Angst is directionless fear, fear of the unknown, a sense of dread, the disease of modern man. In the aspiritual, solipsistic West, meaning is nowhere beyond the self, and because it can't be found there the only escape is despair or ignorance. Ignorance leads to emptiness which leads to despair which leads to angst, so you end up with angst either way.
Franz Kafka's The Trial relentlessly exposes this predicament. Joseph K. is on trial for a crime never revealed, prosecuted by a nameless, disembodied authority, and executed in his own apartment. His actions are directionless since he doesn't know what he's resisting or why. Kafka's dark humor permeates, like when K. visits a lawyer busy shoving arms and legs down a hole in the floor.
K. is the faceless everyman. His life is determined by powers outside himself that are inherently meaningless. Without spiritual awareness, K. is left only with data he can't interpret and that result in his death "like a dog." His terror is plangent and suffocating, building from quiet loneliness to profound fear of a life without meaning or redemption.
It's been suggested every important writer after Kafka has been influenced by him. His brilliant prose (which holds up in translation) and his provocative ideas have assured him a place in the ranks of great writers. The importance of The Trial makes it essential reading for anyone who wants to understanding 20th century society and its aftermath.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here
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