The Trial

The Trial -  Franz Kafka, Max Brod, Willa Muir, Edwin Muir

I blundered. I suspect I wouldn't have been in love with this anyway, but I can't blame my feelings exclusively on 'The Trial'. I blame technology.

Instead of sticking with the physical copy I own - the 'definitive edition' translated by Willa and Edwin Muir that includes unfinished chapters and redacted sentences that may or may not have been meant to go back into the final draft. I opted instead to read most of this with the translation by David Wyllie available at Project Gutenberg because that was convenient.

I was more than halfway through before I realized my error and tried to go back. Differences were slight, but telling in most cases, but here and there were powerful differences. For example, here are the opening lines:


"Someone must have been telling lies about Josef K., he knew he had done nothing wrong but, one morning, he was arrested."


“Someone must have traduced Joseph K., for without having done anything wrong he was arrested one fine morning.”

In the translator's note the Muirs stated they did their utmost to preserve the flavor of German as spoken by Kafka himself, while Wyllie, though having no note, seems to have preferred a simple English translation. The simple text is bold but the style is superior in the the Muirs' translation. I'm grateful for the existence of Project Gutenberg, but from now on I'll keep away from translated works.

The book was a chore to get through in both versions, but I preferred the 'definitive' translation much more. I did not have the heart or stomach to start over. I'm left at a loss to cover the book. It was bleak and sluggish and interminable (until it wasn't). The printed version saved the book in many ways because of the additional (somewhat clarifying) content, but also because of the better tone of the book. It was more elegant about the stark meaninglessness of everything and the futility of doing.