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.
He was no longer able to get the thought of the trial out of his head. He had often wondered whether it might not be a good idea to work out a written defence and hand it in to the court. It would contain a short description of his life and explain why he had acted the way he had at each event that was in any way important, whether he now considered he had acted well or ill, and his reasons for each. There was no doubt of the advantages a written defence of this sort would have over relying on the lawyer, who was anyway not without his shortcomings. K. had no idea what actions the lawyer was taking; it was certainly not a lot, it was more than a month since the lawyer had summoned him, and none of the previous discussions had given K. the impression that this man would be able to do much for him. Most importantly, he had asked him hardly any questions. And there were so many questions here to be asked. Asking questions were the most important thing. K. had the feeling that he would be able to ask all the questions needed here himself. The lawyer, in contrast, did not ask questions but did all the talking himself or sat silently facing him, leant forward slightly over the desk, probably because he was hard of hearing, pulled on a strand of hair in the middle of his beard and looked down at the carpet, perhaps at the very spot where K. had lain with Leni. Now and then he would give K. some vague warning of the sort you give to children. His speeches were as pointless as they were boring, and K. decided that when the final bill came he would pay not a penny for them. Once the lawyer thought he had humiliated K. sufficiently, he usually started something that would raise his spirits again. He had already, he would then say, won many such cases, partly or in whole, cases which may not really have been as difficult as this one but which, on the face of it, had even less hope of success. He had a list of these cases here in the drawer – here he would tap on one or other of the drawers in his desk – but could, unfortunately, not show them to K. as they dealt with official secrets. Nonetheless, the great experience he had acquired through all these cases would, of course, be of benefit to K. He had, of course, begun work straight away and was nearly ready to submit the first documents. They would be very important because the first impression made by the defence will often determine the whole course of the proceedings. Unfortunately, though, he would still have to make it clear to K. that the first documents submitted are sometimes not even read by the court. They simply put them with the other documents and point out that, for the time being, questioning and observing the accused are much more important than anything written. If the applicant becomes insistent, then they add that before they come to any decision, as soon as all the material has been brought together, with due regard, of course, to all the documents, then these first documents to have been submitted will also be checked over. But unfortunately, even this is not usually true, the first documents submitted are usually mislaid or lost completely, and even if they do keep them right to the end they are hardly read, although the lawyer only knew about this from rumour. This is all very regrettable, but not entirely without its justifications. But K. should not forget that the trial would not be public, if the court deems it necessary it can be made public but there is no law that says it has to be. As a result, the accused and his defence don’t have access even to the court records, and especially not to the indictment, and that means we generally don’t know – or at least not precisely – what the first documents need to be about, which means that if they do contain anything of relevance to the case it’s only by a lucky coincidence. If anything about the individual charges and the reasons for them comes out clearly or can be guessed at while the accused is being questioned, then it’s possible to work out and submit documents that really direct the issue and present proof, but not before. Conditions like this, of course, place the defence in a very unfavourable and difficult position. But that is what they intend. In fact, defence is not really allowed under the law, it’s only tolerated, and there is even some dispute about whether the relevant parts of the law imply even that. So strictly speaking, there is no such thing as a counsel acknowledged by the court, and anyone who comes before this court as counsel is basically no more than a barrack room lawyer. The effect of all this, of course, is to remove the dignity of the whole procedure, the next time K. is in the court offices he might like to have a look in at the lawyers’ room, just so that he’s seen it. He might well be quite shocked by the people he sees assembled there. The room they’ve been allocated, with its narrow space and low ceiling, will be enough to show what contempt the court has for these people. The only light in the room comes through a little window that is so high up that, if you want to look out of it, you first have to get one of your colleagues to support you on his back, and even then the smoke from the chimney just in front of it will go up your nose and make your face black. In the floor of this room – to give yet another example of the conditions there – there is a hole that’s been there for more than a year, it’s not so big that a man could fall through, but it is big enough for your foot to disappear through it. The lawyers’ room is on the second floor of the attic; if your foot does go through it will hang down into the first floor of the attic underneath it, and right in the corridor where the litigants are waiting. It’s no exaggeration when lawyers say that conditions like that are a disgrace. Complaints to the management don’t have the slightest effect, but the lawyers are strictly forbidden to alter anything in the room at their own expense. But even treating the lawyers in this way has its reasons. They want, as far as possible, to prevent any kind of defence, everything should be made the responsibility of the accused. Not a bad point of view, basically, but nothing could be more mistaken than to think from that that lawyers are not necessary for the accused in this court. On the contrary, there is no court where they are less needed than here. This is because proceedings are generally kept secret not only from the public but also from the accused. Only as far as that is possible, of course, but it is possible to a very large extent. And the accused doesn’t get to see the court records either, and it’s very difficult to infer what’s in the court records from what’s been said during questioning based on them, especially for the accused who is in a difficult situation and is faced with every possible worry to distract him. This is when the defence begins. Counsel for the defence are not normally allowed to be present while the accused is being questioned, so afterwards, and if possible still at the door of the interview room, he has to learn what he can about it from him and extract whatever he can that might be of use, even though what the accused has to report is often very confused. But that is not the most important thing, as there’s really not a lot that can be learned in this way, although in this, as with anything else, a competent man will learn more than another. Nonetheless, the most important thing is the lawyer’s personal connections, that’s where the real value of taking counsel lies. Now K. will most likely have already learned from his own experience that, among its very lowest orders, the court organisation does have its imperfections, the court is strictly closed to the public, but staff who forget their duty or who take bribes do, to some extent, show where the gaps are. This is where most lawyers will push their way in, this is where bribes are paid and information extracted, there have even, in earlier times at least, been incidents where documents have been stolen. There’s no denying that some surprisingly favourable results have been attained for the accused in this way, for a limited time, and these petty advocates then strut to and fro on the basis of them and attract new clients, but for the further course of the proceedings it signifies either nothing or nothing good. The only things of real value are honest personal contacts, contacts with higher officials, albeit higher officials of the lower grades, you understand. That is the only way the progress of the trial can be influenced, hardly noticeable at first, it’s true, but from then on it becomes more and more visible. There are, of course, not many lawyers who can do this, and K. has made a very good choice in this matter. There were probably no more than one or two who had as many contacts as Dr. Huld, but they don’t bother with the company of the lawyers’ room and have nothing to do with it. This means they have all the less contact with the court officials. It is not at all necessary for Dr. Huld to go to the court, wait in the ante-rooms for the examining judges to turn up, if they turn up, and try to achieve something which, according to the judges’ mood is usually more apparent than real and most often not even that. No, K. has seen for himself that the court officials, including some who are quite high up, come forward without being asked, are glad to give information which is fully open or at least easy to understand, they discuss the next stages in the proceedings, in fact in some cases they can be won over and are quite willing to adopt the other person’s point of view. However, when this happens, you should never trust them too far, as however firmly they may have declared this new point of view in favour of the defendant they might well go straight back to their offices and write a report for the court that says just the opposite, and might well be even harder on the defendant than the original view, the one they insist they’ve been fully dissuaded from. And, of course, there’s no way of defending yourself from this, something said in private is indeed in private and cannot then be used in public, it’s not something that makes it easy for the defence to keep those gentlemen’s favour. On the other hand, it’s also true that the gentlemen don’t become involved with the defence – which will of course be done with great expertise – just for philanthropic reasons or in order to be friendly, in some respects it would be truer to say that they, too, have it allocated to them. This is where the disadvantages of a court structure that, right from the start, stipulates that all proceedings take place in private, come into force. In normal, mediocre trials its officials have contact with the public, and they’re very well equipped for it, but here they don’t; normal trials run their course all by themselves, almost, and just need a nudge here and there; but when they’re faced with cases that are especially difficult they’re as lost as they often are with ones that are very simple; they’re forced to spend all their time, day and night, with their laws, and so they don’t have the right feel for human relationships, and that’s a serious shortcoming in cases like this. That’s when they come for advice to the lawyer, with a servant behind them carrying the documents which normally are kept so secret. You could have seen many gentlemen at this window, gentlemen of whom you would least expect it, staring out this window in despair on the street below while the lawyer is at his desk studying the documents so that he can give them good advice. And at times like that it’s also possible to see how exceptionally seriously these gentlemen take their professions and how they are thrown into great confusion by difficulties which it’s just not in their natures to overcome. But they’re not in an easy position, to regard their positions as easy would be to do them an injustice. The different ranks and hierarchies of the court are endless, and even someone who knows his way around them cannot always tell what’s going to happen. But even for the junior officials, the proceedings in the courtrooms are usually kept secret, so they are hardly able to see how the cases they work with proceed, court affairs appear in their range of vision often without their knowing where they come from and they move on further without their learning where they go. So civil servants like this are not able to learn the things you can learn from studying the successive stages that individual trials go through, the final verdict or the reasons for it. They’re only allowed to deal with that part of the trial which the law allocates them, and they usually know less about the results of their work after it’s left them than the defence does, even though the defence will usually stay in contact with the accused until the trial is nearly at its end, so that the court officials can learn many useful things from the defence. Bearing all this in mind, does it still surprise K. that the officials are irritated and often express themselves about the litigants in unflattering ways – which is an experience shared by everyone. All the officials are irritated, even when they appear calm. This causes many difficulties for the junior advocates, of course. There is a story, for instance, that has very much the ring of truth about it. It goes like this: One of the older officials, a good and peaceful man, was dealing with a difficult matter for the court which had become very confused, especially thanks to the contributions from the lawyers. He had been studying it for a day and a night without a break – as these officials are indeed hard working, no-one works as hard as they do. When it was nearly morning, and he had been working for twenty-four hours with probably very little result, he went to the front entrance, waited there in ambush, and every time a lawyer tried to enter the building he would throw him down the steps. The lawyers gathered together down in front of the steps and discussed with each other what they should do; on the one hand they had actually no right to be allowed into the building so that there was hardly anything that they could legally do to the official and, as I’ve already mentioned, they would have to be careful not to set all the officials against them. On the other hand, any day not spent in court is a day lost for them and it was a matter of some importance to force their way inside. In the end, they agreed that they would try to tire the old man out. One lawyer after another was sent out to run up the steps and let himself be thrown down again, offering what resistance he could as long as it was passive resistance, and his colleagues would catch him at the bottom of the steps. That went on for about an hour until the old gentleman, who was already exhausted from working all night, was very tired and went back to his office. Those who were at the bottom of the steps could not believe it at first, so they sent somebody out to go and look behind the door to see if there really was no-one there, and only then did they all gather together and probably didn’t even dare to complain, as it’s far from being the lawyers’ job to introduce any improvements in the court system, or even to want to. Even the most junior lawyer can understand the relationship there to some extent, but one significant point is that almost every defendant, even very simple people, begins to think of suggestions for improving the court as soon as his proceedings have begun, many of them often even spend time and energy on the matter that could be spent far better elsewhere. The only right thing to do is to learn how to deal with the situation as it is. Even if it were possible to improve any detail of it – which is anyway no more than superstitious nonsense – the best that they could achieve, although doing themselves incalculable harm in the process, is that they will have attracted the special attention of the officials for any case that comes up in the future, and the officials are always ready to seek revenge. Never attract attention to yourself! Stay calm, however much it goes against your character! Try to gain some insight into the size of the court organism and how, to some extent, it remains in a state of suspension, and that even if you alter something in one place you’ll draw the ground out from under your feet and might fall, whereas if an enormous organism like the court is disrupted in any one place it finds it easy to provide a substitute for itself somewhere else. Everything is connected with everything else and will continue without any change or else, which is quite probable, even more closed, more attentive, more strict, more malevolent. So it’s best to leave the work to the lawyers and not to keep disturbing them. It doesn’t do much good to make accusations, especially if you can’t make it clear what they’re based on and their full significance, but it must be said that K. caused a great deal of harm to his own case by his behaviour towards the office director, he was a very influential man but now he might as well be struck off the list of those who might do anything for K. If the trial is mentioned, even just in passing, it’s quite obvious that he’s ignoring it. These officials are in many ways just like children. Often, something quite harmless – although K.’s behaviour could unfortunately not be called harmless – will leave them feeling so offended that they will even stop talking with good friends of theirs, they turn away when they see them and do everything they can to oppose them. But then, with no particular reason, surprisingly enough, some little joke that was only ever attempted because everything seemed so hopeless will make them laugh and they’ll be reconciled. It’s both difficult and hard at the same time to deal with them, and there’s hardly any reason for it. It’s sometimes quite astonishing that a single, average life is enough to encompass so much that it’s at all possible ever to have any success in one’s work here. On the other hand, there are also dark moments, such as everyone has, when you think you’ve achieved nothing at all, when it seems that the only trials to come to a good end are those that were determined to have a good end from the start and would do so without any help, while all the others are lost despite all the running to and fro, all the effort, all the little, apparent successes that gave such joy. Then you no longer feel very sure of anything and, if asked about a trial that was doing well by its own nature but which was turned for the worse because you assisted in it, would not even dare deny that. And even that is a kind of self- confidence, but then it’s the only one that’s left. Lawyers are especially vulnerable to fits of depression of that sort – and they are no more than fits of depression of course – when a case is suddenly taken out of their hands after they’ve been conducting it satisfactorily for some time. That’s probably the worst that can happen to a lawyer. It’s not that the accused takes the case away from him, that hardly ever happens, once a defendant has taken on a certain lawyer he has to stay with him whatever happens. How could he ever carry on by himself after he’s taken on help from a lawyer? No, that just doesn’t happen, but what does sometimes happen is that the trial takes on a course where the lawyer may not go along with it. Client and trial are both simply taken away from the lawyer; and then even contact with the court officials won’t help, however good they are, as they don’t know anything themselves. The trial will have entered a stage where no more help can be given, where it’s being processed in courts to which no-one has any access, where the defendant cannot even be contacted by his lawyer. You come home one day and find all the documents you’ve submitted, which you’ve worked hard to create and which you had the best hopes for, lying on the desk, they’ve been sent back as they can’t be carried through to the next stage in the trial, they’re just worthless scraps of paper. It doesn’t mean that the case has been lost, not at all, or at least there is no decisive reason for supposing so, it’s just that you don’t know anything more about the case and won’t be told anything of what’s happening. Well, cases like that are the exceptions, I’m glad to say, and even if K.’s trial is one of them, it’s still, for the time being, a long way off. But there was still plenty of opportunity for lawyers to get to work, and K. could be sure they would be made use of. As he had said, the time for submitting documents was still in the future and there was no rush to prepare them, it was much more important to start the initial discussions with the appropriate officials, and they had already taken place. With varying degrees of success, it must be said. It was much better not to give away any details before their time, as in that way K. could only be influenced unfavourably and his hopes might be raised or he might be made too anxious, better just to say that some individuals have spoken very favourably and shown themselves very willing to help, although others have spoken less favourably, but even they have not in any way refused to help. So all in all, the results are very encouraging, only you should certainly not draw any particular conclusions as all preliminary proceedings begin in the same way and it was only the way they developed further that would show what the value of these preliminary proceedings has been. Anyway, nothing has been lost yet, and if we can succeed in getting the office director, despite everything, on our side – and several actions have been undertaken to this end – then everything is a clean wound, as a surgeon would say, and we can wait for the results with some comfort.
When he started talking on in this way the lawyer was quite tireless. He went through it all again every time K. went to see him. There was always some progress, but he could never be told what sort of progress it was. The first set of documents to be submitted were being worked on but still not ready, which usually turned out to be a great advantage the next time K. went to see him as the earlier occasion would have been a very bad time to put them in, which they could not then have known. If K., stupefied from all this talking, ever pointed out that even considering all these difficulties progress was very slow, the lawyer would object that progress was not slow at all, but that they might have progressed far further if K. had come to him at the right time. But he had come to him late and that lateness would bring still further difficulties, and not only where time was concerned. The only welcome interruption during these visits was always when Leni contrived to bring the lawyer his tea while K. was there. Then she would stand behind K. – pretending to watch the lawyer as he bent greedily over his cup, poured the tea in and drank – and secretly let K. hold her hand. There was always complete silence. The lawyer drank. K. squeezed Leni’s hand and Leni would sometimes dare to gently stroke K.’s hair. “Still here, are you?” the lawyer would ask when he was ready. “I wanted to take the dishes away,” said Leni, they would give each other’s hands a final squeeze, the lawyer would wipe his mouth and then start talking at K. again with renewed energy.
Was the lawyer trying to comfort K. or to confuse him? K. could not tell, but it seemed clear to him that his defence was not in good hands. Maybe everything the lawyer said was quite right, even though he obviously wanted to make himself as conspicuous as possible and probably had never even taken on a case as important as he said K.’s was. But it was still suspicious how he continually mentioned his personal contacts with the civil servants. Were they to be exploited solely for K.’s benefit? The lawyer never forgot to mention that they were dealing only with junior officials, which meant officials who were dependent on others, and the direction taken in each trial could be important for their own furtherment. Could it be that they were making use of the lawyer to turn trials in a certain direction, which would, of course, always be at the cost of the defendant? It certainly did not mean that they would do that in every trial, that was not likely at all, and there were probably also trials where they gave the lawyer advantages and all the room he needed to turn it in the direction he wanted, as it would also be to their advantage to keep his reputation intact. If that really was their relationship, how would they direct K.’s trial which, as the lawyer had explained, was especially difficult and therefore important enough to attract great attention from the very first time it came to court? There could not be much doubt about what they would do. The first signs of it could already be seen in the fact that the first documents still had not been submitted even though the trial had already lasted several months, and that, according to the lawyer, everything was still in its initial stages, which was very effective, of course, in making the defendant passive and keeping him helpless. Then he could be suddenly surprised with the verdict, or at least with a notification that the hearing had not decided in his favour and the matter would be passed on to a higher office.
It was essential that K. take a hand in it himself. On winter’s mornings such as this, when he was very tired and everything dragged itself lethargically through his head, this belief of his seemed irrefutable. He no longer felt the contempt for the trial that he had had earlier. If he had been alone in the world it would have been easy for him to ignore it, although it was also certain that, in that case, the trial would never have arisen in the first place. But now, his uncle had already dragged him to see the lawyer, he had to take account of his family; his job was no longer totally separate from the progress of the trial, he himself had carelessly – with a certain, inexplicable complacency – mentioned it to acquaintances and others had learned about it in ways he did not know, his relationship with Miss Bürstner seemed to be in trouble because of it. In short, he no longer had any choice whether he would accept the trial or turn it down, he was in the middle of it and had to defend himself. If he was tired, then that was bad.
But there was no reason to worry too much before he needed to. He had been capable of working himself up to his high position in the bank in a relatively short time and to retain it with respect from everyone, now he simply had to apply some of the talents that had made that possible for him to the trial, and there was no doubt that it had to turn out well. The most important thing, if something was to be achieved, was to reject in advance any idea that he might be in any way guilty. There was no guilt. The trial was nothing but a big piece of business, just like he had already concluded to the benefit of the bank many times, a piece of business that concealed many lurking dangers waiting in ambush for him, as they usually did, and these dangers would need to be defended against. If that was to be achieved then he must not entertain any idea of guilt, whatever he did, he would need to look after his own interests as closely as he could. Seen in this way, there was no choice but to take his representation away from the lawyer very soon, at best that very evening. The lawyer had told him, as he talked to him, that that was something unheard of and would probably do him a great deal of harm, but K. could not tolerate any impediment to his efforts where his trial was concerned, and these impediments were probably caused by the lawyer himself. But once he had shaken off the lawyer the documents would need to be submitted straight away and, if possible, he would need to see to it that they were being dealt with every day. It would of course not be enough, if that was to be done, for K. to sit in the corridor with his hat under the bench like the others. Day after day, he himself, or one of the women or somebody else on his behalf, would have to run after the officials and force them to sit at their desks and study K.’s documents instead of looking out on the corridor through the grating. There could be no let-up in these efforts, everything would need to be organised and supervised, it was about time that the court came up against a defendant who knew how to defend and make use of his rights.
But when K. had the confidence to try and do all this the difficulty of composing the documents was too much for him. Earlier, just a week or so before, he could only have felt shame at the thought of being made to write out such documents himself; it had never entered his head that the task could also be difficult. He remembered one morning when, already piled up with work, he suddenly shoved everything to one side and took a pad of paper on which he sketched out some of his thoughts on how documents of this sort should proceed. Perhaps he would offer them to that slow-witted lawyer, but just then the door of the manager’s office opened and the deputy-director entered the room with a loud laugh. K. was very embarrassed, although the deputy-director, of course, was not laughing at K.’s documents, which he knew nothing about, but at a joke he had just heard about the stock-exchange, a joke which needed an illustration if it was to be understood, and now the deputy- director leant over K.’s desk, took his pencil from his hand, and drew the illustration on the writing pad that K. had intended for his ideas about his case.
K. now had no more thoughts of shame, the documents had to be prepared and submitted. If, as was very likely, he could find no time to do it in the office he would have to do it at home at night. If the nights weren’t enough he would have to take a holiday. Above all, he could not stop half way, that was nonsense not only in business but always and everywhere. Needless to say, the documents would mean an almost endless amount of work. It was easy to come to the belief, not only for those of an anxious disposition, that it was impossible ever to finish it. This was not because of laziness or deceit, which were the only things that might have hindered the lawyer in preparing it, but because he did not know what the charge was or even what consequences it might bring, so that he had to remember every tiny action and event from the whole of his life, looking at them from all sides and checking and reconsidering them. It was also a very disheartening job. It would have been more suitable as a way of passing the long days after he had retired and become senile. But now, just when K. needed to apply all his thoughts to his work, when he was still rising and already posed a threat to the deputy-director, when every hour passed so quickly and he wanted to enjoy the brief evenings and nights as a young man, this was the time he had to start working out these documents. Once more, he began to feel resentment. Almost involuntarily, only to put an end to it, his finger felt for the button of the electric bell in the ante-room. As he pressed it he glanced up to the clock. It was eleven o’clock, two hours, he had spent a great deal of his costly time just dreaming and his wits were, of course, even more dulled than they had been before. But the time had, nonetheless, not been wasted, he had come to some decisions that could be of value. As well as various pieces of mail, the servitors brought two visiting cards from gentlemen who had already been waiting for K. for some time. They were actually very important clients of the bank who should not really have been kept waiting under any circumstances. Why had they come at such an awkward time, and why, the gentlemen on the other side of the closed door seemed to be asking, was the industrious K. using up the best business time for his private affairs? Tired from what had gone before, and tired in anticipation of what was to follow, K. stood up to receive the first of them.
He was a short, jolly man, a manufacturer who K. knew well. He apologised for disturbing K. at some important work, and K., for his part, apologised for having kept the manufacturer waiting for so long. But even this apology was spoken in such a mechanical way and with such false intonation that the manufacturer would certainly have noticed if he had not been fully preoccupied with his business affairs. Instead, he hurriedly pulled calculations and tables out from all his pockets, spread them out in front of K., explained several items, corrected a little mistake in the arithmetic that he noticed as he quickly glanced over it all, and reminded K. of a similar piece of business he’d concluded with him about a year before, mentioning in passing that this time there was another bank spending great effort to get his business, and finally stopped speaking in order to learn K.’s opinion on the matter. And K. had indeed, at first, been closely following what the manufacturer was saying, he too was aware of how important the deal was, but unfortunately it did not last, he soon stopped listening, nodded at each of the manufacturer’s louder exclamations for a short while, but eventually he stopped doing even that and did no more than stare at the bald head bent over the papers, asking himself when the manufacturer would finally realise that everything he was saying was useless. When he did stop talking, K. really thought at first that this was so that he would have the chance to confess that he was incapable of listening. Instead, seeing the anticipation on the manufacturer’s face, obviously ready to counter any objections made, he was sorry to realise that the business discussion had to be continued. So he bent his head as if he’d been given an order and began slowly to move his pencil over the papers, now and then he would stop and stare at one of the figures. The manufacturer thought there must be some objection, perhaps his figures weren’t really sound, perhaps they weren’t the decisive issue, whatever he thought, the manufacturer covered the papers with his hand and began once again, moving very close to K., to explain what the deal was all about. “It is difficult,” said K., pursing his lips. The only thing that could offer him any guidance were the papers, and the manufacturer had covered them from his view, so he just sank back against the arm of the chair. Even when the door of the manager’s office opened and revealed not very clearly, as if through a veil, the deputy director, he did no more than look up weakly. K. thought no more about the matter, he merely watched the immediate effect of the deputy director’s appearance and, for him, the effect was very pleasing; the manufacturer immediately jumped up from his seat and hurried over to meet the deputy director, although K. would have liked to make him ten times livelier as he feared the deputy director might disappear again. He need not have worried, the two gentlemen met each other, shook each other’s hand and went together over to K.’s desk. The manufacturer said he was sorry to find the chief clerk so little inclined to do business, pointing to K. who, under the view of the deputy director, had bent back down over the papers. As the two men leant over the desk and the manufacturer made some effort to gain and keep the deputy director’s attention, K. felt as if they were much bigger than they really were and that their negotiations were about him. Carefully and slowly turning his eyes upwards, he tried to learn what was taking place above him, took one of the papers from his desk without looking to see what it was, lay it on the flat of his hand and raised it slowly up as he rose up to the level of the two men himself. He had no particular plan in mind as he did this, but merely felt this was how he would act if only he had finished preparing that great document that was to remove his burden entirely. The deputy director had been paying all his attention to the conversation and did no more than glance at the paper, he did not read what was written on it at all as what was important for the chief clerk was not important for him, he took it from K.’s hand saying, “Thank you, I’m already familiar with everything”, and lay it calmly back on the desk. K. gave him a bitter, sideways look. But the deputy director did not notice this at all, or if he did notice it it only raised his spirits, he frequently laughed out loud, one time he clearly embarrassed the manufacturer when he raised an objection in a witty way but drew him immediately back out of his embarrassment by commenting adversely on himself, and finally invited him into his office where they could bring the matter to its conclusion. “It’s a very important matter,” said the manufacturer. “I understand that completely. And I’m sure the chief clerk …” – even as he said this he was actually speaking only to the manufacturer – “will be very glad to have us take it off his hands. This is something that needs calm consideration. But he seems to be over-burdened today, there are even some people in the room outside who’ve been waiting there for hours for him.” K. still had enough control of himself to turn away from the deputy director and direct his friendly, albeit stiff, smile only at the manufacturer, he made no other retaliation, bent down slightly and supported himself with both hands on his desk like a clerk, and watched as the two gentlemen, still talking, took the papers from his desk and disappeared into the manager’s office. In the doorway, the manufacturer turned and said he wouldn’t make his farewell with K. just yet, he would of course let the chief clerk know about the success of his discussions but he also had a little something to tell him about.
At last, K. was by himself. It did not enter his head to show anyone else into his office and only became vaguely aware of how nice it was that the people outside thought he was still negotiating with the manufacturer and, for this reason, he could not let anyone in to see him, not even the servitor. He went over to the window, sat down on the ledge beside it, held firmly on to the handle and looked down onto the square outside. The snow was still falling, the weather still had not brightened up at all.
He remained a long time sitting in this way, not knowing what it actually was that made him so anxious, only occasionally did he glance, slightly startled, over his shoulder at the door to the outer room where, mistakenly, he thought he’d heard some noise. No-one came, and that made him feel calmer, he went over to the wash stand, rinsed his face with cold water and, his head somewhat clearer, went back to his place by the window. The decision to take his defence into his own hands now seemed more of a burden than he had originally assumed. All the while he had left his defence up to the lawyer his trial had had little basic affect on him, he had observed it from afar as something that was scarcely able to reach him directly, when it suited him he looked to see how things stood but he was also able to draw his head back again whenever he wanted. Now, in contrast, if he was to conduct his defence himself, he would have to devote himself entirely to the court – for the time being, at least – success would mean, later on, his complete and conclusive liberation, but if he was to achieve this he would have to place himself, to start with, in far greater danger than he had been in so far. If he ever felt tempted to doubt this, then his experience with the deputy director and the manufacturer that day would be quite enough to convince him of it. How could he have sat there totally convinced of the need to do his own defence? How would it be later? What would his life be like in the days ahead? Would he find the way through it all to a happy conclusion? Did a carefully worked out defence – and any other sort would have made no sense – did a carefully worked out defence not also mean he would need to shut himself off from everything else as much as he could? Would he survive that? And how was he to succeed in conducting all this at the bank? It involved much more than just submitting some documents that he could probably prepare in a few days’ leave, although it would have been great temerity to ask for time off from the bank just at that time, it was a whole trial and there was no way of seeing how long it might last. This was an enormous difficulty that had suddenly been thrown into K.’s life!
And was he supposed to be doing the bank’s work at a time like this? He looked down at his desk. Was he supposed to let people in to see him and go into negotiations with them at a time like this? While his trial trundled on, while the court officials upstairs in the attic room sat looking at the papers for this trial, should he be worrying about the business of the bank? Did this not seem like a kind of torture, acknowledged by the court, connected with the trial and which followed him around? And is it likely that anyone in the bank, when judging his work, would take any account of his peculiar situation? No- one and never. There were those who knew about his trial, although it was not quite clear who knew about it or how much. But he hoped rumours had not reached as far as the deputy director, otherwise he would obviously soon find a way of making use of it to harm K., he would show neither comradeship nor humaneness. And what about the director? It was true that he was well disposed towards K., and as soon as he heard about the trial he would probably try to do everything he could to make it easier for him, but he would certainly not devote himself to it. K. at one time had provided the counter-balance to what the deputy director said but the director was now coming more and more under his influence, and the deputy director would also exploit the weakened condition of the director to strengthen his own power. So what could K. hope for? Maybe considerations of this sort weakened his power of resistance, but it was still necessary not to deceive oneself and to see everything as clearly as it could be seen at that moment.
For no particular reason, just to avoiding returning to his desk for a while, he opened the window. It was difficult to open and he had to turn the handle with both his hands. Then, through the whole height and breadth of the window, the mixture of fog and smoke was drawn into the room, filling it with a slight smell of burning. A few flakes of snow were blown in with it. “It’s a horrible autumn,” said the manufacturer, who had come into the room unnoticed after seeing the deputy director and now stood behind K. K. nodded and looked uneasily at the manufacturer’s briefcase, from which he would now probably take the papers and inform K. of the result of his negotiations with the deputy director. However, the manufacturer saw where K. was looking, knocked on his briefcase and without opening it said, “You’ll be wanting to hear how things turned out. I’ve already got the contract in my pocket, almost. He’s a charming man, your deputy director – he’s got his dangers, though.” He laughed as he shook K.’s hand and wanted to make him laugh with him. But to K., it once more seemed suspicious that the manufacturer did not want to show him the papers and saw nothing about his comments to laugh at. “Chief clerk,” said the manufacturer, “I expect the weather’s been affecting your mood, has it? You’re looking so worried today.” “Yes,” said K., raising his hand and holding the temple of his head, “headaches, worries in the family.” “Quite right,” said the manufacturer, who was always in a hurry and could never listen to anyone for very long, “everyone has his cross to bear.” K. had unconsciously made a step towards the door as if wanting to show the manufacturer out, but the manufacturer said, “Chief clerk, there’s something else I’d like to mention to you. I’m very sorry if it’s something that’ll be a burden to you today of all days but I’ve been to see you twice already, lately, and each time I forgot all about it. If I delay it any longer it might well lose its point altogether. That would be a pity, as I think what I’ve got to say does have some value.” Before K. had had the time to answer, the manufacturer came up close to him, tapped his knuckle lightly on his chest and said quietly, “You’ve got a trial going on, haven’t you?” K. stepped back and immediately exclaimed, “That’s what the deputy director’s been telling you!” “No, no,” said the manufacturer, “how would the deputy director know about it?” “And what about you?” asked K., already more in control of himself. “I hear things about the court here and there,” said the manufacturer, “and that even applies to what it is that I wanted to tell you about.” “There are so many people who have connections with the court!” said K. with lowered head, and he led the manufacturer over to his desk. They sat down where they had been before, and the manufacturer said, “I’m afraid it’s not very much that I’ve got to tell you about. Only, in matters like this, it’s best not to overlook the tiniest details. Besides, I really want to help you in some way, however modest my help might be. We’ve been good business partners up till now, haven’t we? Well then.” K. wanted to apologise for his behaviour in the conversation earlier that day, but the manufacturer would tolerate no interruption, shoved his briefcase up high in his armpit to show that he was in a hurry, and carried on. “I know about your case through a certain Titorelli. He’s a painter, Titorelli’s just his artistic name, I don’t even know what his real name is. He’s been coming to me in my office for years from time to time, and brings little pictures with him which I buy more or less just for the sake of charity as he’s hardly more than a beggar. And they’re nice pictures, too, moorland landscapes and that sort of thing. We’d both got used to doing business in this way and it always went smoothly. Only, one time these visits became a bit too frequent, I began to tell him off for it, we started talking and I became interested how it was that he could earn a living just by painting, and then I learned to my amazement that his main source of income was painting portraits. ‘I work for the court,’ he said, ‘what court?’ said I. And that’s when he told me about the court. I’m sure you can imagine how amazed I was at being told all this. Ever since then I learn something new about the court every time he comes to visit, and so little by little I get to understand something of how it works. Anyway, Titorelli talks a lot and I often have to push him away, not only because he’s bound to be lying but also, most of all, because a businessman like me who’s already close to breaking point under the weight of his own business worries can’t pay too much attention to other people’s. But all that’s just by the by. Perhaps – this is what I’ve been thinking – perhaps Titorelli might be able to help you in some small way, he knows lots of judges and even if he can’t have much influence himself he can give you some advice about how to get some influential people on your side. And even if this advice doesn’t turn out to make all the difference I still think it’ll be very important once you’ve got it. You’re nearly a lawyer yourself. That’s what I always say, Mr. K. the chief clerk is nearly a lawyer. Oh I’m sure this trial of yours will turn out all right. So do you want to go and see Titorelli, then? If I ask him to he’ll certainly do everything he possibly can. I really do think you ought to go. It needn’t be today, of course, just some time, when you get the chance. And anyway – I want to tell you this too – you don’t actually have to go and see Titorelli, this advice from me doesn’t place you under any obligation at all. No, if you think you can get by without Titorelli it’ll certainly be better to leave him completely out of it. Maybe you’ve already got a clear idea of what you’re doing and Titorelli could upset your plans. No, if that’s the case then of course you shouldn’t go there under any circumstances! And it certainly won’t be easy to take advice from a lad like that. Still, it’s up to you. Here’s the letter of recommendation and here’s the address.”
Disappointed, K. took the letter and put it in his pocket. Even at best, the advantage he might derive from this recommendation was incomparably smaller than the damage that lay in the fact of the manufacturer knowing about his trial, and that the painter was spreading the news about. It was all he could manage to give the manufacturer, who was already on his way to the door, a few words of thanks. “I’ll go there,” he said as he took his leave of the manufacturer at the door, “or, as I’m very busy at present, I’ll write to him, perhaps he would like to come to me in my office some time.” “I was sure you’d find the best solution,” said the manufacturer. “Although I had thought you’d prefer to avoid inviting people like this Titorelli to the bank and talking about the trial here. And it’s not always a good idea to send letters to people like Titorelli, you don’t know what might happen to them. But you’re bound to have thought everything through and you know what you can and can’t do.” K. nodded and accompanied the manufacturer on through the ante-room. But despite seeming calm on the outside he was actually very shocked; he had told the manufacturer he would write to Titorelli only to show him in some way that he valued his recommendations and would consider the opportunity to speak with Titorelli without delay, but if he had thought Titorelli could offer any worthwhile assistance he would not have delayed. But it was only the manufacturer’s comment that made K. realise what dangers that could lead to. Was he really able to rely on his own understanding so little? If it was possible that he might invite a questionable character into the bank with a clear letter, and ask advice from him about his trial, separated from the deputy director by no more than a door, was it not possible or even very likely that there were also other dangers he had failed to see or that he was even running towards? There was not always someone beside him to warn him. And just now, just when he would have to act with all the strength he could muster, now a number of doubts of a sort he had never before known had presented themselves and affected his own vigilance! The difficulties he had been feeling in carrying out his office work; were they now going to affect the trial too? Now, at least, he found himself quite unable to understand how he could have intended to write to Titorelli and invite him into the bank.
He shook his head at the thought of it once more as the servitor came up beside him and drew his attention to the three gentlemen who were waiting on a bench in the ante-room. They had already been waiting to see K. for a long time. Now that the servitor was speaking with K. they had stood up and each of them wanted to make use of the opportunity to see K. before the others. It had been negligent of the bank to let them waste their time here in the waiting room, but none of them wanted to draw attention to this. “Mr. K., …” one of them was saying, but K. had told the servitor to fetch his winter coat and said to the three of them, as the servitor helped him to put it on, “Please forgive me, gentlemen, I’m afraid I have no time to see you at present. Please do forgive me but I have some urgent business to settle and have to leave straight away. You’ve already seen yourselves how long I’ve been delayed. Would you be so kind as to come back tomorrow or some time? Or perhaps we could settle your affairs by telephone? Or perhaps you would like to tell me now, briefly, what it’s about and I can then give you a full answer in writing. Whatever, the best thing will be for you to come here again.” The gentlemen now saw that their wait had been totally pointless, and these suggestions of K.’s left them so astounded that they looked at each other without a word. “That’s agreed then, is it?” asked K., who had turned toward the servitor bringing him his hat. Through the open door of K.’s office they could see that the snowfall outside had become much heavier. So K. turned the collar of his coat up and buttoned it up high under his chin. Just then the deputy director came out of the adjoining room, smiled as he saw K. negotiating with the gentlemen in his winter coat, and asked, “Are you about to go out?” “Yes,” said K., standing more upright, “I have to go out on some business.” But the deputy director had already turned towards the gentlemen. “And what about these gentlemen?” he asked. “I think they’ve already been waiting quite a long time.” “We’ve already come to an understanding,” said K. But now the gentlemen could be held back no longer, they surrounded K. and explained that they would not have been waiting for hours if it had not been about something important that had to be discussed now, at length and in private. The deputy director listened to them for a short while, he also looked at K. as he held his hat in his hand cleaning the dust off it here and there, and then he said, “Gentlemen, there is a very simple way to solve this. If you would prefer it, I’ll be very glad to take over these negotiations instead of the chief clerk. Your business does, of course, need to be discussed without delay. We are businessmen like yourselves and know the value of a businessman’s time. Would you like to come this way?” And he opened the door leading to the ante-room of his own office.
The deputy director seemed very good at appropriating everything that K. was now forced to give up! But was K. not giving up more than he absolutely had to? By running off to some unknown painter, with, as he had to admit, very little hope of any vague benefit, his renown was suffering damage that could not me repaired. It would probably be much better to take off his winter coat again and, at the very least, try to win back the two gentlemen who were certainly still waiting in the next room. If K. had not then glimpsed the deputy director in his office, looking for something from his bookshelves as if they were his own, he would probably even have made the attempt. As K., somewhat agitated, approached the door the deputy director called out, “Oh, you’ve still not left!” He turned his face toward him – its many deep folds seemed to show strength rather than age – and immediately began once more to search. “I’m looking for a copy of a contract,” he said, “which this gentleman insists you must have. Could you help me look for it, do you think?” K. made a step forward, but the deputy director said, “thank you, I’ve already found it,” and with a big package of papers, which certainly must have included many more documents than just the copy of the contract, he turned and went back into his own office.
“I can’t deal with him right now,” K. said to himself, “but once my personal difficulties have been settled, then he’ll certainly be the first to get the effect of it, and he certainly won’t like it.” Slightly calmed by these thoughts, K. gave the servitor, who had already long been holding the door to the corridor open for him, the task of telling the director, when he was able, that K. was going out of the bank on a business matter. As he left the bank he felt almost happy at the thought of being able to devote more of himself to his own business for a while.
He went straight to the painter, who lived in an outlying part of town which was very near to the court offices, although this area was even poorer, the houses were darker, the streets were full of dirt that slowly blew about over the half-melted snow. In the great gateway to the building where the painter lived only one of the two doors was open, a hole had been broken open in the wall by the other door, and as K. approached it a repulsive, yellow, steaming liquid shot out causing some rats to scurry away into the nearby canal. Down by the staircase there was a small child lying on its belly crying, but it could hardly be heard because of the noise from a metal-workshop on the other side of the entrance hall, drowning out any other sound. The door to the workshop was open, three workers stood in a circle around some piece of work that they were beating with hammers. A large tin plate hung on the wall, casting a pale light that pushed its way in between two of the workers, lighting up their faces and their work-aprons. K. did no more than glance at any of these things, he wanted to get things over with here as soon as possible, to exchange just a few words to find out how things stood with the painter and go straight back to the bank. Even if he had just some tiny success here it would still have a good effect on his work at the bank for that day. On the third floor he had to slow down his pace, he was quite out of breath – the steps, just like the height of each floor, were much higher than they needed to be and he’d been told that the painter lived right up in the attic. The air was also quite oppressive, there was no proper stairwell and the narrow steps were closed in by walls on both sides with no more than a small, high window here and there. Just as K. paused for a while some young girls ran out of one of the flats and rushed higher up the stairs, laughing. K. followed them slowly, caught up with one of the girls who had stumbled and been left behind by the others, and asked her as they went up side by side, “Is there a painter, Titorelli, who lives here?” The girl, hardly thirteen years old and somewhat hunchbacked, jabbed him with her elbow and looked at him sideways. Her youth and her bodily defects had done nothing to stop her being already quite depraved. She did not smile once, but looked at K. earnestly, with sharp, acquisitive eyes. K. pretended not to notice her behaviour and asked, “Do you know Titorelli, the painter?” She nodded and asked in reply, “What d’you want to see him for?” K. thought it would be to his advantage quickly to find out something more about Titorelli. “I want to have him paint my portrait,” he said. “Paint your portrait?” she asked, opening her mouth too wide and lightly hitting K. with her hand as if he had said something extraordinarily surprising or clumsy, with both hands she lifted her skirt, which was already very short, and, as fast as she could, she ran off after the other girls whose indistinct shouts lost themselves in the heights. At the next turn of the stairs, however, K. encountered all the girls once more. The hunchbacked girl had clearly told them about K.’s intentions and they were waiting for him. They stood on both sides of the stairs, pressing themselves against the wall so that K. could get through between them, and smoothed their aprons down with their hands. All their faces, even in this guard of honour, showed a mixture of childishness and depravity. Up at the head of the line of girls, who now, laughing, began to close in around K., was the hunchback who had taken on the role of leader. It was thanks to her that K. found the right direction without delay – he would have continued up the stairs straight in front of him, but she showed him that to reach Titorelli he would need to turn off to one side. The steps that led up to the painter were especially narrow, very long without any turning, the whole length could be seen in one glance and, at the top, at Titorelli’s closed door, it came to its end. This door was much better illuminated than the rest of the stairway by the light from a small skylight set obliquely above it, it had been put together from unpainted planks of wood and the name ‘Titorelli’ was painted on it in broad, red brushstrokes. K. was no more than half way up the steps, accompanied by his retinue of girls, when, clearly the result of the noise of all those footsteps, the door opened slightly and in the crack a man who seemed to be dressed in just his nightshirt appeared. “Oh!” he cried, when he saw the approaching crowd, and vanished. The hunchbacked girl clapped her hands in glee and the other girls crowded in behind K. to push him faster forward.
They still had not arrived at the top, however, when the painter up above them suddenly pulled the door wide open and, with a deep bow, invited K. to enter. The girls, on the other hand, he tried to keep away, he did not want to let any of them in however much they begged him and however much they tried to get in – if they could not get in with his permission they would try to force their way in against his will. The only one to succeed was the hunchback when she slipped through under his outstretched arm, but the painter chased after her, grabbed her by the skirt, span her once round and set her down again by the door with the other girls who, unlike the first, had not dared to cross the doorstep while the painter had left his post. K. did not know what he was to make of all this, as they all seemed to be having fun. One behind the other, the girls by the door stretched their necks up high and called out various words to the painter which were meant in jest but which K. did not understand, and even the painter laughed as the hunchback whirled round in his hand. Then he shut the door, bowed once more to K., offered him his hand and introduced himself, saying, “Titorelli, painter”. K. pointed to the door, behind which the girls were whispering, and said, “You seem to be very popular in this building.” “Ach, those brats!” said the painter, trying in vain to fasten his nightshirt at the neck. He was also bare-footed and, apart from that, was wearing nothing more than a loose pair of yellowish linen trousers held up with a belt whose free end whipped to and fro. “Those kids are a real burden for me,” he continued. The top button of his nightshirt came off and he gave up trying to fasten it, fetched a chair for K. and made him sit down on it. “I painted one of them once – she’s not here today – and ever since then they’ve been following me about. If I’m here they only come in when I allow it, but as soon as I’ve gone out there’s always at least one of them in here. They had a key made to my door and lend it round to each other. It’s hard to imagine what a pain that is. Suppose I come back home with a lady I’m going to paint, I open the door with my own key and find the hunchback there or something, by the table painting her lips red with my paintbrush, and meanwhile her little sisters will be keeping guard for her, moving about and causing chaos in every corner of the room. Or else, like happened yesterday, I might come back home late in the evening – please forgive my appearance and the room being in a mess, it is to do with them – so, I might come home late in the evening and want to go to bed, then I feel something pinching my leg, look under the bed and pull another of them out from under it. I don’t know why it is they bother me like this, I expect you’ve just seen that I do nothing to encourage them to come near me. And they make it hard for me to do my work too, of course. If I didn’t get this studio for nothing I’d have moved out a long time ago.” Just then, a little voice, tender and anxious, called out from under the door, “Titorelli, can we come in now?” “No,” answered the painter. “Not even just me, by myself?” the voice asked again. “Not even just you,” said the painter, as he went to the door and locked it.
Meanwhile, K. had been looking round the room, if it had not been pointed out it would never have occurred to him that this wretched little room could be called a studio. It was hardly long enough or broad enough to make two steps. Everything, floor, walls and ceiling, was made of wood, between the planks narrow gaps could be seen. Across from where K. was, the bed stood against the wall under a covering of many different colours. In the middle of the room a picture stood on an easel, covered over with a shirt whose arms dangled down to the ground. Behind K. was the window through which the fog made it impossible to see further than the snow covered roof of the neighbouring building.
The turning of the key in the lock reminded K. that he had not wanted to stay too long. So he drew the manufacturer’s letter out from his pocket, held it out to the painter and said, “I learned about you from this gentleman, an acquaintance of yours, and it’s on his advice that I’ve come here”. The painter glanced through the letter and threw it down onto the bed. If the manufacturer had not said very clearly that Titorelli was an acquaintance of his, a poor man who was dependent on his charity, then it would really have been quite possible to believe that Titorelli did not know him or at least that he could not remember him. This impression was augmented by the painter’s asking, “Were you wanting to buy some pictures or did you want to have yourself painted?” K. looked at the painter in astonishment. What did the letter actually say? K. had taken it as a matter of course that the manufacturer had explained to the painter in his letter that K. wanted nothing more with him than to find out more about his trial. He had been far too rash in coming here! But now he had to give the painter some sort of answer and, glancing at the easel, said, “Are you working on a picture currently?” “Yes,” said the painter, and he took the shirt hanging over the easel and threw it onto the bed after the letter. “It’s a portrait. Quite a good piece of work, although it’s not quite finished yet.” This was a convenient coincidence for K., it gave him a good opportunity to talk about the court as the picture showed, very clearly, a judge. What’s more, it was remarkably similar to the picture in the lawyer’s office, although this one showed a quite different judge, a heavy man with a full beard which was black and bushy and extended to the sides far up the man’s cheeks. The lawyer’s picture was also an oil painting, whereas this one had been made with pastel colours and was pale and unclear. But everything else about the picture was similar, as this judge, too, was holding tightly to the arm of his throne and seemed ominously about to rise from it. At first K. was about to say, “He certainly is a judge,” but he held himself back for the time being and went closer to the picture as if he wanted to study it in detail. There was a large figure shown in middle of the throne’s back rest which K. could not understand and asked the painter about it. That’ll need some more work done on it, the painter told him, and taking a pastel crayon from a small table he added a few strokes to the edges of the figure but without making it any clearer as far as K. could make out. “That’s the figure of justice,” said the painter, finally. “Now I see,” said K., “here’s the blindfold and here are the scales. But aren’t those wings on her heels, and isn’t she moving?” “Yes,” said the painter, “I had to paint it like that according to the contract. It’s actually the figure of justice and the goddess of victory all in one.” “That is not a good combination,” said K. with a smile. “Justice needs to remain still, otherwise the scales will move about and it won’t be possible to make a just verdict.” “I’m just doing what the client wanted,” said the painter. “Yes, certainly,” said K., who had not meant to criticise anyone by that comment. “You’ve painted the figure as it actually appears on the throne.” “No,” said the painter, “I’ve never seen that figure or that throne, it’s all just invention, but they told me what it was I had to paint.” “How’s that?” asked K. pretending not fully to understand what the painter said. “That is a judge sitting on the judge’s chair, isn’t it?” “Yes,” said the painter, “but that judge isn’t very high up and he’s never sat on any throne like that.” “And he has himself painted in such a grand pose? He’s sitting there just like the president of the court.” “Yeah, gentlemen like this are very vain,” said the painter. “But they have permission from higher up to get themselves painted like this. It’s laid down quite strictly just what sort of portrait each of them can get for himself. Only it’s a pity that you can’t make out the details of his costume and pose in this picture, pastel colours aren’t really suitable for showing people like this.” “Yes,” said K., “it does seem odd that it’s in pastel colours.” “That’s what the judge wanted,” said the painter, “it’s meant to be for a woman.” The sight of the picture seemed to make him feel like working, he rolled up his shirtsleeves, picked up a few of the crayons, and K. watched as a reddish shadow built up around the head of the judge under their quivering tips and radiated out the to edges of the picture. This shadow play slowly surrounded the head like a decoration or lofty distinction. But around the figure of Justice, apart from some coloration that was barely noticeable, it remained light, and in this brightness the figure seemed to shine forward so that it now looked like neither the God of Justice nor the God of Victory, it seemed now, rather, to be a perfect depiction of the God of the Hunt. K. found the painter’s work more engrossing than he had wanted; but finally he reproached himself for staying so long without having done anything relevant to his own affair. “What’s the name of this judge?” he asked suddenly. “I’m not allowed to tell you that,” the painter answered. He was bent deeply over the picture and clearly neglecting his guest who, at first, he had received with such care. K. took this to be just a foible of the painter’s, and it irritated him as it made him lose time. “I take it you must be a trustee of the court,” he said. The painter immediately put his crayons down, stood upright, rubbed his hands together and looked at K. with a smile. “Always straight out with the truth,” he said. “You want to learn something about the court, like it says in your letter of recommendation, but then you start talking about my pictures to get me on your side. Still, I won’t hold it against you, you weren’t to know that that was entirely the wrong thing to try with me. Oh, please!” he said sharply, repelling K.’s attempt to make some objection. He then continued, “And besides, you’re quite right in your comment that I’m a trustee of the court.” He made a pause, as if wanting to give K. the time to come to terms with this fact. The girls could once more be heard from behind the door. They were probably pressed around the keyhole, perhaps they could even see into the room through the gaps in the planks. K. forewent the opportunity to excuse himself in some way as he did not wish to distract the painter from what he was saying, or else perhaps he didn’t want him to get too far above himself and in this way make himself to some extent unattainable, so he asked, “Is that a publicly acknowledged position?” “No,” was the painter’s curt reply, as if the question prevented him saying any more. But K. wanted him to continue speaking and said, “Well, positions like that, that aren’t officially acknowledged, can often have more influence than those that are.” “And that’s how it is with me,” said the painter, and nodded with a frown. “I was talking about your case with the manufacturer yesterday, and he asked me if I wouldn’t like to help you, and I answered: ‘He can come and see me if he likes’, and now I’m pleased to see you here so soon. This business seems to be quite important to you, and, of course, I’m not surprised at that. Would you not like to take your coat off now?” K. had intended to stay for only a very short time, but the painter’s invitation was nonetheless very welcome. The air in the room had slowly become quite oppressive for him, he had several times looked in amazement at a small, iron stove in the corner that certainly could not have been lit, the heat of the room was inexplicable. As he took off his winter overcoat and also unbuttoned his frock coat the painter said to him in apology, “I must have warmth. And it is very cosy here, isn’t it. This room’s very good in that respect.” K. made no reply, but it was actually not the heat that made him uncomfortable but, much more, the stuffiness, the air that almost made it more difficult to breathe, the room had probably not been ventilated for a long time. The unpleasantness of this was made all the stronger for K. when the painter invited him to sit on the bed while he himself sat down on the only chair in the room in front of the easel. The painter even seemed to misunderstand why K. remained at the edge of the bed and urged K. to make himself comfortable, and as he hesitated he went over to the bed himself and pressed K. deep down into the bedclothes and pillows. Then he went back to his seat and at last he asked his first objective question, which made K. forget everything else. “You’re innocent, are you?” he asked. “Yes,” said K. He felt a simple joy at answering this question, especially as the answer was given to a private individual and therefore would have no consequences. Up till then no-one had asked him this question so openly. To make the most of his pleasure he added, “I am totally innocent.” “So,” said the painter, and he lowered his head and seemed to be thinking. Suddenly he raised his head again and said, “Well if you’re innocent it’s all very simple.” K. began to scowl, this supposed trustee of the court was talking like an ignorant child. “My being innocent does not make things simple,” said K. Despite everything, he couldn’t help smiling and slowly shook his head. “There are many fine details in which the court gets lost, but in the end it reaches into some place where originally there was nothing and pulls enormous guilt out of it.” “Yeah, yeah, sure,” said the painter, as if K. had been disturbing his train of thought for no reason. “But you are innocent, aren’t you?” “Well of course I am,” said K. “That’s the main thing,” said the painter. There was no counter-argument that could influence him, but although he had made up his mind it was not clear whether he was talking this way because of conviction or indifference. K., then, wanted to find out and said therefore, “I’m sure you’re more familiar with the court than I am, I know hardly more about it than what I’ve heard, and that’s been from many very different people. But they were all agreed on one thing, and that was that when ill thought-out accusations are made they are not ignored, and that once the court has made an accusation it is convinced of the guilt of the defendant and it’s very hard to make it think otherwise.” “Very hard?” the painter asked, throwing one hand up in the air. “It’s impossible to make it think otherwise. If I painted all the judges next to each other here on canvas, and you were trying to defend yourself in front of it, you’d have more success with them than you’d ever have with the real court.” “Yes,” said K. to himself, forgetting that he had only gone there to investigate the painter.
One of the girls behind the door started up again, and asked, “Titorelli, is he going to go soon?” “Quiet!” shouted the painter at the door, “Can’t you see I’m talking with the gentleman?” But this was not enough to satisfy the girl and she asked, “You going to paint his picture?” And when the painter didn’t answer she added, “Please don’t paint him, he’s an ‘orrible bloke.” There followed an incomprehensible, interwoven babble of shouts and replies and calls of agreement. The painter leapt over to the door, opened it very slightly – the girls’ clasped hands could be seen stretching through the crack as if they wanted something – and said, “If you’re not quiet I’ll throw you all down the stairs. Sit down here on the steps and be quiet.” They probably did not obey him immediately, so that he had to command, “Down on the steps!” Only then it became quiet.
“I’m sorry about that,” said the painter as he returned to K. K. had hardly turned towards the door, he had left it completely up to the painter whether and how he would place him under his protection if he wanted to. Even now, he made hardly any movement as the painter bent over him and, whispering into his ear in order not to be heard outside, said, “These girls belong to the court as well.” “How’s that?” asked K., as he leant his head to one side and looked at the painter. But the painter sat back down on his chair and, half in jest, half in explanation, “Well, everything belongs to the court.” “That is something I had never noticed until now,” said K. curtly, this general comment of the painter’s made his comment about the girls far less disturbing. Nonetheless, K. looked for a while at the door, behind which the girls were now sitting quietly on the steps. Except, that one of them had pushed a drinking straw through a crack between the planks and was moving it slowly up and down. “You still don’t seem to have much general idea of what the court’s about”, said the painter, who had stretched his legs wide apart and was tapping loudly on the floor with the tip of his foot. “But as you’re innocent you won’t need it anyway. I’ll get you out of this by myself.” “How do you intend to do that?” asked K. “You did say yourself not long ago that it’s quite impossible to go to the court with reasons and proofs.” “Only impossible for reasons and proofs you take to the court yourself” said the painter, raising his forefinger as if K. had failed to notice a fine distinction. “It goes differently if you try to do something behind the public court, that’s to say in the consultation rooms, in the corridors or here, for instance, in my studio.” K. now began to find it far easier to believe what the painter was saying, or rather it was largely in agreement with what he had also been told by others. In fact it was even quite promising. If it really was so easy to influence the judges through personal contacts as the lawyer had said then the painter’s contacts with these vain judges was especially important, and at the very least should not be undervalued. And the painter would fit in very well in the circle of assistants that K. was slowly gathering around himself. He had been noted at the bank for his talent in organising, here, where he was placed entirely on his own resources, would be a good opportunity to test that talent to its limits. The painter observed the effect his explanation had had on K. and then, with a certain unease, said, “Does it not occur to you that the way I’m speaking is almost like a lawyer? It’s the incessant contact with the gentlemen of the court has that influence on me. I gain a lot by it, of course, but I lose a lot, artistically speaking.” “How did you first come into contact with the judges, then?” asked K., he wanted first to gain the painter’s trust before he took him into his service. “That was very easy,” said the painter, “I inherited these contacts. My father was court painter before me. It’s a position that’s always inherited. They can’t use new people for it, the rules governing how the various grades of officials are painted are so many and varied, and, above all, so secret that no- one outside of certain families even knows them. In the drawer there, for instance, I’ve got my father’s notes, which I don’t show to anyone. But you’re only able to paint judges if you know what they say. Although, even if I lost them no-one could ever dispute my position because of all the rules I just carry round in my head. All the judges want to be painted like the old, great judges were, and I’m the only one who can do that.” “You are to be envied,” said K., thinking of his position at the bank. “Your position is quite unassailable, then?” “Yes, quite unassailable,” said the painter, and he raised his shoulders in pride. “That’s how I can even afford to help some poor man facing trial now and then.” “And how do you do that?” asked K., as if the painter had not just described him as a poor man. The painter did not let himself be distracted, but said, “In your case, for instance, as you’re totally innocent, this is what I’ll do.” The repeated mention of K.’s innocence was becoming irksome to him. It sometimes seemed to him as if the painter was using these comments to make a favourable outcome to the trial a precondition for his help, which of course would make the help itself unnecessary. But despite these doubts K. forced himself not to interrupt the painter. He did not want to do without the painter’s help, that was what he had decided, and this help did not seem in any way less questionable than that of the lawyer. K. valued the painter’s help far more highly because it was offered in a way that was more harmless and open.
The painter had pulled his seat closer to the bed and continued in a subdued voice: “I forgot to ask you; what sort of acquittal is it you want? There are three possibilities; absolute acquittal, apparent acquittal and deferment. Absolute acquittal is the best, of course, only there’s nothing I could do to get that sort of outcome. I don’t think there’s anyone at all who could do anything to get an absolute acquittal. Probably the only thing that could do that is if the accused is innocent. As you are innocent it could actually be possible and you could depend on your innocence alone. In that case you won’t need me or any other kind of help.”
At first, K. was astonished at this orderly explanation, but then, just as quietly as the painter, he said, “I think you’re contradicting yourself.” “How’s that?” asked the painter patiently, leaning back with a smile. This smile made K. feel as if he were examining not the words of the painter but seeking out inconsistencies in the procedures of the court itself. Nonetheless, he continued unabashed and said, “You remarked earlier that the court cannot be approached with reasoned proofs, you later restricted this to the open court, and now you go so far as to say that an innocent man needs no assistance in court. That entails a contradiction. Moreover, you said earlier that the judges can be influenced personally but now you insist that an absolute acquittal, as you call it, can never be attained through personal influence. That entails a second contradiction.” “It’s quite easy to clear up these contradictions,” said the painter. “We’re talking about two different things here, there’s what it says in the law and there’s what I know from my own experience, you shouldn’t get the two confused. I’ve never seen it in writing, but the law does, of course, say on the one hand that the innocent will be set free, but on the other hand it doesn’t say that the judges can be influenced. But in my experience it’s the other way round. I don’t know of any absolute acquittals but I do know of many times when a judge has been influenced. It’s possible, of course, that there was no innocence in any of the cases I know about. But is that likely? Not a single innocent defendant in so many cases? When I was a boy I used to listen closely to my father when he told us about court cases at home, and the judges that came to his studio talked about the court, in our circles nobody talks about anything else; I hardly ever got the chance to go to court myself but always made use of it when I could, I’ve listened to countless trials at important stages in their development, I’ve followed them closely as far as they could be followed, and I have to say that I’ve never seen a single acquittal.” “So. Not a single acquittal,” said K., as if talking to himself and his hopes. “That confirms the impression I already have of the court. So there’s no point in it from this side either. They could replace the whole court with a single hangman.” “You shouldn’t generalise,” said the painter, dissatisfied, “I’ve only been talking about my own experience.” “Well that’s enough,” said K., “or have you heard of any acquittals that happened earlier?” “They say there have been some acquittals earlier,” the painter answered, “but it’s very hard to be sure about it. The courts don’t make their final conclusions public, not even the judges are allowed to know about them, so that all we know about these earlier cases are just legends. But most of them did involve absolute acquittals, you can believe that, but they can’t be proved. On the other hand, you shouldn’t forget all about them either, I’m sure there is some truth to them, and they are very beautiful, I’ve painted a few pictures myself depicting these legends.” “My assessment will not be altered by mere legends,” said K. “I don’t suppose it’s possible to cite these legends in court, is it?” The painter laughed. “No, you can’t cite them in court,” he said. “Then there’s no point in talking about them,” said K., he wanted, for the time being, to accept anything the painter told him, even if he thought it unlikely or contradicted what he had been told by others. He did not now have the time to examine the truth of everything the painter said or even to disprove it, he would have achieved as much as he could if the painter would help him in any way even if his help would not be decisive. As a result, he said, “So let’s pay no more attention to absolute acquittal, but you mentioned two other possibilities.” “Apparent acquittal and deferment. They’re the only possibilities,” said the painter. “But before we talk about them, would you not like to take your coat off? You must be hot.” “Yes,” said K., who until then had paid attention to nothing but the painter’s explanations, but now that he had had the heat pointed out to him his brow began to sweat heavily. “It’s almost unbearable.” The painter nodded as if he understood K.’s discomfort very well. “Could we not open the window?” asked K. “No,” said the painter. “It’s only a fixed pane of glass, it can’t be opened.” K. now realised that all this time he had been hoping the painter would suddenly go over to the window and pull it open. He had prepared himself even for the fog that he would breathe in through his open mouth. The thought that here he was entirely cut off from the air made him feel dizzy. He tapped lightly on the bedspread beside him and, with a weak voice, said, “That is very inconvenient and unhealthy.” “Oh no,” said the painter in defence of his window, “as it can’t be opened this room retains the heat better than if the window were double glazed, even though it’s only a single pane. There’s not much need to air the room as there’s so much ventilation through the gaps in the wood, but when I do want to I can open one of my doors, or even both of them.” K. was slightly consoled by this explanation and looked around to see where the second door was. The painter saw him do so and said, “It’s behind you, I had to hide it behind the bed.” Only then was K. able to see the little door in the wall. “It’s really much too small for a studio here,” said the painter, as if he wanted to anticipate an objection K. would make. “I had to arrange things as well as I could. That’s obviously a very bad place for the bed, in front of the door. For instance when the judge I’m painting at present comes he always comes through the door by the bed, and I’ve even given him a key to this door so that he can wait for me here in the studio when I’m not home. Although nowadays he usually comes early in the morning when I’m still asleep. And of course, it always wakes me up when I hear the door opened beside the bed, however fast asleep I am. If you could hear the way I curse him as he climbs over my bed in the morning you’d lose all respect for judges. I suppose I could take the key away from him but that’d only make things worse. It only takes a tiny effort to break any of the doors here off their hinges.” All the time the painter was speaking, K. was considering whether he should take off his coat, but he finally realised that, if he didn’t do so, he would be quite unable to stay here any longer, so he took off his frock coat and lay it on his knee so that he could put it back on again as soon as the conversation was over. He had hardly done this when one of the girls called out, “Now he’s taken his coat off!” and they could all be heard pressing around the gaps in the planks to see the spectacle for themselves. “The girls think I’m going to paint your portrait,” said the painter, “and that’s why you’re taking your coat off.” “I see,” said K., only slightly amused by this, as he felt little better than he had before even though he now sat in his shirtsleeves. With some irritation he asked, “What did you say the two other possibilities were?” He had already forgotten the terms used. “Apparent acquittal and deferment,” said the painter. “It’s up to you which one you choose. You can get either of them if I help you, but it’ll take some effort of course, the difference between them is that apparent acquittal needs concentrated effort for a while and that deferment takes much less effort but it has to be sustained. Now then, apparent acquittal. If that’s what you want I’ll write down an assertion of your innocence on a piece of paper. The text for an assertion of this sort was passed down to me from my father and it’s quite unassailable. I take this assertion round to the judges I know. So I’ll start off with the one I’m currently painting, and put the assertion to him when he comes for his sitting this evening. I’ll lay the assertion in front of him, explain that you’re innocent and give him my personal guarantee of it. And that’s not just a superficial guarantee, it’s a real one and it’s binding.” The painter’s eyes seemed to show some reproach of K. for wanting to impose that sort of responsibility on him. “That would be very kind of you”, said K. “And would the judge then believe you and nonetheless not pass an absolute acquittal?” “It’s like I just said,” answered the painter. “And anyway, it’s not entirely sure that all the judges would believe me, many of them, for instance, might want me to bring you to see them personally. So then you’d have to come along too. But at least then, if that happens, the matter is half way won, especially as I’d teach you in advance exactly how you’d need to act with the judge concerned, of course. What also happens, though, is that there are some judges who’ll turn me down in advance, and that’s worse. I’ll certainly make several attempts, but still, we’ll have to forget about them, but at least we can afford to do that as no one judge can pass the decisive verdict. Then when I’ve got enough judges’ signatures on this document I take it to the judge who’s concerned with your case. I might even have his signature already, in which case things develop a bit quicker than they would do otherwise. But there aren’t usually many hold ups from then on, and that’s the time that the defendant can feel most confident. It’s odd, but true, that people feel more confidence in this time than they do after they’ve been acquitted. There’s no particular exertion needed now. When he has the document asserting the defendant’s innocence, guaranteed by a number of other judges, the judge can acquit you without any worries, and although there are still several formalities to be gone through there’s no doubt that that’s what he’ll do as a favour to me and several other acquaintances. You, however, walk out the court and you’re free.” “So, then I’ll be free,” said K., hesitantly. “That’s right,” said the painter, “but only apparently free or, to put it a better way, temporarily free, as the most junior judges, the ones I know, they don’t have the right to give the final acquittal. Only the highest judge can do that, in the court that’s quite out of reach for you, for me and for all of us. We don’t know how things look there and, incidentally, we don’t want to know. The right to acquit people is a major privilege and our judges don’t have it, but they do have the right to free people from the indictment. That’s to say, if they’re freed in this way then for the time being the charge is withdrawn but it’s still hanging over their heads and it only takes an order from higher up to bring it back into force. And as I’m in such good contact with the court I can also tell you how the difference between absolute and apparent acquittal is described, just in a superficial way, in the directives to the court offices. If there’s an absolute acquittal all proceedings should stop, everything disappears from the process, not just the indictment but the trial and even the acquittal disappears, everything just disappears. With an apparent acquittal it’s different. When that happens, nothing has changed except that the case for your innocence, for your acquittal and the grounds for the acquittal have been made stronger. Apart from that, proceedings go on as before, the court offices continue their business and the case gets passed to higher courts, gets passed back down to the lower courts and so on, backwards and forwards, sometimes faster, sometimes slower, to and fro. It’s impossible to know exactly what’s happening while this is going on. Seen from outside it can sometimes seem that everything has been long since forgotten, the documents have been lost and the acquittal is complete. No-one familiar with the court would believe it. No documents ever get lost, the court forgets nothing. One day – no-one expects it – some judge or other picks up the documents and looks more closely at them, he notices that this particular case is still active, and orders the defendant’s immediate arrest. I’ve been talking here as if there’s a long delay between apparent acquittal and re-arrest, that is quite possible and I do know of cases like that, but it’s just as likely that the defendant goes home after he’s been acquitted and finds somebody there waiting to re-arrest him. Then, of course, his life as a free man is at an end.” “And does the trial start over again?” asked K., finding it hard to believe. “The trial will always start over again,” said the painter, “but there is, once again as before, the possibility of getting an apparent acquittal. Once again, the accused has to muster all his strength and mustn’t give up.” The painter said that last phrase possibly as a result of the impression that K., whose shoulders had dropped somewhat, gave on him. “But to get a second acquittal,” asked K., as if in anticipation of further revelations by the painter, “is that not harder to get than the first time?” “As far as that’s concerned,” answered the painter, “there’s nothing you can say for certain. You mean, do you, that the second arrest would have an adverse influence on the judge and the verdict he passes on the defendant? That’s not how it happens. When the acquittal is passed the judges are already aware that re-arrest is likely. So when it happens it has hardly any effect. But there are countless other reasons why the judges’ mood and their legal acumen in the case can be altered, and efforts to obtain the second acquittal must therefore be suited to the new conditions, and generally just as vigorous as the first.” “But this second acquittal will once again not be final,” said K., shaking his head. “Of course not,” said the painter, “the second acquittal is followed by the third arrest, the third acquittal by the fourth arrest and so on. That’s what is meant by the term apparent acquittal.” K. was silent. “You clearly don’t think an apparent acquittal offers much advantage,” said the painter, “perhaps deferment would suit you better. Would you like me to explain what deferment is about?” K. nodded. The painter had leant back and spread himself out in his chair, his nightshirt was wide open, he had pushed his hand inside and was stroking his breast and his sides. “Deferment,” said the painter, looking vaguely in front of himself for a while as if trying to find a perfectly appropriate explanation, “deferment consists of keeping proceedings permanently in their earliest stages. To do that, the accused and those helping him need to keep in continuous personal contact with the court, especially those helping him. I repeat, this doesn’t require so much effort as getting an apparent acquittal, but it probably requires a lot more attention. You must never let the trial out of your sight, you have to go and see the appropriate judge at regular intervals as well as when something in particular comes up and, whatever you do, you have to try and remain friendly with him; if you don’t know the judge personally you have to influence him through the judges you do know, and you have to do it without giving up on the direct discussions. As long as you don’t fail to do any of these things you can be reasonably sure the trial won’t get past its first stages. The trial doesn’t stop, but the defendant is almost as certain of avoiding conviction as if he’d been acquitted. Compared with an apparent acquittal, deferment has the advantage that the defendant’s future is less uncertain, he’s safe from the shock of being suddenly re-arrested and doesn’t need to fear the exertions and stress involved in getting an apparent acquittal just when everything else in his life would make it most difficult. Deferment does have certain disadvantages of its own though, too, and they shouldn’t be under-estimated. I don’t mean by this that the defendant is never free, he’s never free in the proper sense of the word with an apparent acquittal either. There’s another disadvantage. Proceedings can’t be prevented from moving forward unless there are some at least ostensible reasons given. So something needs to seem to be happening when looked at from the outside. This means that from time to time various injunctions have to be obeyed, the accused has to be questioned, investigations have to take place and so on. The trial’s been artificially constrained inside a tiny circle, and it has to be continuously spun round within it. And that, of course, brings with it certain unpleasantnesses for the accused, although you shouldn’t imagine they’re all that bad. All of this is just for show, the interrogations, for instance, they’re only very short, if you ever don’t have the time or don’t feel like going to them you can offer an excuse, with some judges you can even arrange the injunctions together a long time in advance, in essence all it means is that, as the accused, you have to report to the judge from time to time.” Even while the painter was speaking those last words K. had laid his coat over his arm and had stood up. Immediately, from outside the door, there was a cry of ‘He’s standing up now!’. “Are you leaving already?” asked the painter, who had also stood up. “It must be the air that’s driving you out. I’m very sorry about that. There’s still a lot I need to tell you. I had to put everything very briefly but I hope at least it was all clear.” “Oh yes,” said K., whose head was aching from the effort of listening. Despite this affirmation the painter summed it all up once more, as if he wanted to give K. something to console him on his way home. “Both have in common that they prevent the defendant being convicted,” he said. “But they also prevent his being properly acquitted,” said K. quietly, as if ashamed to acknowledge it. “You’ve got it, in essence,” said the painter quickly. K. placed his hand on his winter overcoat but could not bring himself to put it on. Most of all he would have liked to pack everything together and run out to the fresh air. Not even the girls could induce him to put his coat on, even though they were already loudly telling each other that he was doing so. The painter still had to interpret K.’s mood in some way, so he said, “I expect you’ve deliberately avoided deciding between my suggestions yet. That’s good. I would even have advised against making a decision straight away. There’s no more than a hair’s breadth of difference between the advantages and disadvantages. Everything has to be carefully weighed up. But the most important thing is you shouldn’t lose too much time.” “I’ll come back here again soon,” said K., who had suddenly decided to put his frock coat on, threw his overcoat over his shoulder and hurried over to the door behind which the girls now began to scream. K. thought he could even see the screaming girls through the door. “Well, you’ll have to keep your word,” said the painter, who had not followed him, “otherwise I’ll come to the bank to ask about it myself.” “Will you open this door for me,” said K. pulling at the handle which, as he noticed from the resistance, was being held tightly by the girls on the other side. “Do you want to be bothered by the girls?” asked the painter. “It’s better if you use the other way out,” he said, pointing to the door behind the bed. K. agreed to this and jumped back to the bed. But instead of opening that door the painter crawled under the bed and from underneath it asked K., “Just a moment more, would you not like to see a picture I could sell to you?” K. did not want to be impolite, the painter really had taken his side and promised to help him more in the future, and because of K.’s forgetfulness there had been no mention of any payment for the painter’s help, so K. could not turn him down now and allowed him to show him the picture, even though he was quivering with impatience to get out of the studio. From under the bed, the painter withdrew a pile of unframed paintings. They were so covered in dust that when the painter tried to blow it off the one on top the dust swirled around in front of K.’s eyes, robbing him of breath for some time. “Moorland landscape,” said the painter passing the picture to K. It showed two sickly trees, well separated from each other in dark grass. In the background there was a multi-coloured sunset. “That’s nice,” said K. “I’ll buy it.” K. expressed himself in this curt way without any thought, so he was glad when the painter did not take this amiss and picked up a second painting from the floor. “This is a counterpart to the first picture,” said the painter. Perhaps it had been intended as a counterpart, but there was not the slightest difference to be seen between it and the first picture, there were the trees, there the grass and there the sunset. But this was of little importance to K. “They are beautiful landscapes,” he said, “I’ll buy them both and hang them in my office.” “You seem to like this subject,” said the painter, picking up a third painting, “good job I’ve still got another, similar picture here.” The picture though, was not similar, rather it was exactly the same moorland landscape. The painter was fully exploiting this opportunity to sell off his old pictures. “I’ll take this one too,” said K. “How much do the three paintings cost?” “We can talk about that next time,” said the painter. “You’re in a hurry now, and we’ll still be in contact. And besides, I’m glad you like the paintings, I’ll give you all the paintings I’ve got down here. They’re all moorland landscapes, I’ve painted a lot of moorland landscapes. A lot of people don’t like that sort of picture because they’re too gloomy, but there are others, and you’re one of them, who love gloomy themes.” But K. was not in the mood to hear about the professional experiences of this painter cum beggar. “Wrap them all up!” he called out, interrupting the painter as he was speaking, “my servant will come to fetch them in the morning.” “There’s no need for that,” said the painter. “I expect I can find a porter for you who can go with you now.” And, at last, he leant over the bed and unlocked the door. “Just step on the bed, don’t worry about that,” said the painter, “that’s what everyone does who comes in here.” Even without this invitation, K. had shown no compunction in already placing his foot in the middle of the bed covers, then he looked out through the open door and drew his foot back again. “What is that?” he asked the painter. “What are you so surprised at?” he asked, surprised in his turn. “Those are court offices. Didn’t you know there are court offices here? There are court offices in almost every attic, why should this building be any different? Even my studio is actually one of the court offices but the court put it at my disposal.” It was not so much finding court offices even here that shocked K., he was mainly shocked at himself, at his own naïvety in court matters. It seemed to him that one of the most basic rules governing how a defendant should behave was always to be prepared, never allow surprises, never to look, unsuspecting, to the right when the judge stood beside him to his left – and this was the very basic rule that he was continually violating. A long corridor extended in from of him, air blew in from it which, compared with the air in the studio, was refreshing. There were benches set along each side of the corridor just as in the waiting area for the office he went to himself. There seemed to be precise rules governing how offices should be equipped. There did not seem to be many people visiting the offices that day. There was a man there, half sitting, half laying, his face was buried in his arm on the bench and he seemed to be sleeping; another man was standing in the half-dark at the end of the corridor. K. now climbed over the bed, the painter followed him with the pictures. They soon came across a servant of the court – K. was now able to recognise all the servants of the court from the gold buttons they wore on their civilian clothes below the normal buttons – and the painter instructed him to go with K. carrying the pictures. K. staggered more than he walked, his handkerchief pressed over his mouth. They had nearly reached the exit when the girls stormed in on them, so K. had not been able to avoid them. They had clearly seen that the second door of the studio had been opened and had gone around to impose themselves on him from this side. “I can’t come with you any further!” called out the painter with a laugh as the girls pressed in. “Goodbye, and don’t hesitate too long!” K. did not even look round at him. Once on the street he took the first cab he came across. He now had to get rid of the servant, whose gold button continually caught his eye even if it caught no-one else’s. As a servant, the servant of the court was going to sit on the coach-box. But K. chased him down from there. It was already well into the afternoon when K. arrived in front of the bank. He would have liked to leave the pictures in the cab but feared there might be some occasion when he would have to let the painter see he still had them. So he had the pictures taken to his office and locked them in the lowest drawer of his desk so that he could at least keep them safe from the deputy director’s view for the next few days.
The Trial by Franz Kafka