I’m sure that those not haven’t read much horror are surprised by this Spotlight. Kafka has influenced much of the literary world. But to say that a story of his is a horror story, I’m sure there are few trying to hold back the “blasphemous.” And I’m not that surprised. I bet there are even those that would say “The Metamorphosis” is more horror than The Trial. And then I would remind those people that for a very long time, horror was as much about psychological horror as it was supernatural, which seems to have more of a dominating stance these days.
Atmospheric horror is a tradition that has been around for a long time, but it could be said it got a boost from H.P. Lovecraft and his Cthulhu Mythos. Even now, writers look to him to figure out how to create a world that permeates the fears they want to invoke. Doing this forms a setting for a story where you never know what is around the next corner, or in the shadows, or behind the closed door. It is the most effective methods of Horror, which is why The Trial has found its way here. Kafka, a decade or so before Lovecraft, created a tale that was quintessential atmospheric horror.
Through out this story, Josef K. is haunted by the mysterious Court and Law. First thought of as actual entities, Court and Law soon become ever present forces in K.’s life. Their minions show up where ever they want. They can completely alter the life of those they wish. And fighting them seems to be a Sisyphean task. In some ways, it is more effective than most uses of atmospheric horror. As many draw from Lovecraft, his atmospheric horror is more of a cosmic horror (i.e. The malevolence is so grande and beyond comprehension that it more about the unknown that is terrifying) where Kafka’s horror is completely within our understanding. The idea that the you can be accused of crime, never being told what that crime is, not seeing the evidence of that crime to defend yourself, is one that has happened through out history. You can’t read this book and not feel the same suffocation K. Feels as the power of the Court bear down on him, because we have all had moment or will have a moment just like that.
The Trial is just the first example of how horror exists outside the Horror genre. Proof that even if you don’t read Horror book, you most likely have read Horror stories.
Horror Reading Level: Beginner