by Franz Kafka.
Extract from a letter I wrote to Stense, having just read The Trial:
I need to talk with you about Kafka, mate. If memory serves, you are something of a fan. Didn't you direct a play called Kafka Dances, or something like that? Or was that some other babe theatre directrix of my acquaintance? The thing is, I seemed to remember that you had very good things to say about Kafka, and so does Martin Amis, and W.G. Sebald was a huge fan, and Sebald's work (which I love) is often compared with Kafka (in style, not necessarily in substance), and Kafka even makes cryptic appearances in a couple of Sebald's novels. So I thought, Kafka, eh… and decided to give him a whirl.
I didn't fancy the one about the beetle, so I downloaded The Trial on to my Kindle. What can I say, mate? It was utter shite! Even though his style is indeed very much like Sebald's, it was utter, utter shite. In fact, no, that is being unfair to shite. Apparently, Kafka left instructions for The Trial, and a lot of his other unpublished work, to be destroyed in the event of his death. As a general rule, I admire executors who ignore such instructions (and, perversely, those who don't), but, in Kafka's executor Max Brod's case, I am prepared to make an exception. I mean, I loved the premise—someone being arrested, but not being told what for—and I was really looking forward to reading it, and then rumble, rumble, rumble: an avalanche of shite! If only they had made Brod's Epilogue into a Foreword, I might have been forewarned. Here is what Brod says about The Trial:
Franz Kafka regarded the novel as unfinished. Before the final chapter, which is here included, various further stages of the mysterious trial should have been described. But since the trial, according to the author himself, was never to get as far as the highest Court, in a certain sense the novel was interminable; that is to say, it could be prolonged into infinity.
It bloody well felt interminable to me as it was, Max!
Does finding Kafka shite make me a philistine, mate? You would tell me, wouldn't you?
I reckon that about sums it (and me) up. Never read fiction, that's my motto.