The Castle

The Castle



The Pequod Review:

Although it was incomplete at the time of his death, The Castle is one of Franz Kafka’s most underrated novels, one that is in many ways a deeper critique of bureaucracy than The Trial (1925) and with a richer cast of characters. The story centers on a man known only as K, who has come to a small village from a faraway country expecting to work as a land surveyor for a government operating in a nearby castle. When he arrives, he is informed by the mayor that a communication mix-up led to his hiring, and he spends most of the novel in bureaucratic purgatory while he waits for an answer. Throughout the story, the all-powerful presence of the castle looms large; the villagers are in constant deference even when the castle’s actions seem incomprehensible, and K slowly peels back the layers and discovers that nothing is as impressive as it seems. Meanwhile, Kafka has become a superb writer, with some of his most evocative prose:

It was late evening when I arrived. The village lay under deep snow. Nothing could be seen of the castle hill; fog and darkness surrounded it, and not even the faintest glimmer of light gave any indication of where the great castle was. For a long time I stood on the wooden bridge leading from the road to the village and gazed upward into the seeming void.

The story unfortunately ends before Kafka could supply a conclusion, but this is another very strong novel.