The Trial By Franz Kafka Chapter 1

K. stared at the supervisor. Was this man, probably younger than he was, lecturing him like a schoolmaster? Was he being punished for his honesty with a telling off? And was he to learn nothing about the reasons for his arrest or those who were arresting him? He became somewhat cross and began to walk up and down. No-one stopped him doing this and he pushed his sleeves back, felt his chest, straightened his hair, went over to the three men, said, "It makes no sense," at which these three turned round to face him and came towards him with serious expressions. He finally came again to a halt in front of the supervisor's desk. "State Attorney Hasterer is a good friend of mine," he said, "can I telephone him?" "Certainly," said the supervisor, "but I don't know what the point of that will be, I suppose you must have some private matter you want to discuss with him." "What the point is?" shouted K., more disconcerted that cross. "Who do you think you are? You want to see some point in it while you're carrying out something as pointless as it could be? It's enough to make you cry! These gentlemen first accost me, and now they sit or stand about in here and let me be hauled up in front of you. What point there would be, in telephoning a state attorney when I'm ostensibly under arrest? Very well, I won't make the telephone call." "You can call him if you want to," said the supervisor, stretching his hand out towards the outer room where the telephone was, "please, go on, do make your phone call." "No, I don't want to any more," said K., and went over to the window. Across the street, the people were still there at the window, and it was only now that K. had gone up to his window that they seemed to become uneasy about quietly watching what was going on. The old couple wanted to get up but the man behind them calmed them down. "We've got some kind of audience over there," called K. to the supervisor, quite loudly, as he pointed out with his forefinger. "Go away," he then called across to them. And the three of them did immediately retreat a few steps, the old pair even found themselves behind the man who then concealed them with the breadth of his body and seemed, going by the movements of his mouth, to be saying something incomprehensible into the distance. They did not disappear entirely, though, but seemed to be waiting for the moment when they could come back to the window without being noticed. "Intrusive, thoughtless people!" said K. as he turned back into the room. The supervisor may have agreed with him, at least K. thought that was what he saw from the corner of his eye. But it was just as possible that he had not even been listening as he had his hand pressed firmly down on the table and seemed to be comparing the length of his fingers. The two policemen were sitting on a chest covered with a coloured blanket, rubbing their knees. The three young people had put their hands on their hips and were looking round aimlessly. Everything was still, like in some office that has been forgotten about. "Now, gentlemen," called out K., and for a moment it seemed as if he was carrying all of them on his shoulders, "it looks like your business with me is over with. In my opinion, it's best now to stop wondering about whether you're proceeding correctly or incorrectly, and to bring the matter to a peaceful close with a mutual handshake. If you are of the same opinion, then please . . . " and he walked up to the supervisor's desk and held out his hand to him. The supervisor raised his eyes, bit his lip and looked at K.'s outstretched hand; K still believed the supervisor would do as he suggested. But instead, he stood up, picked up a hard round hat that was laying on Miss Bürstner's bed and put it carefully onto his head, using both hands as if trying on a new hat. "Everything seems so simple to you, doesn't it," he said to K. as he did so, "so you think we should bring the matter to a peaceful close, do you. No, no, that won't do. Mind you, on the other hand I certainly wouldn't want you to think there's no hope for you. No, why should you think that? You're simply under arrest, nothing more than that. That's what I had to tell you, that's what I've done and now I've seen how you've taken it. That's enough for one day and we can take our leave of each other, for the time being at least. I expect you'll want to go in to the bank now, won't you." "In to the bank?" asked K., "I thought I was under arrest." K. said this with a certain amount of defiance as, although his handshake had not been accepted, he was feeling more independent of all these people, especially since the supervisor had stood up. He was playing with them. If they left, he had decided he would run after them and offer to let them arrest him. That's why he even repeated, "How can I go in to the bank when I'm under arrest?" "I see you've misunderstood me," said the supervisor who was already at the door. "It's true that you're under arrest, but that shouldn't stop you from carrying out your job. And there shouldn't be anything to stop you carrying on with your usual life." "In that case it's not too bad, being under arrest," said K., and went up close to the supervisor. "I never meant it should be anything else," he replied. "It hardly seems to have been necessary to notify me of the arrest in that case," said K., and went even closer. The others had also come closer. All of them had gathered together into a narrow space by the door. "That was my duty," said the supervisor. "A silly duty," said K., unyielding. "Maybe so," replied the supervisor, "only don't let's waste our time talking on like this. I had assumed you'd be wanting to go to the bank. As you're paying close attention to every word I'll add this: I'm not forcing you to go to the bank, I'd just assumed you wanted to. And to make things easier for you, and to let you get to the bank with as little fuss as possible I've put these three gentlemen, colleagues of yours, at your disposal." "What's that?" exclaimed K., and looked at the three in astonishment. He could only remember seeing them in their group by the photographs, but these characterless, anaemic young people were indeed officials from his bank, not colleagues of his, that was putting it too high and it showed a gap in the omniscience of the supervisor, but they were nonetheless junior members of staff at the bank. How could K. have failed to see that? How occupied he must have been with the supervisor and the policemen not to have recognised these three! Rabensteiner, with his stiff demeanour and swinging hands, Kullich, with his blonde hair and deep-set eyes, and Kaminer, with his involuntary grin caused by chronic muscle spasms. "Good morning," said K. after a while, extending his hand to the gentlemen as they bowed correctly to him. "I didn't recognise you at all. So, we'll go into work now, shall we?" The gentlemen laughed and nodded enthusiastically, as if that was what they had been waiting for all the time, except that K. had left his hat in his room so they all dashed, one after another, into the room to fetch it, which caused a certain amount of embarrassment. K. stood where he was and watched them through the open double doorway, the last to go, of course, was the apathetic Rabensteiner who had broken into no more than an elegant trot. Kaminer got to the hat and K., as he often had to do at the bank, forcibly reminded himself that the grin was not deliberate, that he in fact wasn't able to grin deliberately. At that moment Mrs. Grubach opened the door from the hallway into the living room where all the people were. She did not seem to feel guilty about anything at all, and K., as often before, looked down at the belt of her apron which, for no reason, cut so deeply into her hefty body. Once downstairs, K., with his watch in his hand, decided to take a taxi — he had already been delayed by half an hour and there was no need to make the delay any longer. Kaminer ran to the corner to summon it, and the two others were making obvious efforts to keep K. diverted when Kullich pointed to the doorway of the house on the other side of the street where the large man with the blonde goatee beard appeared and, a little embarrassed at first at letting himself be seen in his full height, stepped back to the wall and leant against it. The old couple were probably still on the stairs. K. was cross with Kullich for pointing out this man whom he had already seen himself, in fact whom he had been expecting. "Don't look at him!" he snapped, without noticing how odd it was to speak to free men in this way. But there was no explanation needed anyway as just then the taxi arrived, they sat inside and set off. Inside the taxi, K. remembered that he had not noticed the supervisor and the policemen leaving — the supervisor had stopped him noticing the three bank staff and now the three bank staff had stopped him noticing the supervisor. This showed that K. was not very attentive, and he resolved to watch himself more carefully in this respect. Nonetheless, he gave it no thought as he twisted himself round and leant over onto the rear shelf of the car to catch sight of the supervisor and the policemen if he could. But he turned back round straight away and leant comfortably into the corner of the taxi without even having made the effort to see anyone. Although it did not seem like it, now was just the time when he needed some encouragement, but the gentlemen seemed tired just then, Rabensteiner looked out of the car to the right, Kullich to the left and only Kaminer was there with his grin at K.'s service. It would have been inhumane to make fun of that.

That spring, whenever possible, K. usually spent his evenings after work — he usually stayed in the office until nine o'clock — with a short walk, either by himself or in the company of some of the bank officials, and then he would go into a pub where he would sit at the regulars' table with mostly older men until eleven. There were, however, also exceptions to this habit, times, for instance, when K. was invited by the bank's manager (whom he greatly respected for his industry and trustworthiness) to go with him for a ride in his car or to eat dinner with him at his large house. K. would also go, once a week, to see a girl called Elsa who worked as a waitress in a wine bar through the night until late in the morning. During the daytime she only received visitors while still in bed.

That evening, though, — the day had passed quickly with a lot of hard work and many respectful and friendly birthday greetings — K. wanted to go straight home. Each time he had any small break from the day's work he considered, without knowing exactly what he had in mind, that Mrs. Grubach's flat seemed to have been put into great disarray by the events of that morning, and that it was up to him to put it back into order. Once order had been restored, every trace of those events would have been erased and everything would take its previous course once more. In particular, there was nothing to fear from the three bank officials, they had immersed themselves back into their paperwork and there was no alteration to be seen in them. K. had called each of them, separately or all together, into his office that day for no other reason than to observe them; he was always satisfied and had always been able to let them go again.

At half past nine that evening, when he arrived back in front of the building where he lived, he met a young lad in the doorway who was standing there, his legs apart and smoking a pipe. "Who are you?" immediately asked K., bringing his face close to the lad's, as it was hard to see in the half light of the landing. "I'm the landlord's son, sir," answered the lad, taking the pipe from his mouth and stepping to one side. "The landlord's son?" asked K., and impatiently knocked on the ground with his stick. "Did you want anything, sir? Would you like me to fetch my father?" "No, no," said K., there was something forgiving in his voice, as if the boy had harmed him in some way and he was excusing him. "It's alright," he said then, and went on, but before going up the stairs he turned round once more.

He could have gone directly to his room, but as he wanted to speak with Mrs. Grubach he went straight to her door and knocked. She was sat at the table with a knitted stocking and a pile of old stockings in front of her. K. apologised, a little embarrassed at coming so late, but Mrs. Grubach was very friendly and did not want to hear any apology, she was always ready to speak to him, he knew very well that he was her best and her favourite tenant. K. looked round the room, it looked exactly as it usually did, the breakfast dishes, which had been on the table by the window that morning, had already been cleared away. "A woman's hands will do many things when no-one's looking," he thought, he might himself have smashed all the dishes on the spot but certainly would not have been able to carry it all out. He looked at Mrs. Grubach with some gratitude. "Why are you working so late?" he asked. They were now both sitting at the table, and K. now and then sank his hands into the pile of stockings. "There's a lot of work to do," she said, "during the day I belong to the tenants; if I'm to sort out my own things there are only the evenings left to me." "I fear I may have caused you some exceptional work today." "How do you mean, Mr. K.?" she asked, becoming more interested and leaving her work in her lap. "I mean the men who were here this morning." "Oh, I see," she said, and went peacefully back to what she was doing, "that was no trouble, not especially." K. looked on in silence as she took up the knitted stocking once more. She seems surprised at my mentioning it, he thought, she seems to think it's improper for me to mention it. All the more important for me to do so. An old woman is the only person I can speak about it with. "But it must have caused some work for you," he said then, "but it won't happen again." "No, it can't happen again," she agreed, and smiled at K. in a way that was almost pained. "Do you mean that seriously?" asked K. "Yes," she said, more gently, "but the important thing is you mustn't take it too hard. There are so many awful things happening in the world! As you're being so honest with me, Mr. K., I can admit to you that I listened to a little of what was going on from behind the door, and that those two policemen told me one or two things as well. It's all to do with your happiness, and that's something that's quite close to my heart, perhaps more than it should be as I am, after all, only your landlady. Anyway, so I heard one or two things but I can't really say that it's about anything very serious. No. You have been arrested, but it's not in the same way as when they arrest a thief. If you're arrested in the same way as a thief, then it's bad, but an arrest like this . . . . It seems to me that it's something very complicated — forgive me if I'm saying something stupid — something very complicated that I don't understand, but something that you don't really need to understand anyway."

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