A lot of what I read is described as 'Kafkaesque'. I had no idea what this meant, so I thought it would be a good idea to have a look at one of Kafka's novels. After reading The Trial I still had very little idea. The book itself is a surreal, sometimes slightly difficult, picture of a corrupt legal system. A man is arrested but can gather no information about his case and learns that the trial may last the rest of his life. It seems to say that the law (or the Law, as it's put in the book) is a distant and dangerous system that can accuse citizens but can never be approached. It appears to exist for the sake of it, laying judgement on people just to exert its power. But what gives them the right to do this? And what is innocence and guilt? That's the sort of thing I got from it. The internet tells me it's also about spirituality, but I must have missed that bit.
The internet is more helpful in defining 'Kafkaesque' - 'marked by surreal distortion and often a sense of impending danger'. Seems pretty straightforward now. When reading the book I was constantly reminded that it was an unfinished, translated work. Apparently German sentence structure and double meanings make translating Kafka a pain. And after Kafka's death the chapters were still unarranged and some were unfinished. It's difficult to know what to make of it. But aside from that it's still strange to read. Most of the characters seem to be metaphorical and nearly all the chapters are self-contained. It's interesting though. I'll probably have to read more. And at least now I understand what the blurb on the back of that Murakami book was on about.