The Trial, Chapter Eight

by Franz Kafka

Block, the businessman – Dismissing the lawyer

K. had at last made the decision to withdraw his defence from the lawyer. It was impossible to remove his doubts as to whether this was the right decision, but this was outweighed by his belief in its necessity. This decision, on the day he intended to go to see the lawyer, took a lot of the strength he needed for his work, he worked exceptionally slowly, he had to remain in his office a long time, and it was already past ten o’clock when he finally stood in front of the lawyer’s front door. Even before he rang he considered whether it might not be better to give the lawyer notice by letter or telephone, a personal conversation would certainly be very difficult. Nonetheless, K. did not actually want to do without it, if he gave notice by any other means it would be received in silence or with a few formulated words, and unless Leni could discover anything K. would never learn how the lawyer had taken his dismissal and what its consequences might be, in the lawyer’s not unimportant opinion. But sitting in front of him and taken by surprise by his dismissal, K. would be able easily to infer everything he wanted from the lawyer’s face and behaviour, even if he could not be induced to say very much. It was not even out of the question that K. might, after all, be persuaded that it would be best to leave his defence to the lawyer and withdraw his dismissal. Continue reading

The Trial, Chapter Seven

by Franz Kafka

Lawyer – Manufacturer – Painter

One winter morning – snow was falling in the dull light outside – K. was sitting in his office, already extremely tired despite the early hour. He had told the servitor he was engaged in a major piece of work and none of the junior staff should be allowed in to see him, so he would not be disturbed by them at least. But instead of working he turned round in his chair, slowly moved various items around his desk, but then, without being aware of it, he lay his arm stretched out on the desk top and sat there immobile with his head sunk down on his chest. Continue reading

The Trial, Chapter 6

by Franz Kafka

K.’s uncle – Leni

One afternoon – K. was very busy at the time, getting the post ready – K.’s Uncle Karl, a small country land owner, came into the room, pushing his way between two of the staff who were bringing in some papers. K. had long expected his uncle to appear, but the sight of him now shocked K. far less than the prospect of it had done a long time before. His uncle was bound to come, K. had been sure of that for about a month. He already thought at the time he could see how his uncle would arrive, slightly bowed, his battered panama hat in his left hand, his right hand already stretched out over the desk long before he was close enough as he rushed carelessly towards K. knocking over everything that was in his way. K.’s uncle was always in a hurry, as he suffered from the unfortunate belief that he had a number things to do while he was in the big city and had to settle all of them in one day – his visits were only ever for one day – and at the same time thought he could not forgo any conversation or piece of business or pleasure that might arise by chance. Uncle Karl was K.’s former guardian, and so K. was duty-bound to help him in all of this as well as to offer him a bed for the night. ‘I’m haunted by a ghost from the country’, he would say. Continue reading

The Trial, Chapter Five

by Franz Kafka

The whip-man

One evening, a few days later, K. was walking along one of the corridors that separated his office from the main stairway – he was nearly the last one to leave for home that evening, there remained only a couple of workers in the light of a single bulb in the dispatch department – when he heard a sigh from behind a door which he had himself never opened but which he had always thought just led into a junk room. He stood in amazement and listened again to establish whether he might not be mistaken. For a while there was silence, but then came some more sighs. His first thought was to fetch one of the servitors, it might well have been worth having a witness present, but then he was taken by an uncontrollable curiosity that make him simply yank the door open. It was, as he had thought, a junk room. Old, unusable forms, empty stone ink-bottles lay scattered behind the entrance. But in the cupboard-like room itself stood three men, crouching under the low ceiling. A candle fixed on a shelf gave them light. “What are you doing here?” asked K. quietly, but crossly and without thinking. One of the men was clearly in charge, and attracted attention by being dressed in a kind of dark leather costume which left his neck and chest and his arms exposed. He did not answer. But the other two called out, “Mr. K.! We’re to be beaten because you made a complaint about us to the examining judge.” And now, K. finally realised that it was actually the two policemen, Franz and Willem, and that the third man held a cane in his hand with which to beat them. “Well,” said K., staring at them, “I didn’t make any complaint, I only said what took place in my home. And your behaviour was not entirely unobjectionable, after all.” “Mr. K.,” said Willem, while Franz clearly tried to shelter behind him as protection from the third man, “if you knew how badly we get paid you wouldn’t think so badly of us. I’ve got a family to feed, and Franz here wanted to get married, you just have to get more money where you can, you can’t do it just by working hard, not however hard you try. I was sorely tempted by your fine clothes, policemen aren’t allowed to do that sort of thing, course they aren’t, and it wasn’t right of us, but it’s tradition that the clothes go to the officers, that’s how it’s always been, believe me; and it’s understandable too, isn’t it, what can things like that mean for anyone unlucky enough to be arrested? But if he starts talking about it openly then the punishment has to follow.” “I didn’t know about any of this that you’ve been telling me, and I made no sort of request that you be punished, I was simply acting on principle.” “Franz,” said Willem, turning to the other policeman, “didn’t I tell you that the gentleman didn’t say he wanted us to be punished? Now you can hear for yourself, he didn’t even know we’d have to be punished.” “Don’t you let them persuade you, talking like that,” said the third man to K., “this punishment is both just and unavoidable.” “Don’t listen to him,” said Willem, interrupting himself only to quickly bring his hand to his mouth when it had received a stroke of the cane, “we’re only being punished because you made a complaint against us. Nothing would have happened to us otherwise, not even if they’d found out what we’d done. Can you call that justice? Both of us, me especially, we’d proved our worth as good police officers over a long period – you’ve got to admit yourself that as far as official work was concerned we did the job well – things looked good for us, we had prospects, it’s quite certain that we would’ve been made whip-men too, like this one, only he had the luck not to have anyone make a complaint about him, as you really don’t get many complaints like that. Only that’s all finished now, Mr. K., our careers are at an end, we’re going to have to do work now that’s far inferior to police work and besides all this we’re going to get this terrible, painful beating.” “Can the cane really cause so much pain, then?” asked K., testing the cane that the whip-man swang in front of him. “We’re going to have to strip off totally naked,” said Willem. “Oh, I see,” said K., looking straight at the whip-man, his skin was burned brown like a sailor’s, and his face showed health and vigour. “Is there then no possibility of sparing these two their beating?” he asked him. “No,” said the whip-man, shaking his head with a laugh. “Get undressed!” he ordered the policemen. And to K. he said, “You shouldn’t believe everything they tell you, it’s the fear of being beaten, it’s already made them a bit weak in the head. This one here, for instance,” he pointed at Willem, “all that he told you about his career prospects, it’s just ridiculous. Look at him, look how fat he is – the first strokes of the cane will just get lost in all that fat. Do you know what it is that’s made him so fat? He’s in the habit of, everyone that gets arrested by him, he eats their breakfast. Didn’t he eat up your breakfast? Yeah, I thought as much. But a man with a belly like that can’t be made into a whip-man and never will be, that is quite out of the question.” “There are whip-men like that,” Willem insisted, who had just released the belt of this trousers. “No,” said the whip-man, striking him such a blow with the cane on his neck that it made him wince, “you shouldn’t be listening to this, just get undressed.” “I would make it well worth your while if you would let them go,” said K., and without looking at the whip-man again – as such matters are best carried on with both pairs of eyes turned down – he pulled out his wallet. “And then you’d try and put in a complaint against me, too,” said the whip-man, “and get me flogged. No, no!” “Now, do be reasonable,” said K., “if I had wanted to get these two punished I would not now be trying to buy their freedom, would I. I could simply close the door here behind me, go home and see or hear nothing more of it. But that’s not what I’m doing, it really is of much more importance to me to let them go free; if I had realised they would be punished, or even that they might be punished, I would never have named them in the first place as they are not the ones I hold responsible. It’s the organisation that’s to blame, the high officials are the ones to blame.” “That’s how it is!” shouted the policemen, who then immediately received another blow on their backs, which were by now exposed. “If you had a senior judge here beneath your stick,” said K., pressing down the cane as he spoke to stop it being raised once more, “I really would do nothing to stop you, on the contrary, I would even pay you money to give you all the more strength.” “Yeah, that’s all very plausible, what you’re saying there,” said the whip-man, “only I’m not the sort of person you can bribe. It’s my job to flog people, so I flog them.” Franz, the policeman, had been fairly quiet so far, probably in expectation of a good result from K.’s intervention, but now he stepped forward to the door wearing just his trousers, kneeled down hanging on to K.’s arm and whispered, “Even if you can’t get mercy shown for both of us, at least try and get me set free. Willem is older than me, he’s less sensitive than me in every way, he even got a light beating a couple of years ago, but my record’s still clean, I only did things the way I did because Willem led me on to it, he’s been my teacher both for good and bad. Down in front of the bank my poor bride is waiting for me at the entrance, I’m so ashamed of myself, it’s pitiful.” His face was flowing over with tears, and he wiped it dry on K.’s coat. “I’m not going to wait any longer,” said the whip-man, taking hold of the cane in both hands and laying in to Franz while Willem cowered back in a corner and looked on secretly, not even daring to turn his head. Then, the sudden scream that shot out from Franz was long and irrevocable, it seemed to come not from a human being but from an instrument that was being tortured, the whole corridor rang with it, it must have been heard by everyone in the building. “Don’t shout like that!”, called out K., unable to prevent himself, and, as he looked anxiously in the direction from which the servitor would come, he gave Franz a shove, not hard, but hard enough for him to fall down unconscious, clawing at the ground with his hands by reflex; he still did not avoid being hit; the rod still found him on the floor; the tip of the rod swang regularly up and down while he rolled to and fro under its blows. And now one of the servitors appeared in the distance, with another a few steps behind him. K. had quickly thrown the door shut, gone over to one of the windows overlooking the yard and opened it. The screams had completely stopped. So that the servitor wouldn’t come in, he called out, “It’s only me!” “Good evening, chief clerk,” somebody called back. “Is there anything wrong?” “No, no,” answered K., “it’s only a dog yelping in the yard.” There was no sound from the servitors so he added, “You can go back to what you were doing.” He did not want to become involved with a conversation with them, and so he leant out of the window. A little while later, when he looked out in the corridor, they had already gone. Now, K. remained at the window, he did not dare go back into the junk room, and he did not want to go home either. The yard he looked down into was small and rectangular, all around it were offices, all the windows were now dark and only those at the very top caught a reflection of the moon. K tried hard to see into the darkness of one corner of the yard, where a few handcarts had been left behind one another. He felt anguish at not having been able to prevent the flogging, but that was not his fault, if Franz had not screamed like that – clearly it must have caused a great deal of pain but it’s important to maintain control of oneself at important moments – if Franz had not screamed then it was at least highly probable that K. would have been able to dissuade the whip-man. If all the junior officers were contemptible why would the whip-man, whose position was the most inhumane of all, be any exception, and K. had noticed very clearly how his eyes had lit up when he saw the banknotes, he had obviously only seemed serious about the flogging to raise the level of the bribe a little. And K. had not been ungenerous, he really had wanted to get the policemen freed; if he really had now begun to do something against the degeneracy of the court then it was a matter of course that he would have to do something here as well. But of course, it became impossible for him to do anything as soon as Franz started screaming. K. could not possibly have let the junior bank staff, and perhaps even all sorts of other people, come along and catch him by surprise as he haggled with those people in the junk room. Nobody could really expect that sort of sacrifice of him. If that had been his intention then it would almost have been easier, K. would have taken his own clothes off and offered himself to the whip-man in the policemen’s place. The whip-man would certainly not have accepted this substitution anyway, as in that way he would have seriously violated his duty without gaining any benefit. He would most likely have violated his duty twice over, as court employees were probably under orders not to cause any harm to K. while he was facing charges, although there may have been special conditions in force here. However things stood, K. was able to do no more than throw the door shut, even though that would still do nothing to remove all the dangers he faced. It was regrettable that he had given Franz a shove, and it could only be excused by the heat of the moment.

In the distance, he heard the steps of the servitors; he did not want them to be too aware of his presence, so he closed the window and walked towards the main staircase. At the door of the junk room he stopped and listened for a little while. All was silent. The two policemen were entirely at the whip-man’s mercy; he could have beaten them to death. K. reached his hand out for the door handle but drew it suddenly back. He was no longer in any position to help anyone, and the servitors would soon be back; he did, though, promise himself that he would raise the matter again with somebody and see that, as far as it was in his power, those who really were guilty, the high officials whom nobody had so far dared point out to him, received their due punishment. As he went down the main stairway at the front of the bank, he looked carefully round at everyone who was passing, but there was no girl to be seen who might have been waiting for somebody, not even within some distance from the bank. Franz’s claim that his bride was waiting for him was thus shown to be a lie, albeit one that was forgivable and intended only to elicit more sympathy.

The policemen were still on K.’s mind all through the following day; he was unable to concentrate on his work and had to stay in his office a little longer than the previous day so that he could finish it. On the way home, as he passed by the junk room again, he opened its door as if that had been his habit. Instead of the darkness he expected, he saw everything unchanged from the previous evening, and did not know how he should respond. Everything was exactly the same as he had seen it when he had opened the door the previous evening. The forms and bottles of ink just inside the doorway, the whip-man with his cane, the two policemen, still undressed, the candle on the shelf, and the two policemen began to wail and call out “Mr. K.!” K. slammed the door immediately shut, and even thumped on it with his fists as if that would shut it all the firmer. Almost in tears, he ran to the servitors working quietly at the copying machine. “Go and get that junk room cleared out!” he shouted, and, in amazement, they stopped what they were doing. “It should have been done long ago, we’re sinking in dirt!” They would be able to do the job the next day, K. nodded, it was too late in the evening to make them do it there and then as he had originally intended. He sat down briefly in order to keep them near him for a little longer, looked through a few of the copies to give the impression that he was checking them and then, as he saw that they would not dare to leave at the same time as himself, went home tired and with his mind numb.

The Trial by Franz Kafka

The Trial, Chapter Four

by Franz Kafka

Miss Bürstner’s Friend

For some time after this, K. found it impossible to exchange even just a few words with Miss Bürstner. He tried to reach her in many and various ways but she always found a way to avoid it. He would come straight home from the office, remain in her room without the light on, and sit on the sofa with nothing more to distract him than keeping watch on the empty hallway. If the maid went by and closed the door of the apparently empty room he would get up after a while and open it again. He got up an hour earlier than usual in the morning so that he might perhaps find Miss Bürstner alone as she went to the office. But none of these efforts brought any success. Then he wrote her a letter, both to the office and the flat, attempting once more to justify his behaviour, offered to make whatever amends he could, promised never to cross whatever boundary she might set him and begged merely to have the chance to speak to her some time, especially as he was unable to do anything with Mrs. Grubach either until he had spoken with Miss Bürstner, he finally informed her that the following Sunday he would stay in his room all day waiting for a sign from her that there was some hope of his request being fulfilled, or at least that she would explain to him why she could not fulfil it even though he had promised to observe whatever stipulations she might make. The letters were not returned, but there was no answer either. However, on the following Sunday there was a sign that seemed clear enough. It was still early when K. noticed, through the keyhole, that there was an unusual level of activity in the hallway which soon abated. A French teacher, although she was German and called Montag, a pale and febrile girl with a slight limp who had previously occupied a room of her own, was moving into Miss Bürstner’s room. She could be seen shuffling through the hallway for several hours, there was always another piece of clothing or a blanket or a book that she had forgotten and had to be fetched specially and brought into the new home.

When Mrs. Grubach brought K. his breakfast – ever since the time when she had made K. so cross she didn’t trust the maid to do the slightest job – he had no choice but to speak to her, for the first time in five days. “Why is there so much noise in the hallway today?” he asked as she poured his coffee out, “Can’t something be done about it? Does this clearing out have to be done on a Sunday?” K. did not look up at Mrs. Grubach, but he saw nonetheless that she seemed to feel some relief as she breathed in. Even sharp questions like this from Mr. K. she perceived as forgiveness, or as the beginning of forgiveness. “We’re not clearing anything out, Mr. K.,” she said, “it’s just that Miss Montag is moving in with Miss Bürstner and is moving her things across.” She said nothing more, but just waited to see how K. would take it and whether he would allow her to carry on speaking. But K. kept her in uncertainty, took the spoon and pensively stirred his coffee while he remained silent. Then he looked up at her and said, “What about the suspicions you had earlier about Miss Bürstner, have you given them up?” “Mr. K.,” called Mrs. Grubach, who had been waiting for this very question, as she put her hands together and held them out towards him. “I just made a chance remark and you took it so badly. I didn’t have the slightest intention of offending anyone, not you or anyone else. You’ve known me for long enough, Mr. K., I’m sure you’re convinced of that. You don’t know how I’ve been suffering for the past few days! That I should tell lies about my tenants! And you, Mr. K., you believed it! And said I should give you notice! Give you notice!” At this last outcry, Mrs. Grubach was already choking back her tears, she raised her apron to her face and blubbered out loud.

“Oh, don’t cry Mrs. Grubach,” said K., looking out the window, he was thinking only of Miss Bürstner and how she was accepting an unknown girl into her room. “Now don’t cry,” he said again as he turned his look back into the room where Mrs. Grubach was still crying. “I meant no harm either when I said that. It was simply a misunderstanding between us. That can happen even between old friends sometimes.” Mrs. Grubach pulled her apron down to below her eyes to see whether K. really was attempting a reconciliation. “Well, yes, that’s how it is,” said K., and as Mrs. Grubach’s behaviour indicated that the captain had said nothing he dared to add, “Do you really think, then, that I’d want to make an enemy of you for the sake of a girl we hardly know?” “Yes, you’re quite right, Mr. K.,” said Mrs. Grubach, and then, to her misfortune, as soon as she felt just a little freer to speak, she added something rather inept. “I kept asking myself why it was that Mr. K. took such an interest in Miss Bürstner. Why does he quarrel with me over her when he knows that any cross word from him and I can’t sleep that night? And I didn’t say anything about Miss Bürstner that I hadn’t seen with my own eyes.” K. said nothing in reply, he should have chased her from the room as soon as she had opened her mouth, and he didn’t want to do that. He contented himself with merely drinking his coffee and letting Mrs. Grubach feel that she was superfluous. Outside, the dragging steps of Miss Montag could still be heard as she went from one side of the hallway to the other. “Do you hear that?” asked K. pointing his hand at the door. “Yes,” said Mrs. Grubach with a sigh, “I wanted to give her some help and I wanted the maid to help her too but she’s stubborn, she wants to move everything in herself. I wonder at Miss Bürstner. I often feel it’s a burden for me to have Miss Montag as a tenant but Miss Bürstner accepts her into her room with herself.” “There’s nothing there for you to worry about” said K., crushing the remains of a sugar lump in his cup. “Does she cause you any trouble?” “No,” said Mrs. Grubach, “in itself it’s very good to have her there, it makes another room free for me and I can let my nephew, the captain, occupy it. I began to worry he might be disturbing you when I had to let him live in the living room next to you over the last few days. He’s not very considerate.” “What an idea!” said K. standing up, “there’s no question of that. You seem to think that because I can’t stand this to-ing and fro-ing of Miss Montag that I’m over-sensitive – and there she goes back again.” Mrs. Grubach appeared quite powerless. “Should I tell her to leave moving the rest of her things over till later, then, Mr. K.? If that’s what you want I’ll do it immediately.” “But she has to move in with Miss Bürstner!” said K. “Yes,” said Mrs. Grubach, without quite understanding what K. meant. “So she has to take her things over there.” Mrs. Grubach just nodded. K. was irritated all the more by this dumb helplessness which, seen from the outside, could have seemed like a kind of defiance on her part. He began to walk up and down the room between the window and the door, thus depriving Mrs. Grubach of the chance to leave, which she otherwise probably would have done.

Just as K. once more reached the door, someone knocked at it. It was the maid, to say that Miss Montag would like to have a few words with Mr. K., and therefore requested that he come to the dining room where she was waiting for him. K. heard the maid out thoughtfully, and then looked back at the shocked Mrs. Grubach in a way that was almost contemptuous. His look seemed to be saying that K. had been expecting this invitation for Miss Montag for a long time, and that it was confirmation of the suffering he had been made to endure that Sunday morning from Mrs. Grubach’s tenants. He sent the maid back with the reply that he was on his way, then he went to the wardrobe to change his coat, and in answer to Mrs. Grubach’s gentle whining about the nuisance Miss Montag was causing merely asked her to clear away the breakfast things. “But you’ve hardly touched it,” said Mrs. Grubach. “Oh just take it away!” shouted K. It seemed to him that Miss Montag was mixed up in everything and made it repulsive to him.

As he went through the hallway he looked at the closed door of Miss Bürstner’s room. But it wasn’t there that he was invited, but the dining room, to which he yanked the door open without knocking.

The room was long but narrow with one window. There was only enough space available to put two cupboards at an angle in the corner by the door, and the rest of the room was entirely taken up with the long dining table which started by the door and reached all the way to the great window, which was thus made almost inaccessible. The table was already laid for a large number of people, as on Sundays almost all the tenants ate their dinner here at midday.

When K. entered, Miss Montag came towards him from the window along one side of the table. They greeted each other in silence. Then Miss Montag, her head unusually erect as always, said, “I’m not sure whether you know me.” K. looked at her with a frown. “Of course I do,” he said, “you’ve been living here with Mrs. Grubach for quite some time now.” “But I get the impression you don’t pay much attention to what’s going on in the lodging house,” said Miss Montag. “No,” said K. “Would you not like to sit down?” said Miss Montag. In silence, the two of them drew chairs out from the farthest end of the table and sat down facing each other. But Miss Montag stood straight up again as she had left her handbag on the window sill and went to fetch it; she shuffled down the whole length of the room. When she came back, the handbag lightly swinging, she said, “I’d like just to have a few words with you on behalf of my friend. She would have come herself, but she’s feeling a little unwell today. Perhaps you’ll be kind enough to forgive her and listen to me instead. There’s anyway nothing that she could have said that I won’t. On the contrary, in fact, I think I can say even more than her because I’m relatively impartial. Would you not agree?” “What is there to say, then?” answered K., who was tired of Miss Montag continuously watching his lips. In that way she took control of what he wanted to say before he said it. “Miss Bürstner clearly refuses to grant me the personal meeting that I asked her for.” “That’s how it is,” said Miss Montag, “or rather, that’s not at all how it is, the way you put it is remarkably severe. Generally speaking, meetings are neither granted nor the opposite. But it can be that meetings are considered unnecessary, and that’s how it is here. Now, after your comment, I can speak openly. You asked my friend, verbally or in writing, for the chance to speak with her. Now my friend is aware of your reasons for asking for this meeting – or at least I suppose she is – and so, for reasons I know nothing about, she is quite sure that it would be of no benefit to anyone if this meeting actually took place. Moreover, it was only yesterday, and only very briefly, that she made it clear to me that such a meeting could be of no benefit for yourself either, she feels that it can only have been a matter of chance that such an idea came to you, and that even without any explanations from her, you will very soon come to realise yourself, if you have not done so already, the futility of your idea. My answer to that is that although it may be quite right, I consider it advantageous, if the matter is to be made perfectly clear, to give you an explicit answer. I offered my services in taking on the task, and after some hesitation my friend conceded. I hope, however, also to have acted in your interests, as even the slightest uncertainty in the least significant of matters will always remain a cause of suffering and if, as in this case, it can be removed without substantial effort, then it is better if that is done without delay.” “I thank you,” said K. as soon as Miss Montag had finished. He stood slowly up, looked at her, then across the table, then out the window – the house opposite stood there in the sun – and went to the door. Miss Montag followed him a few paces, as if she did not quite trust him. At the door, however, both of them had to step back as it opened and Captain Lanz entered. This was the first time that K. had seen him close up. He was a large man of about forty with a tanned, fleshy face. He bowed slightly, intending it also for K., and then went over to Miss Montag and deferentially kissed her hand. He was very elegant in the way he moved. The courtesy he showed towards Miss Montag made a striking contrast with the way she had been treated by K. Nonetheless, Miss Montag did not seem to be cross with K. as it even seemed to him that she wanted to introduce the captain. K. however, did not want to be introduced, he would not have been able to show any sort of friendliness either to Miss Montag or to the captain, the kiss on the hand had, for K., bound them into a group which would keep him at a distance from Miss Bürstner whilst at the same time seeming to be totally harmless and unselfish. K. thought, however, that he saw more than that, he thought he also saw that Miss Montag had chosen a means of doing it that was good, but two-edged. She exaggerated the importance of the relationship between K. and Miss Bürstner, and above all she exaggerated the importance of asking to speak with her and she tried at the same time to make out that K. was exaggerating everything. She would be disappointed, K. did not want to exaggerate anything, he was aware that Miss Bürstner was a little typist who would not offer him much resistance for long. In doing so he deliberately took no account of what Mrs. Grubach had told him about Miss Bürstner. All these things were going through his mind as he left the room with hardly a polite word. He wanted to go straight to his room, but a little laugh from Miss Montag that he heard from the dining room behind him brought him to the idea that he might prepare a surprise for the two of them, the captain and Miss Montag. He looked round and listened to find out if there might be any disturbance from any of the surrounding rooms, everywhere was quiet, the only thing to be heard was the conversation from the dining room and Mrs. Grubach’s voice from the passage leading to the kitchen. This seemed an opportune time, K. went to Miss Bürstner’s room and knocked gently. There was no sound so he knocked again but there was still no answer in reply. Was she asleep? Or was she really unwell? Or was she just pretending as she realised it could only be K. knocking so gently? K. assumed she was pretending and knocked harder, eventually, when the knocking brought no result, he carefully opened the door with the sense of doing something that was not only improper but also pointless. In the room there was no-one. What’s more, it looked hardly at all like the room K. had known before. Against the wall there were now two beds behind one another, there were clothes piled up on three chairs near the door, a wardrobe stood open. Miss Bürstner must have gone out while Miss Montag was speaking to him in the dining room. K. was not greatly bothered by this, he had hardly expected to be able to find Miss Bürstner so easily and had made this attempt for little more reason than to spite Miss Montag. But that made it all the more embarrassing for him when, as he was closing the door again, he saw Miss Montag and the captain talking in the open doorway of the dining room. They had probably been standing there ever since K. had opened the door, they avoided seeming to observe K. but chatted lightly and followed his movements with glances, the absent minded glances to the side such as you make during a conversation. But these glances were heavy for K., and he rushed alongside the wall back into his own room.

The Trial by Franz Kafka


The Trial, Chapter Three

by Franz Kafka

In the empty Courtroom – The Student – The Offices

Every day over the following week, K. expected another summons to arrive, he could not believe that his rejection of any more hearings had been taken literally, and when the expected summons really had not come by Saturday evening he took it to mean that he was expected, without being told, to appear at the same place at the same time. So on Sunday, he set out once more in the same direction, going without hesitation up the steps and through the corridors; some of the people remembered him and greeted him from their doorways, but he no longer needed to ask anyone the way and soon arrived at the right door. It was opened as soon as he knocked and, paying no attention to the woman he had seen last time who was standing at the doorway, he was about to go straight into the adjoining room when she said to him “There’s no session today”. “What do you mean; no session?” he asked, unable to believe it. But the woman persuaded him by opening the door to the next room. It was indeed empty, and looked even more dismal empty than it had the previous Sunday. On the podium stood the table exactly as it had been before with a few books laying on it. “Can I have a look at those books?” asked K., not because he was especially curious but so that he would not have come for nothing. “No,” said the woman as she re-closed the door, “that’s not allowed. Those books belong to the examining judge.” “I see,” said K., and nodded, “those books must be law books, and that’s how this court does things, not only to try people who are innocent but even to try them without letting them know what’s going on.” “I expect you’re right,” said the woman, who had not understood exactly what he meant. “I’d better go away again, then,” said K. “Should I give a message to the examining judge?” asked the woman. “Do you know him, then?” asked K. “Of course I know him,” said the woman, “my husband is the court usher.” It was only now that K. noticed that the room, which before had held nothing but a wash-tub, had been fitted out as a living room. The woman saw how surprised he was and said, “Yes, we’re allowed to live here as we like, only we have to clear the room out when the court’s in session. There’s lots of disadvantages to my husband’s job.” “It’s not so much the room that surprises me,” said K., looking at her crossly, “it’s your being married that shocks me.” “Are you thinking about what happened last time the court was in session, when I disturbed what you were saying?” asked the woman. “Of course,” said K., “it’s in the past now and I’ve nearly forgotten about it, but at the time it made me furious. And now you tell me yourself that you are a married woman.” “It wasn’t any disadvantage for you to have your speech interrupted. The way they talked about you after you’d gone was really bad.” “That could well be,” said K., turning away, “but it does not excuse you.” “There’s no-one I know who’d hold it against me,” said the woman. “Him, who put his arms around me, he’s been chasing after me for a long time. I might not be very attractive for most people, but I am for him. I’ve got no protection from him, even my husband has had to get used to it; if he wants to keep his job he’s got to put up with it as that man’s a student and he’ll almost certainly be very powerful later on. He’s always after me, he’d only just left when you arrived.” “That fits in with everything else,” said K., “I’m not surprised.” “Do you want to make things a bit better here?” the woman asked slowly, watching him as if she were saying something that could be as dangerous for K. as for herself. “That’s what I thought when I heard you speak, I really liked what you said. Mind you, I only heard part of it, I missed the beginning of it and at the end I was lying on the floor with the student – it’s so horrible here,” she said after a pause, and took hold of K.’s hand. “Do you believe you really will be able to make things better?” K. smiled and twisted his hand round a little in her soft hands. “It’s really not my job to make things better here, as you put it,” he said, “and if you said that to the examining judge he would laugh at you or punish you for it. I really would not have become involved in this matter if I could have helped it, and I would have lost no sleep worrying about how this court needs to be made better. But because I’m told that I have been arrested – and I am under arrest – it forces me to take some action, and to do so for my own sake. However, if I can be of some service to you in the process I will, of course, be glad to do so. And I will be glad to do so not only for the sake of charity but also because you can be of some help to me.” “How could I help you, then?” said the woman. “You could, for example, show me the books on the table there.” “Yes, certainly,” the woman cried, and pulled K. along behind her as she rushed to them. The books were old and well worn, the cover of one of them had nearly broken through in its middle, and it was held together with a few threads. “Everything is so dirty here,” said K., shaking his head, and before he could pick the books up the woman wiped some of the dust off with her apron. K. took hold of the book that lay on top and threw it open, an indecent picture appeared. A man and a woman sat naked on a sofa, the base intent of whoever drew it was easy to see but he had been so grossly lacking in skill that all that anyone could really make out were the man and the woman who dominated the picture with their bodies, sitting in overly upright postures that created a false perspective and made it difficult for them to approach each other. K. didn’t thumb through that book any more, but just threw open the next one at its title page, it was a novel with the title, What Grete Suffered from her Husband, Hans. “So this is the sort of law book they study here,” said K., “this is the sort of person sitting in judgement over me.” “I can help you,” said the woman, “would you like me to?” “Could you really do that without placing yourself in danger? You did say earlier on that your husband is wholly dependent on his superiors.” “I still want to help you,” said the woman, “come over here, we’ve got to talk about it. Don’t say any more about what danger I’m in, I only fear danger where I want to fear it. Come over here.” She pointed to the podium and invited him to sit down on the step with her. “You’ve got lovely dark eyes,” she said after they had sat down, looking up into K.’s face, “people say I’ve got nice eyes too, but yours are much nicer. It was the first thing I noticed when you first came here. That’s even why I came in here, into the assembly room, afterwards, I’d never normally do that, I’m not really even allowed to.” So that’s what all this is about, thought K., she’s offering herself to me, she’s as degenerate as everything else around here, she’s had enough of the court officials, which is understandable I suppose, and so she approaches any stranger and makes compliments about his eyes. With that, K. stood up in silence as if he had spoken his thoughts out loud and thus explained his action to the woman. “I don’t think you can be of any assistance to me,” he said, “to be of any real assistance you would need to be in contact with high officials. But I’m sure you only know the lower employees, and there are crowds of them milling about here. I’m sure you’re very familiar with them and could achieve a great deal through them, I’ve no doubt of that, but the most that could be done through them would have no bearing at all on the final outcome of the trial. You, on the other hand, would lose some of your friends as a result, and I have no wish of that. Carry on with these people in the same way as you have been, as it does seem to me to be something you cannot do without. I have no regrets in saying this as, in return for your compliment to me, I also find you rather attractive, especially when you look at me as sadly as you are now, although you really have no reason to do so. You belong to the people I have to combat, and you’re very comfortable among them, you’re even in love with the student, or if you don’t love him you do at least prefer him to your husband. It’s easy to see that from what you’ve been saying.” “No!” she shouted, remained sitting where she was and grasped K.’s hand, which he failed to pull away fast enough. “You can’t go away now, you can’t go away when you’ve misjudged me like that! Are you really capable of going away now? Am I really so worthless that you won’t even do me the favour of staying a little bit longer?” “You misunderstand me,” said K., sitting back down, “if it’s really important to you for me to stay here then I’ll be glad to do so, I have plenty of time, I came here thinking there would be a trial taking place. All I meant with what I said just now was to ask you not to do anything on my behalf in the proceedings against me. But even that is nothing for you to worry about when you consider that there’s nothing hanging on the outcome of this trial, and that, whatever the verdict, I will just laugh at it. And that’s even presupposing it ever even reaches any conclusion, which I very much doubt. I think it’s much more likely that the court officials will be too lazy, too forgetful, or even to fearful ever to continue with these proceedings and that they will soon be abandoned if they haven’t been abandoned already. It’s even possible that they will pretend to be carrying on with the trial in the hope of receiving a large bribe, although I can tell you now that that will be quite in vain as I pay bribes to no-one. Perhaps one favour you could do me would be to tell the examining judge, or anyone else who likes to spread important news, that I will never be induced to pay any sort of bribe through any stratagem of theirs – and I’m sure they have many stratagems at their disposal. There is no prospect of that, you can tell them that quite openly. And what’s more, I expect they have already noticed themselves, or even if they haven’t, this affair is really not so important to me as they think. Those gentlemen would only save some work for themselves, or at least some unpleasantness for me, which, however, I am glad to endure if I know that each piece of unpleasantness for me is a blow against them. And I will make quite sure it is a blow against them. Do you actually know the judge?” “Course I do,” said the woman, “he was the first one I thought of when I offered to help you. I didn’t know he’s only a minor official, but if you say so it must be true. Mind you, I still think the report he gives to his superiors must have some influence. And he writes so many reports. You say these officials are lazy, but they’re certainly not all lazy, especially this examining judge, he writes ever such a lot. Last Sunday, for instance, that session went on till the evening. Everyone had gone, but the examining judge, he stayed in the hall, I had to bring him a lamp in, all I had was a little kitchen lamp but he was very satisfied with it and started to write straight away. Meantime my husband arrived, he always has the day off on Sundays, we got the furniture back in and got our room sorted out and then a few of the neighbours came, we sat and talked for a bit by a candle, in short, we forgot all about the examining judge and went to bed. All of a sudden in the night, it must have been quite late in the night, I wakes up, next to the bed, there’s the examining judge shading the lamp with his hand so that there’s no light from it falls on my husband, he didn’t need to be as careful as that, the way my husband sleeps the light wouldn’t have woken him up anyway. I was quite shocked and nearly screamed, but the judge was very friendly, warned me I should be careful, he whispered to me he’s been writing all this time, and now he’s brought me the lamp back, and he’ll never forget how I looked when he found me there asleep. What I mean, with all this, I just wanted to tell you how the examining judge really does write lots of reports, especially about you as questioning you was definitely one of the main things on the agenda that Sunday. If he writes reports as long as that they must be of some importance. And besides all that, you can see from what happened that the examining judge is after me, and it’s right now, when he’s first begun to notice me, that I can have a lot of influence on him. And I’ve got other proof I mean a lot to him, too. Yesterday, he sent that student to me, the one he really trusts and who he works with, he sent him with a present for me, silk stockings. He said it was because I clear up in the courtroom but that’s only a pretence, that job’s no more than what I’m supposed to do, it’s what my husband gets paid for. Nice stockings, they are, look,” – she stretched out her leg, drew her skirt up to her knee and looked, herself, at the stocking – “they are nice stockings, but they’re too good for me, really.” Continue reading

The Trial, Chapter Two

by Franz Kafka

First Cross-examination

K. was informed by telephone that there would be a small hearing concerning his case the following Sunday. He was made aware that these cross examinations would follow one another regularly, perhaps not every week but quite frequently. On the one hand it was in everyone’s interest to bring proceedings quickly to their conclusion, but on the other hand every aspect of the examinations had to be carried out thoroughly without lasting too long because of the associated stress. For these reasons, it had been decided to hold a series of brief examinations following on one after another. Sunday had been chosen as the day for the hearings so that K. would not be disturbed in his professional work. It was assumed that he would be in agreement with this, but if he wished for another date then, as far as possible, he would be accommodated. Cross-examinations could even be held in the night, for instance, but K. would probably not be fresh enough at that time. Anyway, as long as K. made no objection, the hearing would be left on Sundays. It was a matter of course that he would have to appear without fail, there was probably no need to point this out to him. He would be given the number of the building where he was to present himself, which was in a street in a suburb well away from the city centre which K. had never been to before. Continue reading