The Trial, Chapter Seven

by Franz Kafka

Lawyer – Manufacturer – Painter

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

The Trial, Chapter Three

by Franz Kafka

In the empty Courtroom – The Student – The Offices

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

The Trial, Chapter One

by Franz Kafka

Arrest – Conversation with Mrs. Grubach – Then Miss Bürstner

Someone must have been telling lies about Josef K., he knew he had done nothing wrong but, one morning, he was arrested. Every day at eight in the morning he was brought his breakfast by Mrs. Grubach’s cook – Mrs. Grubach was his landlady – but today she didn’t come. That had never happened before. K. waited a little while, looked from his pillow at the old woman who lived opposite and who was watching him with an inquisitiveness quite unusual for her, and finally, both hungry and disconcerted, rang the bell. There was immediately a knock at the door and a man entered. He had never seen the man in this house before. He was slim but firmly built, his clothes were black and close-fitting, with many folds and pockets, buckles and buttons and a belt, all of which gave the impression of being very practical but without making it very clear what they were actually for. “Who are you?” asked K., sitting half upright in his bed. The man, however, ignored the question as if his arrival simply had to be accepted, and merely replied, “You rang?” “Anna should have brought me my breakfast,” said K. He tried to work out who the man actually was, first in silence, just through observation and by thinking about it, but the man didn’t stay still to be looked at for very long. Instead he went over to the door, opened it slightly, and said to someone who was clearly standing immediately behind it, “He wants Anna to bring him his breakfast.” There was a little laughter in the neighbouring room, it was not clear from the sound of it whether there were several people laughing. The strange man could not have learned anything from it that he hadn’t known already, but now he said to K., as if making his report “It is not possible.” “It would be the first time that’s happened,” said K., as he jumped out of bed and quickly pulled on his trousers. “I want to see who that is in the next room, and why it is that Mrs. Grubach has let me be disturbed in this way.” It immediately occurred to him that he needn’t have said this out loud, and that he must to some extent have acknowledged their authority by doing so, but that didn’t seem important to him at the time. That, at least, is how the stranger took it, as he said, “Don’t you think you’d better stay where you are?” “I want neither to stay here nor to be spoken to by you until you’ve introduced yourself.” “I meant it for your own good,” said the stranger and opened the door, this time without being asked. The next room, which K. entered more slowly than he had intended, looked at first glance exactly the same as it had the previous evening. It was Mrs. Grubach’s living room, over-filled with furniture, tablecloths, porcelain and photographs. Perhaps there was a little more space in there than usual today, but if so it was not immediately obvious, especially as the main difference was the presence of a man sitting by the open window with a book from which he now looked up. “You should have stayed in your room! Didn’t Franz tell you?” “And what is it you want, then?” said K., looking back and forth between this new acquaintance and the one named Franz, who had remained in the doorway. Through the open window he noticed the old woman again, who had come close to the window opposite so that she could continue to see everything. She was showing an inquisitiveness that really made it seem like she was going senile. “I want to see Mrs. Grubach …,” said K., making a movement as if tearing himself away from the two men – even though they were standing well away from him – and wanted to go. “No,” said the man at the window, who threw his book down on a coffee table and stood up. “You can’t go away when you’re under arrest.” “That’s how it seems,” said K. “And why am I under arrest?” he then asked. “That’s something we’re not allowed to tell you. Go into your room and wait there. Proceedings are underway and you’ll learn about everything all in good time. It’s not really part of my job to be friendly towards you like this, but I hope no-one, apart from Franz, will hear about it, and he’s been more friendly towards you than he should have been, under the rules, himself. If you carry on having as much good luck as you have been with your arresting officers then you can reckon on things going well with you.” K. wanted to sit down, but then he saw that, apart from the chair by the window, there was nowhere anywhere in the room where he could sit. “You’ll get the chance to see for yourself how true all this is,” said Franz and both men then walked up to K. They were significantly bigger than him, especially the second man, who frequently slapped him on the shoulder. The two of them felt K.’s nightshirt, and said he would now have to wear one that was of much lower quality, but that they would keep the nightshirt along with his other underclothes and return them to him if his case turned out well. “It’s better for you if you give us the things than if you leave them in the storeroom,” they said. “Things have a tendency to go missing in the storeroom, and after a certain amount of time they sell things off, whether the case involved has come to an end or not. And cases like this can last a long time, especially the ones that have been coming up lately. They’d give you the money they got for them, but it wouldn’t be very much as it’s not what they’re offered for them when they sell them that counts, it’s how much they get slipped on the side, and things like that lose their value anyway when they get passed on from hand to hand, year after year.” K. paid hardly any attention to what they were saying, he did not place much value on what he may have still possessed or on who decided what happened to them. It was much more important to him to get a clear understanding of his position, but he could not think clearly while these people were here, the second policeman’s belly – and they could only be policemen – looked friendly enough, sticking out towards him, but when K. looked up and saw his dry, boney face it did not seem to fit with the body. His strong nose twisted to one side as if ignoring K. and sharing an understanding with the other policeman. What sort of people were these? What were they talking about? What office did they belong to? K. was living in a free country, after all, everywhere was at peace, all laws were decent and were upheld, who was it who dared accost him in his own home? He was always inclined to take life as lightly as he could, to cross bridges when he came to them, pay no heed for the future, even when everything seemed under threat. But here that did not seem the right thing to do. He could have taken it all as a joke, a big joke set up by his colleagues at the bank for some unknown reason, or also perhaps because today was his thirtieth birthday, it was all possible of course, maybe all he had to do was laugh in the policemen’s face in some way and they would laugh with him, maybe they were tradesmen from the corner of the street, they looked like they might be – but he was nonetheless determined, ever since he first caught sight of the one called Franz, not to lose any slight advantage he might have had over these people. There was a very slight risk that people would later say he couldn’t understand a joke, but – although he wasn’t normally in the habit of learning from experience – he might also have had a few unimportant occasions in mind when, unlike his more cautious friends, he had acted with no thought at all for what might follow and had been made to suffer for it. He didn’t want that to happen again, not this time at least; if they were play-acting he would act along with them. Continue reading

The Secret Sharer, part 1

by Joseph Conrad

I

On my right hand there were lines of fishing stakes resembling a mysterious system of half-submerged bamboo fences, incomprehensible in its division of the domain of tropical fishes, and crazy of aspect as if abandoned forever by some nomad tribe of fishermen now gone to the other end of the ocean; for there was no sign of human habitation as far as the eye could reach. To the left a group of barren islets, suggesting ruins of stone walls, towers, and blockhouses, had its foundations set in a blue sea that itself looked solid, so still and stable did it lie below my feet; even the track of light from the westering sun shone smoothly, without that animated glitter which tells of an imperceptible ripple. And when I turned my head to take a parting glance at the tug which had just left us anchored outside the bar, I saw the straight line of the flat shore joined to the stable sea, edge to edge, with a perfect and unmarked closeness, in one leveled floor half brown, half blue under the enormous dome of the sky. Corresponding in their insignificance to the islets of the sea, two small clumps of trees, one on each side of the only fault in the impeccable joint, marked the mouth of the river Meinam we had just left on the first preparatory stage of our homeward journey; and, far back on the inland level, a larger and loftier mass, the grove surrounding the great Paknam pagoda, was the only thing on which the eye could rest from the vain task of exploring the monotonous sweep of the horizon. Here and there gleams as of a few scattered pieces of silver marked the windings of the great river; and on the nearest of them, just within the bar, the tug steaming right into the land became lost to my sight, hull and funnel and masts, as though the impassive earth had swallowed her up without an effort, without a tremor. My eye followed the light cloud of her smoke, now here, now there, above the plain, according to the devious curves of the stream, but always fainter and farther away, till I lost it at last behind the miter-shaped hill of the great pagoda. And then I was left alone with my ship, anchored at the head of the Gulf of Siam.

She floated at the starting point of a long journey, very still in an immense stillness, the shadows of her spars flung far to the eastward by the setting sun. At that moment I was alone on her decks. There was not a sound in her—and around us nothing moved, nothing lived, not a canoe on the water, not a bird in the air, not a cloud in the sky. In this breathless pause at the threshold of a long passage we seemed to be measuring our fitness for a long and arduous enterprise, the appointed task of both our existences to be carried out, far from all human eyes, with only sky and sea for spectators and for judges. Continue reading

The Awakening, Chapter XXXIX

Victor, with hammer and nails and scraps of scantling, was patching a corner of one of the galleries. Mariequita sat near by, dangling her legs, watching him work, and handing him nails from the tool-box. The sun was beating down upon them. The girl had covered her head with her apron folded into a square pad. They had been talking for an hour or more. She was never tired of hearing Victor describe the dinner at Mrs. Pontellier’s. He exaggerated every detail, making it appear a veritable Lucullean feast. The flowers were in tubs, he said. The champagne was quaffed from huge golden goblets. Venus rising from the foam could have presented no more entrancing a spectacle than Mrs. Pontellier, blazing with beauty and diamonds at the head of the board, while the other women were all of them youthful houris, possessed of incomparable charms. She got it into her head that Victor was in love with Mrs. Pontellier, and he gave her evasive answers, framed so as to confirm her belief. She grew sullen and cried a little, threatening to go off and leave him to his fine ladies. There were a dozen men crazy about her at the Cheniere; and since it was the fashion to be in love with married people, why, she could run away any time she liked to New Orleans with Celina’s husband. Continue reading

The Awakening, Chapter XXXVII

Edna looked in at the drug store. Monsieur Ratignolle was putting up a mixture himself, very carefully, dropping a red liquid into a tiny glass. He was grateful to Edna for having come; her presence would be a comfort to his wife. Madame Ratignolle’s sister, who had always been with her at such trying times, had not been able to come up from the plantation, and Adele had been inconsolable until Mrs. Pontellier so kindly promised to come to her. The nurse had been with them at night for the past week, as she lived a great distance away. And Dr. Mandelet had been coming and going all the afternoon. They were then looking for him any moment.

Edna hastened upstairs by a private stairway that led from the rear of the store to the apartments above. The children were all sleeping in a back room. Madame Ratignolle was in the salon, whither she had strayed in her suffering impatience. She sat on the sofa, clad in an ample white peignoir, holding a handkerchief tight in her hand with a nervous clutch. Her face was drawn and pinched, her sweet blue eyes haggard and unnatural. All her beautiful hair had been drawn back and plaited. It lay in a long braid on the sofa pillow, coiled like a golden serpent. The nurse, a comfortable looking Griffe woman in white apron and cap, was urging her to return to her bedroom. Continue reading

The Awakening, Chapter XXXVI

There was a garden out in the suburbs; a small, leafy corner, with a few green tables under the orange trees. An old cat slept all day on the stone step in the sun, and an old mulatresse slept her idle hours away in her chair at the open window, till some one happened to knock on one of the green tables. She had milk and cream cheese to sell, and bread and butter. There was no one who could make such excellent coffee or fry a chicken so golden brown as she.

The place was too modest to attract the attention of people of fashion, and so quiet as to have escaped the notice of those in search of pleasure and dissipation. Edna had discovered it accidentally one day when the high-board gate stood ajar. She caught sight of a little green table, blotched with the checkered sunlight that filtered through the quivering leaves overhead. Within she had found the slumbering mulatresse, the drowsy cat, and a glass of milk which reminded her of the milk she had tasted in Iberville. Continue reading

The Awakening, Chapter XXXV

The morning was full of sunlight and hope. Edna could see before her no denial—only the promise of excessive joy. She lay in bed awake, with bright eyes full of speculation. “He loves you, poor fool.” If she could but get that conviction firmly fixed in her mind, what mattered about the rest? She felt she had been childish and unwise the night before in giving herself over to despondency. She recapitulated the motives which no doubt explained Robert’s reserve. They were not insurmountable; they would not hold if he really loved her; they could not hold against her own passion, which he must come to realize in time. She pictured him going to his business that morning. She even saw how he was dressed; how he walked down one street, and turned the corner of another; saw him bending over his desk, talking to people who entered the office, going to his lunch, and perhaps watching for her on the street. He would come to her in the afternoon or evening, sit and roll his cigarette, talk a little, and go away as he had done the night before. But how delicious it would be to have him there with her! She would have no regrets, nor seek to penetrate his reserve if he still chose to wear it. Continue reading

The Awakening, Chapter XXXIV

The dining-room was very small. Edna’s round mahogany would have almost filled it. As it was there was but a step or two from the little table to the kitchen, to the mantel, the small buffet, and the side door that opened out on the narrow brick-paved yard.

A certain degree of ceremony settled upon them with the announcement of dinner. There was no return to personalities. Robert related incidents of his sojourn in Mexico, and Edna talked of events likely to interest him, which had occurred during his absence. The dinner was of ordinary quality, except for the few delicacies which she had sent out to purchase. Old Celestine, with a bandana tignon twisted about her head, hobbled in and out, taking a personal interest in everything; and she lingered occasionally to talk patois with Robert, whom she had known as a boy.

He went out to a neighboring cigar stand to purchase cigarette papers, and when he came back he found that Celestine had served the black coffee in the parlor. Continue reading

The Awakening, Chapter XXXIII

It happened sometimes when Edna went to see Mademoiselle Reisz that the little musician was absent, giving a lesson or making some small necessary household purchase. The key was always left in a secret hiding-place in the entry, which Edna knew. If Mademoiselle happened to be away, Edna would usually enter and wait for her return.

When she knocked at Mademoiselle Reisz’s door one afternoon there was no response; so unlocking the door, as usual, she entered and found the apartment deserted, as she had expected. Her day had been quite filled up, and it was for a rest, for a refuge, and to talk about Robert, that she sought out her friend. Continue reading