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The Castle (Penguin Modern Classics) - Franz Kafka, Idris Parry, J.A. Underwood

A young land surveyor arrives in a village, appointed by the count of the castle on the hill overshadowing the country. In a dreamlike, labyrinthine tale riddled with material and emotional inconsistencies,Kafka envisions a bureaucratic administration bloated and twisted beyond all imaginings, in which reverence for authority is elevated to an extreme and bizarre form of religious observance (religion itself is tellingly absent). K's affaires and intrigues are governed by almost arbitrary and mysterious turns of events; he struggles first in one direction then another, always towards the ever elusive Castle.

There is a desperate quality to this narrative; it seems to rush on in terror of what may happen if it pauses for breath. Even the final break is mid-sentence, as if the tale is cut from a larger arc, all made of the same substance, without climax. Nothing is ever foreshadowed: every event is utterly unpredictable. I was wearied by the first half of the book, then gripped when the seemingly disparate threads suddenly tangled into a plot. There is less poetry, less rhythm here than in Kafka's shorter works; the writing is spare, literal; he gives fewer 'author signs' than any writer I can think of, yet in its purity, the book seems to emerge as an interior monologue directly from his psyche.