The Castle

by Franz Kafka

Paper Book, 1954





New York, Schocken Books [1974, c1954]


A remote village covered almost permanently in snow and dominated by a castle and its staff of dictatorial, sexually predatory bureaucrats - this is the setting for Kafka's story about a man seeking both acceptance in the village and access to the castle. Kafka breaks new ground in evoking a dense village community fraught wiht tensions, and recounting an often poignant, occasionally farcical love-affair. He also explores the relation between the individual andpower, and asks why the villagers so readily submit to an authority which may exist only in their collective imagination.Published only after Kafka's death, The Castle appeared inthe same decade as modernist masterpieces by Eliot, Joyce, Woolf, Mann and Proust, and is among the central works of modern literature. This translation follows the text established by critical scholarship, and manuscript variants are mentioned in the notes. The introduction provides guidance to the text without reducing the reader's own freedom to make sense of this fascinatingly enigmatic novel.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member atomheart
Kafka's writing style is very challenging at points, droning on with long, highly punctuated sentences, and even longer paragraphs... sometimes spanning 10 pages. Somehow... its utterly annoying and totally engaging at the same time, very bizarre.

Overall, it's a pity the book was unfinished, cause I was finally starting to get into it. For those who don't know, the book literally ends in mid-sentence.

The main character K. speaks for Kafka's obvious hatred for bureaucracy and authority. Toward the end of the book, (who knows where that really is in relation to the story it intended to be) you start learning some interesting facts (purely opinions, because there are no facts in his world) that really shape the book and could change the way you look at the story, but unfortunately it was never expounded on... so one never knows where Kafka could had gone with this.
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LibraryThing member heidilove
a novel of the futility of trying. go ahead. read it. i dare you.
LibraryThing member kawgirl
I've read the chapters in different orders and the story had meaning every time. Fascinating and twisted, but that is Kafka for you.
LibraryThing member missizicks
This was weird, but not as weird, or as difficult, as I was expecting. The narrative flows reasonably well. There are passages that go on interminably, but there's enough action to make them bearable. It felt like reading someone else's crazy dream, with the contradictions and strange passage of time. Poor K. Accepted into the village for all the wrong reasons. I see where The Prisoner TV show got its ideas from now!… (more)
LibraryThing member Helenliz
There was a news article today suggesting that two thirds of people questioned lie about the books they have read to appear more sophisticated, so how do you know I'm telling the truth...

This was somewhat strange. It's never quite clear what is true and what isn't. Everything is open to interpretation. The main character is an incommer, who views the situation in the village very differently from the locals. There are many rules and customs that make the villagers seem brainwashed in comparison to the incommer. The presence of the castle - the seat of power - is always mysterious and threatening, even sinister.… (more)
LibraryThing member soylentgreen23
I'd never read anything like Kafka when I found "The Castle" down at my local library. I was still quite young then, and perhaps wasn't prepared for what lay in store for me; it took me a while to make my way through the book, and when I had finished I wasn't sure how to make sense of it all.

I'm still not sure, but I do know that, as a piece of fiction, "The Castle" is very impressive.

As a side-note, it's with some sadness that I saw my library redeveloped a few years back. It wasn't a real redevelopment - now they have computers and such - but what changed about five years was the removal of one little carousel, stuck at the end of an aisle where it didn't really belong, that was crowded with foreign books. I discovered Kafka there, and Lem too; how I wish I could make more discoveries like those so innocently, and without such precipitous expectations!
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LibraryThing member Rhinoa
This book was sadly never finished by Kafka before he died in 1924. He began writing it in 1922 and it was first published after his death in 1926. It tells the story of K who is a surveyor. He is summoned to the castle, but when he arrives he is not granted admittance and it seems he was summoned by accident. He stays though and keeps trying to find ways around his exclusion and tries petitioning various people and officials.

He meets Freida at one of the bars and after a tumble under one of the tables they end up engaged and living together. They are thrown out of the bar after the landlady falls out with K who generally seems to misunderstand and rub everyone up the wrong way. They end up living in a school room which is less than ideal with K's two unwanted assistants who keep getting him in more and more trouble!

It's a strange novel and I never quite understood why K didn't just leave. There seemed no point in staying and I am sure he said he had a family (which I assumed meant wife) at the start. I liked the Barnabas character and his two sisters who unforatunely didn't get on with Freida at all. It's a shame it was never finished, it ends in the middle of a sentence in fact. I would love to have seen how it all played out and what became of K.
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LibraryThing member ireed110
"I want to go to the castle!"

"You can't get there from here."

"But I need to go the castle!"

"You can't get there from here."

I hated this book.
LibraryThing member pineapplejuggler
Being very dry and long-winded while being an unfinished book, The Castle was very hard to get through for me. Although it was only 280 pages, it would be much more if it had been edited using standard practices. As this is the first book by Kafka I have read, I am not sure if it his style, or because he didn't finish the book, but paragraph breaks were few and far between, even when there was a change in dialogue speaker.
I did enjoy and find rather relatable Kafka's themes of the absurdity of a nontransparent, yet subtly out-of-control bureaucracy; the absurdity of the the status quo; and how people can have such different, yet thoroughly thought-out perspectives, possibly stemming from deeply ingrained biases.
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LibraryThing member delirium
It's hard to summarize Kafka, but here goes. K, the mysterious main character, has been summoned to do some land surveying for a nameless town. He's contracted by the Castle, the faceless bureaucratic organization that runs the town. The entire story follows K's increasingly desperate attempts to contact the Castle and begin his work. Kafka, not one for subtlety, fills the book with circular passages about the myriad bureaucratic processes, all ultimately futile and time consuming, that keep K where he is. In the meantime, K's personal life goes at lightning speed.
The process of reading Kafka is part of its point. As K goes nowhere, so too does the book. It's really quite maddening, but I respect it.
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LibraryThing member Cathyvil
This book is like reading a dream. I'm not sure whose dream it is though. The Castle is the story of K who was summoned to a village as Land-Surveyor and his trials and tribulations trying to work through the bureaucracy of the castle's politics. Void of any consistent punctuation (paragraphs go on for pages) I found both K and the villagers to be nonsensical and irrational. This must be the most contrary town ever written about. The situations are inane, but Kafka's style is still engaging where I wanted to find out what crazy direction the story would take next. Had Kafka ever finished this work so it wasn't such a burden to read, it definitely would have earned itself more stars.… (more)
LibraryThing member messpots
The main character wants a normal life — family, vocation — but stubbornly and vainly tries to suss out 'what makes everything work', never understanding that the machinery behind the workings of life aren't amenable to reason. That's what the book is about. It is not about 'bureaucracy'. I found it amusing.
LibraryThing member antao
Genetics provides only the blueprint for a mind, and our brains are capable of reprogramming through learning and experience. If Kafka can so eloquently describe the complexity of the trap, you could see it as halfway to designing a means of improving the way we live. In “The Castle” Kafka describes K. climbing a wall as a child, not because he couldn't walk around it but because of the sense of achievement and improved perspective it gave. I think Kafka understood that to keep struggling was better than giving up. However dark his writing is, I'm not getting the same sense of nihilism I found with Camus. Re-reading “The Castle” kept reminding me of the film “The Grand Budapest Hotel”, with that same odd blend of dark surrealism and humour. Given that the film is based on the writing of Stefan Zweig, a contemporary of Kafka's, I can start to get a sense of him in the context of a time and place that was beginning to question tradition in art and society. I can view him as part of a world where traditional art was about to be confronted by the anti-bourgeois Dadaism. Kafka is giving me a claustrophobic vision of a man trapped within a Russian doll. First in his own mind, then by the people who surround him, then by the bureaucracy of an indifferent higher authority and finally by the incomprehensible nature and brevity of human existence. It must have rattled the complacency of a world where people believed they had already answered all the questions relating to modes of living; with class systems, religion, order and the rule of law. The time surrounding WW1 shows up over and over again in literature as a period of enormous change throughout Europe, and a reflection of that cataclysmic alteration is definitely there when I read Kafka's work. I can trace a process of confronting tradition and exposing its deficiencies from Dickens, through Kafka and onwards, to writers like Stella Gibbons. I'm sure there are many other authors that represent that same shift to more modern modes of thought, and if I ever become well-read enough, I'll likely find I can almost infinitely expand the list.
Kafka seems to be describing an issue of society, where people become trapped within roles and find that free will is limited to a narrow path by the potential detrimental consequences of straying from that path.

The interesting part is there is a suggestion that The Castle also appears to be made up of individuals fulfilling set roles, and this leads to the tantalising suggestion that that there is nobody in overall charge. Does the Village dictate the actions of the Castle as much as the other way around?

How free really is an individual government official, president, prime minister or even dictator to steer society away from a potentially self-destructive course? Are they constantly restricted by the role they play and the potential unwanted consequences of every small action? They can't alter the big picture because of the instability generated in even effecting a small change.

There was also a comedy series produced here a few years ago called “Yes Minister”, in which a government minister rapidly discovered that every noble action he tried to perform had unforeseen consequences that ended up in disaster. Kafka has this to say about the officials in “The Castle”:

"How can a single official issue a pardon? At best that could only be done by the authorities as a whole, but even they can't issue a pardon, only come to a decision."

I think the problem as Kafka saw it wasn't with individuals but in the societies we inevitably construct. Without building cooperative societies we could not have progressed to the point we have, but they also develop a momentum of their own which restricts us as individuals and can lead us down potentially collectively self-destructive paths. There is not yet a perfect society, only ones balanced on a knife edge which are less bad than others.

It's the paradox of both needing the construct of society and being controlled by it that Kafka describes so brilliantly. Society itself effectively becomes an entity which is outside anyone's control.

The interesting question is whether literature merely reflects changes that are already occurring in society or if writers, like Kafka, are actually driving that change. I kind of suspect the latter.
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LibraryThing member Haidji
This book can be read as an introduction to dystopian literature.
Joseph K. (the protagonist) arrives in a village and struggles to gain access to the mysterious authorities who govern it from a castle.
K. believes that he's been invited to a town to do some land surveying, and realises upon his arrival that his invitation was maybe the result of a bureaucratic mishap. K. wants answers from the officials at the castle that overlooks the town.
This book is about bureaucracy, meaning, connection, relationships, and how hierarchy impacts the way we experience and live in this world.
It may be an unfinished work, but it is an amazing book that can test your conception of the real purpose in your life.
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LibraryThing member nog
I would like to see where Kafka would have taken this unfinished novel which stops in mid-sentence. His protagonist K. seems so unreflective and tossed about by those around him. Chock full of that patented dark Kafka humor, it lurches from one slightly nightmarish episode to another, and the translation seems to catch the dreamlike prose that this novel is known for. A bit frustrating to read, for Kafka seems to dispense with paragraphs for many pages at a time. It really slowed me down.… (more)
LibraryThing member ljhliesl
George Guidall narrates and therefore mmmm. Such a treat. I couldn't listen to two Martin Amis books in a row because both are narrated by Graeme Malcolm and so I'd confuse them. Kafka is as good an interruption as any, and George Guidall means mmmm.
LibraryThing member AshRyan
The Castle tells the story of a man known simply as K. who arrives in a village to work as a surveyor at the invitation of the authorities in the town's castle, only to discover that there has been some kind of mix up and no surveyor is needed. It follows his attempts to deal with the castle's bureaucracy to receive justice or at least some kind of work (though he never manages to actually meet any of the major officials, but only communicates with them through a couple of apparently useless messages) and the village's residents, who are used to life under the castle's arbitrary rule and have little sympathy for K.'s troubles.

The Castle is probably my least favorite of Kafka's major unfinished works, perhaps in part because it seems to be the most unfinished of them. It is similar to The Trial in some ways, but also different in some interesting respects. While the story in The Trial involved endless, mind-numbing bureaucracy with regard to one particular aspect of life, namely the legal system, in the world of The Castle that bureaucracy is expanded to encompass ALL aspects of life, such that life itself becomes unlivable even if one is not accused of any wrongdoing. So The Castle is rather broader, but thus loses the focus of a work like The Trial (on the issue of guilt, in that case)...and that broadness seems to have fomented Kafka's tendency toward vagueness.

The Castle also feels somewhat rambling---there are some amusing or thought-provoking parts, but in general it just doesn't seem to be going anywhere. That's kind of the point, of course, but after a while it just starts to drag. It didn't seem that well-written for Kafka either, but I don't know how much of that is due to Mark Harman's translation of this edition and how much to the rough state of Kafka's original drafts.

On the whole, worth reading perhaps once, but some of Kafka's other work is better.
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LibraryThing member robertmorrow
A frustrating, irritating book that accurately describes the impersonality of the bureaucracy.
LibraryThing member sweetiegherkin
A land-surveyor simply named K travels to a distant village after being summoned to work there by officials at the mysterious Castle. Upon arrival, he is treated poorly by the majority of the local villagers and is told that a mistake was made when he was offered a job as there is no work for him. However, K does manage to almost immediately become engaged to the barmaid Frieda and make friends with the messenger Barnabas and his family, who are considered outcasts of society because of his sister Amalia's refusal to offer sexual favors to a Castle official. Meanwhile, K fruitlessly pursues Klamm, the Castle official assigned to him, in hopes of finding out more about his situation. Additionally, K tries to manage the annoying antics of the two assistants he meets upon arrival at the village and is given a deal to work as the school's janitor in lieu of the land-surveying he expected.

I am going to start this review by openly and only somewhat abashedly noting that the reason I gave this book such a low rating is because I flat out did not understand what was going on the majority of the time. Kafka is known for being surreal and writing in a dream-like logic, but this book crossed a line for me. While I enjoyed both The Metamorphosis and The Trial, The Castle dragged on far too long for me without ever seeming to make a point. My research on the book points to various themes of the book: religion/salvation (which I did not see at all); isolation/alienation (yes, it's there but c'mon already, how many long dialogues do we need to get that K and the Barnabas family don't fit in?); and bureaucratic red tape (which The Trial already covered perfectly). But, as I hinted out above, the book just went on for too long to make me care any longer about trying to suss out what on earth Kafka was talking about anymore. There is no real action in the book and little by the way of "showing" in the narration. Rather, the book is just one long series of monologues with characters going on and on about the Castle and its inhabitants, often contradicting themselves as their speeches droned on interminably. There's only so much a reader can take of yet another character saying something about how K doesn't know how things work in the village and how wonderful the Castle officials are, no matter how unattainable they may be.

Some readers have noted that this book is "funny," presumably in a dark humor/satirical way, but sadly I did not find that to be true for the vast majority of the text. Again, the narrative really seemed to drag at times, and I lost a lot of interest by the half-way point, after which I was just ready for it to end. When the book did finally conclude - if you can call a unfinished sentence a conclusion - I was just happy it was over (although that was mixed with annoyance that the end was uncompleted!).

I recognize that Kafka was ill and dying when he wrote this book and that he asked that his unfinished manuscripts be destroyed upon his death; therefore this criticism of the novel is somewhat unfair as the author was unable to revise, edit down the superfluous dialogue, fix the strange POV/tense change near the end, etc. Nevertheless, as this book is highly praised as a "must-read" classic, I looked at it through that critical lens and was deeply disappointed. The audio version with the equally praised narrator George Guidall did little to remedy the situation. I found Guidall a dull reader who only added to my attitude of "hurry-up-and-be-done" regarding this book. I'd very much recommend The Metamorphosis, The Trial, or even the short stories to anyone interested in reading Kafka for the first time, but I'd steer people away from this book personally. Just my two cents.
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LibraryThing member booklove2
This survived all three editions so far of '1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die'? I don't think it should have. 'The Trial' made my list of favorites the year I read that, so it can't be because I don't like Kafka. A lot of the same elements were in both books, but I guess The Trial was just more polished. The Castle is really an unfinished book, so you have to wonder how much Kafka may have changed it if he could have. And this is one of the books Kafka never wanted to publish. If The Castle was the first Kafka book I read, I don't think I would have tried any others. While reading this, I was jokingly thinking maybe "Kafkaesque" means a nightmarish book that never ends, takes way too long to read and seems pretty pointless, but then the book ends in the middle of a sentence, almost like waking up in the middle of a nightmare. I'd say try The Trial.… (more)
LibraryThing member Rhysickle
I love the trial, and many of Kafka's short stories but the castle lacks something somehow. Maybe it's the way the oppressive, intense rush of a confusing modern world that Kafka captures so well elsewhere can hardly hope to be translated into the medievalesque setting of this novel. It comes across as rather twee and annoying.
LibraryThing member ragwaine
No conclusion. Everyone was extremely analytical.
LibraryThing member DavidCLDriedger
The Castle always has the advantage . . .
LibraryThing member jakebornheimer
A frustrating reading experience. Finished 3 chapters and thought i'd better leave it alone for now. Will eventually revisit, but for now it leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
LibraryThing member .Monkey.
Kafka is interesting, that's for sure. But his style does not work well for me, I find it a chore to read even though I'm intrigued by it.



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