The Trial By Franz Kafka Chapter 1

"There's nothing stupid about what you've said, Mrs. Grubach, or at least I partly agree with you, only, the way I judge the whole thing is harsher than yours, and think it's not only not something complicated but simply a fuss about nothing. I was just caught unawares, that's what happened. If I had got up as soon as I was awake without letting myself get confused because Anna wasn't there, if I'd got up and paid no regard to anyone who might have been in my way and come straight to you, if I'd done something like having my breakfast in the kitchen as an exception, asked you to bring my clothes from my room, in short, if I had behaved sensibly then nothing more would have happened, everything that was waiting to happen would have been stifled. People are so often unprepared. In the bank, for example, I am well prepared, nothing of this sort could possibly happen to me there, I have my own assistant there, there are telephones for internal and external calls in front of me on the desk, I continually receive visits from people, representatives, officials, but besides that, and most importantly, I'm always occupied with my work, that's to say I'm always alert, it would even be a pleasure for me to find myself faced with something of that sort. But now it's over with, and I didn't really even want to talk about it any more, only I wanted to hear what you, as a sensible woman, thought about it all, and I'm very glad to hear that we're in agreement. But now you must give me your hand, an agreement of this sort needs to be confirmed with a handshake."

Will she shake hands with me? The supervisor didn't shake hands, he thought, and looked at the woman differently from before, examining her. She stood up, as he had also stood up, and was a little self- conscious, she hadn't been able to understand everything that K. said. As a result of this self consciousness she said something that she certainly did not intend and certainly was not appropriate. "Don't take it so hard, Mr. K.," she said, with tears in her voice and also, of course, forgetting the handshake. "I didn't know I was taking it hard," said K., feeling suddenly tired and seeing that if this woman did agree with him it was of very little value.

Before going out the door he asked, "Is Miss Bürstner home?" "No," said Mrs. Grubach, smiling as she gave this simple piece of information, saying something sensible at last. "She's at the theatre. Did you want to see her? Should I give her a message?" "I, er, I just wanted to have a few words with her." "I'm afraid I don't know when she's coming in; she usually gets back late when she's been to the theatre." "It really doesn't matter," said K. his head hanging as he turned to the door to leave, "I just wanted to give her my apology for taking over her room today." "There's no need for that, Mr. K., you're too conscientious, the young lady doesn't know anything about it, she hasn't been home since early this morning and everything's been tidied up again, you can see for yourself." And she opened the door to Miss Bürstner's room. "Thank you, I'll take your word for it," said K, but went nonetheless over to the open door. The moon shone quietly into the unlit room. As far as could be seen, everything was indeed in its place, not even the blouse was hanging on the window handle. The pillows on the bed looked remarkably plump as they lay half in the moonlight. "Miss Bürstner often comes home late," said K., looking at Mrs. Grubach as if that were her responsibility. "That's how young people are!" said Mrs. Grubach to excuse herself. "Of course, of course," said K., "but it can be taken too far." "Yes, it can be," said Mrs. Grubach, "you're so right, Mr. K. Perhaps it is in this case. I certainly wouldn't want to say anything nasty about Miss Bürstner, she is a good, sweet girl, friendly, tidy, punctual, works hard, I appreciate all that very much, but one thing is true, she ought to have more pride, be a bit less forthcoming. Twice this month already, in the street over the way, I've seen her with a different gentleman. I really don't like saying this, you're the only one I've said this to, Mr. K., I swear to God, but I'm going to have no choice but to have a few words with Miss Bürstner about it myself. And it's not the only thing about her that I'm worried about." "Mrs. Grubach, you are on quite the wrong track," said K., so angry that he was hardly able to hide it, "and you have moreover misunderstood what I was saying about Miss Bürstner, that is not what I meant. In fact I warn you quite directly not to say anything to her, you are quite mistaken, I know Miss Bürstner very well and there is no truth at all in what you say. And what's more, perhaps I'm going to far, I don't want to get in your way, say to her whatever you see fit. Good night." "Mr. K.," said Mrs. Grubach as if asking him for something and hurrying to his door which he had already opened, "I don't want to speak to Miss Bürstner at all, not yet, of course I'll continue to keep an eye on her but you're the only one I've told what I know. And it is, after all something that everyone who lets rooms has to do if she's to keep the house decent, that's all I'm trying to do." "Decent!" called out K. through the crack in the door, "if you want to keep the house decent you'll first have to give me notice." Then he slammed the door shut, there was a gentle knocking to which he paid no more attention.

He did not feel at all like going to bed, so he decided to stay up, and this would also give him the chance to find out when Miss Bürstner would arrive home. Perhaps it would also still be possible, even if a little inappropriate, to have a few words with her. As he lay there by the window, pressing his hands to his tired eyes, he even thought for a moment that he might punish Mrs. Grubach by persuading Miss Bürstner to give in her notice at the same time as he would. But he immediately realised that that would be shockingly excessive, and there would even be the suspicion that he was moving house because of the incidents of that morning. Nothing would have been more nonsensical and, above all, more pointless and contemptible.

When he had become tired of looking out onto the empty street he slightly opened the door to the living room so that he could see anyone who entered the flat from where he was and lay down on the couch. He lay there, quietly smoking a cigar, until about eleven o'clock. He wasn't able to hold out longer than that, and went a little way into the hallway as if in that way he could make Miss Bürstner arrive sooner. He had no particular desire for her, he could not even remember what she looked like, but now he wanted to speak to her and it irritated him that her late arrival home meant this day would be full of unease and disorder right to its very end. It was also her fault that he had not had any dinner that evening and that he had been unable to visit Elsa as he had intended. He could still make up for both of those things, though, if he went to the wine bar where Elsa worked. He wanted to do so even later, after the discussion with Miss Bürstner.

It was already gone half past eleven when someone could be heard in the stairway. K., who had been lost in his thoughts in the hallway, walking up and down loudly as if it were his own room, fled behind his door. Miss Bürstner had arrived. Shivering, she pulled a silk shawl over her slender shoulders as she locked the door. The next moment she would certainly go into her room, where K. ought not to intrude in the middle of the night; that meant he would have to speak to her now, but, unfortunately, he had not put the electric light on in his room so that when he stepped out of the dark it would give the impression of being an attack and would certainly, at the very least, have been quite alarming. There was no time to lose, and in his helplessness he whispered through the crack of the door, "Miss Bürstner." It sounded like he was pleading with her, not calling to her. "Is there someone there?" asked Miss Bürstner, looking round with her eyes wide open. "It's me," said K. and came out. "Oh, Mr. K.!" said Miss Bürstner with a smile. "Good Evening," and offered him her hand. "I wanted to have a word with you, if you would allow me?" "Now?" asked Miss Bürstner, "does it have to be now? It is a little odd, isn't it?" "I've been waiting for you since nine o'clock." "Well, I was at the theatre, I didn't know anything about you waiting for me." "The reason I need to speak to you only came up today" "I see, well I don't see why not, I suppose, apart from being so tired I could drop. Come into my room for a few minutes then. We certainly can't talk out here, we'd wake everyone up and I think that would be more unpleasant for us than for them. Wait here till I've put the light on in my room, and then turn the light down out here." K. did as he was told, and then even waited until Miss Bürstner came out of her room and quietly invited him, once more, to come in. "Sit down," she said, indicating the ottoman, while she herself remained standing by the bedpost despite the tiredness she had spoken of; she did not even take off her hat, which was small but decorated with an abundance of flowers. "What is it you wanted, then? I'm really quite curious." She gently crossed her legs. "I expect you'll say," K. began, "that the matter really isn't all that urgent and we don't need to talk about it right now, but . . . " "I never listen to introductions," said Miss Bürstner. "That makes my job so much easier," said K. "This morning, to some extent through my fault, your room was made a little untidy, this happened because of people I did not know and against my will but, as I said, because of my fault; I wanted to apologise for it." "My room?" asked Miss Bürstner, and instead of looking round the room scrutinised K. "It is true," said K., and now, for the first time, they looked each other in the eyes, "there's no point in saying exactly how this came about." "But that's the interesting thing about it," said Miss Bürstner. "No," said K. "Well then," said Miss Bürstner, "I don't want to force my way into any secrets, if you insist that it's of no interest I won't insist. I'm quite happy to forgive you for it, as you ask, especially as I can't see anything at all that's been left untidy." With her hand laid flat on her lower hip, she made a tour around the room. At the mat where the photographs were she stopped. "Look at this!" she cried. "My photographs really have been put in the wrong places. Oh, that's horrible. Someone really has been in my room without permission." K. nodded, and quietly cursed Kaminer who worked at his bank and who was always active doing things that had neither use nor purpose. "It is odd," said Miss Bürstner, "that I'm forced to forbid you to do something that you ought to have forbidden yourself to do, namely to come into my room when I'm not here." "But I did explain to you," said K., and went over to join her by the photographs, "that it wasn't me who interfered with your photographs; but as you don't believe me I'll have to admit that the investigating committee brought along three bank employees with them, one of them must have touched your photographs and as soon as I get the chance I'll ask to have him dismissed from the bank. Yes, there was an investigating committee here," added K., as the young lady was looking at him enquiringly. "Because of you?" she asked. "Yes," answered K. "No!" the lady cried with a laugh. "Yes, they were," said K., "you believe that I'm innocent then, do you?" "Well now, innocent . . . " said the lady, "I don't want to start making any pronouncements that might have serious consequences, I don't really know you after all, it means they're dealing with a serious criminal if they send an investigating committee straight out to get him. But you're not in custody now — at least I take it you've not escaped from prison considering that you seem quite calm — so you can't have committed any crime of that sort." "Yes," said K., "but it might be that the investigating committee could see that I'm innocent, or not so guilty as had been supposed." "Yes, that's certainly a possibility," said Miss Bürstner, who seemed very interested. "Listen," said K., "you don't have much experience in legal matters." "No, that's true, I don't," said Miss Bürstner, "and I've often regretted it, as I'd like to know everything and I'm very interested in legal matters. There's something peculiarly attractive about the law, isn't there? But I'll certainly be perfecting my knowledge in this area, as next month I start work in a legal office." "That's very good," said K., "that means you'll be able to give me some help with my trial." "That could well be," said Miss Bürstner, "why not? I like to make use of what I know." "I mean it quite seriously," said K., "or at least, half seriously, as you do. This affair is too petty to call in a lawyer, but I could make good use of someone who could give me advice." "Yes, but if I'm to give you advice I'll have to know what it's all about," said Miss Bürstner. "That's exactly the problem," said K., "I don't know that myself." "So you have been making fun of me, then," said Miss Bürstner exceedingly disappointed, "you really ought not to try something like that on at this time of night." And she stepped away from the photographs where they had stood so long together. "Miss Bürstner, no," said K., "I'm not making fun of you. Please believe me! I've already told you everything I know. More than I know, in fact, as it actually wasn't even an investigating committee, that's just what I called them because I don't know what else to call them. There was no cross questioning at all, I was merely arrested, but by a committee." Miss Bürstner sat on the ottoman and laughed again. "What was it like then?" she asked. "It was terrible" said K., although his mind was no longer on the subject, he had become totally absorbed by Miss Bürstner's gaze who was supporting her chin on one hand — the elbow rested on the cushion of the ottoman — and slowly stroking her hip with the other. "That's too vague," said Miss Bürstner. "What's too vague?" asked K. Then he remembered himself and asked, "Would you like me to show you what it was like?" He wanted to move in some way but did not want to leave. "I'm already tired," said Miss Bürstner. "You arrived back so late," said K. "Now you've started telling me off. Well I suppose I deserve it as I shouldn't have let you in here in the first place, and it turns out there wasn't even any point." "Oh, there was a point, you'll see now how important a point it was," said K. "May I move this table away from your bedside and put it here?" "What do you think you're doing?" said Miss Bürstner. "Of course you can't!" "In that case I can't show you," said K., quite upset, as if Miss Bürstner had committed some incomprehensible offence against him. "Alright then, if you need it to show what you mean, just take the bedside table then," said Miss Bürstner, and after a short pause added in a weak voice, "I'm so tired I'm allowing more than I ought to." K. put the little table in the middle of the room and sat down behind it. "You have to get a proper idea of where the people were situated, it is very interesting. I'm the supervisor, sitting over there on the chest are two policemen, standing next to the photographs there are three young people. Hanging on the handle of the window is a white blouse — I just mention that by the way. And now it begins. Ah yes, I'm forgetting myself, the most important person of all, so I'm standing here in front of the table. The supervisor is sitting extremely comfortably with his legs crossed and his arm hanging over the backrest here like some layabout. And now it really does begin. The supervisor calls out as if he had to wake me up, in fact he shouts at me, I'm afraid, if I'm to make it clear to you, I'll have to shout as well, and it's nothing more than my name that he shouts out." Miss Bürstner, laughing as she listened to him, laid her forefinger on her mouth so that K. would not shout, but it was too late. K. was too engrossed in his role and slowly called out, "Josef K.!". It was not as loud as he had threatened, but nonetheless, once he had suddenly called it out, the cry seemed gradually to spread itself all round the room.

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