Sunday 24 March 2013

In the case of good books, the point is not to see how many of them you can get through, but rather how many can get through to you - Mortimer J. Adler

It’s been a most frustrating week. Pain, sleeplessness, nausea from the pain. My long thoracic nerve playing up again. Getting on my (other) nerves.

Even the stunning Welsh performance last Saturday to win the Six Nations did not stave off the frustration. Although it certainly went a long way to soothing the pain.
Still my delightful GP came to the rescue with new meds. And I’ve now slept some decent sleep. To the relief of one and all.
And so with (finally) a clear head, I finished Kafka’s The Trial. And boy do you need a clear head to read it. And delight in it. For it is delightful. In its frustration. For it too knows frustration.
The Trial is a superb description of every nightmarish bureaucracy you have ever encountered. And tried to wrestle with. Bureaucracies, totalitarian regimes, legal systems. Deep down, you know it’s impossible to do anything to combat the unreasonableness of these lumbering monsters. But somehow you just have to try. And then beat yourself up about failing.
And that’s the experience of poor Joseph K, the central protagonist here, accused but never actually put on trial.  Frustrated from start to finish as the player in a game he neither understands nor controls. Anxious amidst the illogical demands and incomprehensible lack of explanations. Guilty only of not knowing the cause of his guilt.
I finally understand the term Kafkaesque. I’ve experienced it before, just never knew how to articulate it. Running but getting nowhere. Helpless. Disorientated. Blocked by one bizarre, illogical demand after another. The madness. The nightmare. Pure surrealism.
Kafka artfully conveys the claustrophobic intensity closing in on Joseph K. The race against intangible time. Rules and regulations multiplied and contorted to exasperate and thwart. Men in a cold and callous pursuit of power, whatever the cost. Even the buildings he describes are obnoxious and oppressive.
I will make only a passing reference to the strange array of unrestrained and lustful women who feature at every dark corner to which Joseph K turns. All unable to resist the guilty man. Or is that guilty men? Strange, I say. Frustrated too, I guess.
In the madness of attempted explanations and counselling by would-be lawyers and priests alike, two phrases struck me: firstly, “a melancholy conclusion – it turns lying into a universal principle”. It scares me to think that we could say that about many aspects of our lives today... And secondly: “the simple story had lost its clear outline”. What can I say? Something to reflect on, methinks.
I read that The Trial was never completed. This explains much. Certainly the final chapter which seems to come too soon. Almost out of nowhere. But then, this kind of added to the frustration of the whole. And it worked.
The intense frustration I felt at the beginning of the week lessened in the face of The Trial. If only because my difficulties should pass. But then Joseph K's should never have existed. So do we face endless unquestioning acceptance? Or try to run the race anyway, knowing it goes nowhere?

I think we need more love. And more stampeding Welsh teams. Da iawn wir, Cymru!


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