Rating: 3 stars (upgraded to 4 stars)
My husband owns pretty much everything Kafka wrote that has been published. Before I met him, I’d only read Metamorphosis. My husband finds my view of this novella as a great comic creation slightly controversial. It is funny, though. Poor Gregor Samsa, trapped in the body of a cockroach, ignored by his family, trying to climb the walls, it does make me laugh.
One wet Saturday a couple of years ago, we were visiting the West Yorkshire Bohemia of Hebden Bridge. A book fair was on, and I picked up a copy of The Castle for a quid. I thought I ought to read something else by Kafka, so why not his unfinished novel about the snake-eating-tail bureaucracy of a village that lies in the shadow of an unattainable Castle? It’s the thing living nightmares are made of. What’s not to delight?
At the time, I enjoyed it, but found it hard to get enough time to sit down and properly concentrate on it. Busy at work and really tired when I got home from work was a combination that resulted in The Castle quickly sending me to sleep after a couple of sentences on occasion. It felt like I was reading someone else’s dream a lot of the time, as well. Comparisons that sprang to mind were The Prisoner TV show and Flann O’Brien’s The Third Policeman. It was weird, but not as weird, or as difficult, as I was expecting. I thought the narrative flowed reasonably well. There are passages that go on interminably, but there was enough action to make them bearable.
In the intervening 18 months, I’ve found myself going back to The Castle’s themes, particularly in relation to the world of work and its antediluvian bureaucratic frustrations. I originally rated The Castle a solid 3, but given the way it has stayed with me, making me laugh in the face of hierarchical restrictions on a Klamm-like scale, I’m going to give it an extra star.