The Castle, Franz Kafka free ebook/ english

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The Castle is Kafka at his most beautiful and, perhaps, his most emotional. The Trial and Metamorphoses are full of their own depth, and their own complicated sadness, but they don’t strike the heart with the same poignancy as Kafka’s final, unfathomable novel. The Castle is the story of K, who claims to be a Land Surveyor, sent by someone unknown, for some purpose unknown, to the Castle, itself an unknown quantity. What K is supposed to accomplish we never discover. Rather than a narrative that moves towards any substantive satisfaction, Kafka presents the reader with a series of frustrations, K trying again and again to progress his work, but never moving beyond the Castle’s snowy environs.

The novel begins with K’s arrival at the village that lies in the shadow of the Castle – and, apparently, under its governance. The place lies deep in snow, and the Castle is shrouded in mist, so that not even a glimmer of light betrays its presence. Kafka’s descriptions of the place throughout the novel are almost unbearably evocative. The reader is brought to an inhospitable, almost-polar region, where there is scarcely ever light, and one feels the physical effort of struggling through heavy snow. This is a novel best read in deepest winter, particularly when the daily trials of working life are made acute by morning and evening commutes in shivery darkness.

The atmosphere and mood of the novel are what carry it – but they are hard to describe. Saying that, you will find yourself understanding them precisely, even if, like me, you cannot fully articulate what you mean. This is what Kafka does: he destabilises us by writing about the familiar, the banality of daily existence, but disguising it so it appears to us a strange dream or fairytale. When we close the pages we are returned to reality aware of all the feelings of hopelessness that we tend to shut out so as to carry on with our daily working lives. Kafka is the syringe that draws out the reader’s blood, and then the pen that writes in it. free ebook/ english

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It is a mistake to view The Castle – and indeed The Trial, as many do – as being concerned with bureaucracy and unfair process. Such readings trivialise Kafka’s artistic project, and are, essentially, reductive. Kafka writes about simple and important things: aloneness, pain, the longing for human companionship, the need to be respected and understood, sex, and the struggle of being employed.

This book will make you sad for the things missing in your life. The reader is forced into confrontation with basic human need. We bear witness to K’s futile struggle for recognition and respect. The whole ground of his being is undermined by those who will not acknowledge his task or his right to be in the village. K seeks companionship (shacking up for a time with a woman who has a connection to the Castle authority) but cannot stand the company of his assistants, to whom he can be unkind.

And this is also a novel for the darkest days of winter. Kafka takes you away from his or her own life, with all its stress and secret desolations, only to return you, shattered, to a new reality in which you must confront those truths you’d rather forget. This is Kafka’s greatest work, and the one that best lives up to his maxim that a book ought to be a hatchet to break the frozen sea within us. free ebook/ english

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