The Trial By Franz Kafka Chapter 7

They still had not arrived at the top, however, when the painter up above them suddenly pulled the door wide open and, with a deep bow, invited K. to enter. The girls, on the other hand, he tried to keep away, he did not want to let any of them in however much they begged him and however much they tried to get in — if they could not get in with his permission they would try to force their way in against his will. The only one to succeed was the hunchback when she slipped through under his outstretched arm, but the painter chased after her, grabbed her by the skirt, span her once round and set her down again by the door with the other girls who, unlike the first, had not dared to cross the doorstep while the painter had left his post. K. did not know what he was to make of all this, as they all seemed to be having fun. One behind the other, the girls by the door stretched their necks up high and called out various words to the painter which were meant in jest but which K. did not understand, and even the painter laughed as the hunchback whirled round in his hand. Then he shut the door, bowed once more to K., offered him his hand and introduced himself, saying, "Titorelli, painter". K. pointed to the door, behind which the girls were whispering, and said, "You seem to be very popular in this building." "Ach, those brats!" said the painter, trying in vain to fasten his nightshirt at the neck. He was also bare-footed and, apart from that, was wearing nothing more than a loose pair of yellowish linen trousers held up with a belt whose free end whipped to and fro. "Those kids are a real burden for me," he continued. The top button of his nightshirt came off and he gave up trying to fasten it, fetched a chair for K. and made him sit down on it. "I painted one of them once — she's not here today — and ever since then they've been following me about. If I'm here they only come in when I allow it, but as soon as I've gone out there's always at least one of them in here. They had a key made to my door and lend it round to each other. It's hard to imagine what a pain that is. Suppose I come back home with a lady I'm going to paint, I open the door with my own key and find the hunchback there or something, by the table painting her lips red with my paintbrush, and meanwhile her little sisters will be keeping guard for her, moving about and causing chaos in every corner of the room. Or else, like happened yesterday, I might come back home late in the evening — please forgive my appearance and the room being in a mess, it is to do with them — so, I might come home late in the evening and want to go to bed, then I feel something pinching my leg, look under the bed and pull another of them out from under it. I don't know why it is they bother me like this, I expect you've just seen that I do nothing to encourage them to come near me. And they make it hard for me to do my work too, of course. If I didn't get this studio for nothing I'd have moved out a long time ago." Just then, a little voice, tender and anxious, called out from under the door, "Titorelli, can we come in now?" "No," answered the painter. "Not even just me, by myself?" the voice asked again. "Not even just you," said the painter, as he went to the door and locked it.

Meanwhile, K. had been looking round the room, if it had not been pointed out it would never have occurred to him that this wretched little room could be called a studio. It was hardly long enough or broad enough to make two steps. Everything, floor, walls and ceiling, was made of wood, between the planks narrow gaps could be seen. Across from where K. was, the bed stood against the wall under a covering of many different colours. In the middle of the room a picture stood on an easel, covered over with a shirt whose arms dangled down to the ground. Behind K. was the window through which the fog made it impossible to see further than the snow covered roof of the neighbouring building.

The turning of the key in the lock reminded K. that he had not wanted to stay too long. So he drew the manufacturer's letter out from his pocket, held it out to the painter and said, "I learned about you from this gentleman, an acquaintance of yours, and it's on his advice that I've come here". The painter glanced through the letter and threw it down onto the bed. If the manufacturer had not said very clearly that Titorelli was an acquaintance of his, a poor man who was dependent on his charity, then it would really have been quite possible to believe that Titorelli did not know him or at least that he could not remember him. This impression was augmented by the painter's asking, "Were you wanting to buy some pictures or did you want to have yourself painted?" K. looked at the painter in astonishment. What did the letter actually say? K. had taken it as a matter of course that the manufacturer had explained to the painter in his letter that K. wanted nothing more with him than to find out more about his trial. He had been far too rash in coming here! But now he had to give the painter some sort of answer and, glancing at the easel, said, "Are you working on a picture currently?" "Yes," said the painter, and he took the shirt hanging over the easel and threw it onto the bed after the letter. "It's a portrait. Quite a good piece of work, although it's not quite finished yet." This was a convenient coincidence for K., it gave him a good opportunity to talk about the court as the picture showed, very clearly, a judge. What's more, it was remarkably similar to the picture in the lawyer's office, although this one showed a quite different judge, a heavy man with a full beard which was black and bushy and extended to the sides far up the man's cheeks. The lawyer's picture was also an oil painting, whereas this one had been made with pastel colours and was pale and unclear. But everything else about the picture was similar, as this judge, too, was holding tightly to the arm of his throne and seemed ominously about to rise from it. At first K. was about to say, "He certainly is a judge," but he held himself back for the time being and went closer to the picture as if he wanted to study it in detail. There was a large figure shown in middle of the throne's back rest which K. could not understand and asked the painter about it. That'll need some more work done on it, the painter told him, and taking a pastel crayon from a small table he added a few strokes to the edges of the figure but without making it any clearer as far as K. could make out. "That's the figure of justice," said the painter, finally. "Now I see," said K., "here's the blindfold and here are the scales. But aren't those wings on her heels, and isn't she moving?" "Yes," said the painter, "I had to paint it like that according to the contract. It's actually the figure of justice and the goddess of victory all in one." "That is not a good combination," said K. with a smile. "Justice needs to remain still, otherwise the scales will move about and it won't be possible to make a just verdict." "I'm just doing what the client wanted," said the painter. "Yes, certainly," said K., who had not meant to criticise anyone by that comment. "You've painted the figure as it actually appears on the throne." "No," said the painter, "I've never seen that figure or that throne, it's all just invention, but they told me what it was I had to paint." "How's that?" asked K. pretending not fully to understand what the painter said. "That is a judge sitting on the judge's chair, isn't it?" "Yes," said the painter, "but that judge isn't very high up and he's never sat on any throne like that." "And he has himself painted in such a grand pose? He's sitting there just like the president of the court." "Yeah, gentlemen like this are very vain," said the painter. "But they have permission from higher up to get themselves painted like this. It's laid down quite strictly just what sort of portrait each of them can get for himself. Only it's a pity that you can't make out the details of his costume and pose in this picture, pastel colours aren't really suitable for showing people like this." "Yes," said K., "it does seem odd that it's in pastel colours." "That's what the judge wanted," said the painter, "it's meant to be for a woman." The sight of the picture seemed to make him feel like working, he rolled up his shirtsleeves, picked up a few of the crayons, and K. watched as a reddish shadow built up around the head of the judge under their quivering tips and radiated out the to edges of the picture. This shadow play slowly surrounded the head like a decoration or lofty distinction. But around the figure of Justice, apart from some coloration that was barely noticeable, it remained light, and in this brightness the figure seemed to shine forward so that it now looked like neither the God of Justice nor the God of Victory, it seemed now, rather, to be a perfect depiction of the God of the Hunt. K. found the painter's work more engrossing than he had wanted; but finally he reproached himself for staying so long without having done anything relevant to his own affair. "What's the name of this judge?" he asked suddenly. "I'm not allowed to tell you that," the painter answered. He was bent deeply over the picture and clearly neglecting his guest who, at first, he had received with such care. K. took this to be just a foible of the painter's, and it irritated him as it made him lose time. "I take it you must be a trustee of the court," he said. The painter immediately put his crayons down, stood upright, rubbed his hands together and looked at K. with a smile. "Always straight out with the truth," he said. "You want to learn something about the court, like it says in your letter of recommendation, but then you start talking about my pictures to get me on your side. Still, I won't hold it against you, you weren't to know that that was entirely the wrong thing to try with me. Oh, please!" he said sharply, repelling K.'s attempt to make some objection. He then continued, "And besides, you're quite right in your comment that I'm a trustee of the court." He made a pause, as if wanting to give K. the time to come to terms with this fact. The girls could once more be heard from behind the door. They were probably pressed around the keyhole, perhaps they could even see into the room through the gaps in the planks. K. forewent the opportunity to excuse himself in some way as he did not wish to distract the painter from what he was saying, or else perhaps he didn't want him to get too far above himself and in this way make himself to some extent unattainable, so he asked, "Is that a publicly acknowledged position?" "No," was the painter's curt reply, as if the question prevented him saying any more. But K. wanted him to continue speaking and said, "Well, positions like that, that aren't officially acknowledged, can often have more influence than those that are." "And that's how it is with me," said the painter, and nodded with a frown. "I was talking about your case with the manufacturer yesterday, and he asked me if I wouldn't like to help you, and I answered: 'He can come and see me if he likes', and now I'm pleased to see you here so soon. This business seems to be quite important to you, and, of course, I'm not surprised at that. Would you not like to take your coat off now?" K. had intended to stay for only a very short time, but the painter's invitation was nonetheless very welcome. The air in the room had slowly become quite oppressive for him, he had several times looked in amazement at a small, iron stove in the corner that certainly could not have been lit, the heat of the room was inexplicable. As he took off his winter overcoat and also unbuttoned his frock coat the painter said to him in apology, "I must have warmth. And it is very cosy here, isn't it. This room's very good in that respect." K. made no reply, but it was actually not the heat that made him uncomfortable but, much more, the stuffiness, the air that almost made it more difficult to breathe, the room had probably not been ventilated for a long time. The unpleasantness of this was made all the stronger for K. when the painter invited him to sit on the bed while he himself sat down on the only chair in the room in front of the easel. The painter even seemed to misunderstand why K. remained at the edge of the bed and urged K. to make himself comfortable, and as he hesitated he went over to the bed himself and pressed K. deep down into the bedclothes and pillows. Then he went back to his seat and at last he asked his first objective question, which made K. forget everything else. "You're innocent, are you?" he asked. "Yes," said K. He felt a simple joy at answering this question, especially as the answer was given to a private individual and therefore would have no consequences. Up till then no-one had asked him this question so openly. To make the most of his pleasure he added, "I am totally innocent." "So," said the painter, and he lowered his head and seemed to be thinking. Suddenly he raised his head again and said, "Well if you're innocent it's all very simple." K. began to scowl, this supposed trustee of the court was talking like an ignorant child. "My being innocent does not make things simple," said K. Despite everything, he couldn't help smiling and slowly shook his head. "There are many fine details in which the court gets lost, but in the end it reaches into some place where originally there was nothing and pulls enormous guilt out of it." "Yeah, yeah, sure," said the painter, as if K. had been disturbing his train of thought for no reason. "But you are innocent, aren't you?" "Well of course I am," said K. "That's the main thing," said the painter. There was no counter-argument that could influence him, but although he had made up his mind it was not clear whether he was talking this way because of conviction or indifference. K., then, wanted to find out and said therefore, "I'm sure you're more familiar with the court than I am, I know hardly more about it than what I've heard, and that's been from many very different people. But they were all agreed on one thing, and that was that when ill thought-out accusations are made they are not ignored, and that once the court has made an accusation it is convinced of the guilt of the defendant and it's very hard to make it think otherwise." "Very hard?" the painter asked, throwing one hand up in the air. "It's impossible to make it think otherwise. If I painted all the judges next to each other here on canvas, and you were trying to defend yourself in front of it, you'd have more success with them than you'd ever have with the real court." "Yes," said K. to himself, forgetting that he had only gone there to investigate the painter.

Back to Top

Take the Quiz

How is K. executed?