typical human rat race, constantly ignoring any form of friendly relationships with the townsfolk, regarding them as sterile tools on his way to the top.

08-21-2008, 04:11 AM
Psynema you've written the best apology for Kafka I've ever read. You might want to consider turning that post into an essay. I've never really liked his work, even among the more famous pieces. I suppose it is due to the overweening conflation of patriarchy without religious context. Guilt without god. Perhaps I'll give The Trial another go one day.

08-21-2008, 05:20 AM
Thanks Jozanny. Funny I've never really appreciated literature - you're introduced to it in grade school and generally, in hindsight, I find they force feed you very basic interpretations, that are overly sterile and often off target, purely for the sake of giving students some clues and to find as many examples to fit, for the sake of "critical thinking" albeit sometimes requiring you to log a square block in a circular hole, usually with little guidance to stop them.

So I've always been leary of literature until recently. It's always good to have a common viewpoint of life with the author and to read something that's not just a narrative, but a commentary on both reader/author's common views, something that you generally have to discover on your own, often taking multiple readings/look backs. Reading should be interactive, not force fed jargon.

The Bureaucracy argument ticks me off a bit - hell that's something a grade school would brainwash you with and a thought process that many people would take with them well into their adulthood. I don't think Kafka would write about something so mundane that the only thing a reader would be empathetic about The Trial/Castle would be "Oh the DMV". I didn't quite understand the Trial or the Castle at first, mainly because I read the "bureaucracy" argument and just got so bored of the Castle trying to find meaning only with that interpretation. It was force fed, not interactive, thus the first attempt at the Castle was less than stellar and I quit reading. It felt like a chore and had flashbacks to grade school trying to make sense of it.

Oddly enough I came across Illich, who isn't even a literary writer nor considered existentialist, but merely a social commentator, more of a social scientist than writer, and only rarely dubbed philosopher. I read some of his stuff, and was like, wow, that's exactly how I view the world - titles, set life structures, set values over actual truth. I've seen cops dummer and more corrupt than their prey, teachers more confused and insecure than students, and spouses/sig. others merely there as material objects so that "I too have a girlfriend" can be shown vs. actual love. The more you buy into this "title over value" mentality the more insecure you become and when it's all too late, you realize following this mindsight leaves you an empty and very lonely person...I then stumbled upon some old Kafka books I had/existentialist definitions/essays after reading Illich/having personal issues and identity reflections on my own, and suddenly I understood a lot better what existentialism was (to me personally at least) and found new meaning in some works and decided to go back and verify...so far the Castle is much more interesting to me. All it took was some personal reflection/reading Deschooling Society for direction, and bam LOL. So, I'd say, every now and then, put essays, discussions, other literary works away, live life, pay attention, and every now and then, everyone would find new meaning in literature perhaps...something non literary can give literature more personal value...hell I think I view George Carlin as a modern existentialist at times.

Ok, that was ridiculously long winded and bordering on pretentious...not me, but I'm bored and it's 5 am :D

Josef K.
09-14-2008, 01:37 PM
the castle was the second -after the trial- book of kafka i read. some say that a critique of bureaucracy takes place or a note on the insecurity of living in modern societies. what i found remarkable, among others, was the writting style which creates a foggy atmosphere... like sth is going to take place.

01-09-2011, 02:03 PM
PSynema somehow your talk about title and value makes alot of sense for this book. When K takes Frieda from Klamm, he kind of takes her title with him,and that's why the Hostess (mother of Frieda) is so inconsolable? She has lost her title as a mistress of Mr Klamm. Or am I totally lost?

07-12-2011, 06:27 AM
PSynema somehow your talk about title and value makes alot of sense for this book. When K takes Frieda from Klamm, he kind of takes her title with him,and that's why the Hostess (mother of Frieda) is so inconsolable? She has lost her title as a mistress of Mr Klamm. Or am I totally lost?

Possibly. Sorry for the delay but it's been three years LOL, not even sure if I remember the novel well enough anymore.

But I'll add in the Metamorphosis - it follows the same tactic that I'm pretty sure Kafka was intending.

Only he's questioning family structure - do theses people really love me? Are they really good for me? Do I owe them anything or are all four of us brainwashed into this.

Most common interpretation of Metamorphosis seems to be guilt, holding himself back for his family, but I think it's deeper than that. Maybe a man's version of "A Doll's House".