Truth be told, The Trial is only partially a Franz Kafka novel. Work in earnest on the novel began for Kafka in 1914 following an intensely emotional and upsetting meeting with his fiancée and her sister. The manuscript he gave his friend Max Brod in 1920 was still not complete and never would be. Upon Kafka’s death, Brod set to the task of editing what existed into publishable form in direct opposition to the German ban on publishing Jewish literature in 1925. Over the years, attempts have been made to wrest control of the narrative from Brod’s editor’s eyes and piece it back together into something more befitting the idiosyncratic vision of Kafka.
The plot of The Trial is pure nightmare fuel. When it comes to the work of Kafka, most readers either view the idea of waking up as a bug as the most horrendous of possibilities in his literature or waking up to realize you have been put on trial without being told what crime you committed. The Trial definitely seems like something that could have come straight from the pen of Edgar Allan Poe; it’s not hard to imagine pit and the pendulum awaiting Kafka’s Josef K. after he is found guilty.
Rare is the reader who expresses doubt about the main character’s eventual conviction. Part of the paranoid nightmarish quality of the book is that is plain the outcome has been foretold before the beginning even starts. Room for debate does exist on the question of whether Josef K. is actually guilty or not, however. Steadfastly in the corner of those who are convinced beyond a reasonable doubt of the guilt of Kafka’s protagonist is filmmaker Orson Welles. The position of Welles on this subject becomes more important than most in light of the fact he directed a film adaptation in 1962. The Trial was also adapted into a film in 1993, several stage plays, a handful of radio dramas, and numerous homages, parodies, and unofficial loosely interpreted films and TV episodes.