I'm working on my summer reading list with Kafka's The Trial. The very first sentence uses traduce, and I don't know what that means.

Traduce has its roots in the Latin verb traducere: to exhibit as a spectacle, disgrace. You can see how the modern verb, traduce, follows that root in its own definition: to defame, slander, or vilify. Traduce also means to make a mockery of or to betray something.

Have another look at the first line from Franz Kafka's The Trial.

Someone must have traduced Joseph K., for without having done anything wrong he was arrested one fine morning.

(Poor, doomed Joseph never learns the reason he's arrested despite all his efforts to work with the baffling court system!)

By the way, you may have heard the term Kafkaesque, which means of, characteristic of, or like the writings of Kafka — in other words, nightmarish, surreal, or confusingly complex.

The absurdity which Kafka portrays in his nightmarish stories was, to him, what the whole human condition was all about. No matter how hard Kafka's heroes strive to come to terms with the universe, they are hopelessly caught, not only in a mechanism of their own contriving, but also in a network of accidents and incidents, the least of which may lead to the gravest consequences.