Main content

Kafka's The Trial

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Franz Kafka's novel The Trial.

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Franz Kafka's novel of power and alienation 'The Trial', in which readers follow the protagonist Joseph K into a bizarre, nightmarish world in which he stands accused of an unknown crime; courts of interrogation convene in obscure tenement buildings; and there seems to be no escape from a crushing, oppressive bureaucracy.

Kafka was a German-speaking Jew who lived in the Czech city of Prague, during the turbulent years which followed the First World War. He spent his days working as a lawyer for an insurance company, but by night he wrote stories and novels considered some of the high points of twentieth century literature. His explorations of power and alienation have chimed with existentialists, Marxists, psychoanalysts, postmodernists - and Radio 4 listeners, who suggested this as our topic for listener week on In Our Time.


Elizabeth Boa, Professor Emerita of German at the University of Nottingham
Steve Connor, Grace 2 Professor of English at the University of Cambridge
Ritchie Robertson, Taylor Professor of the German Language and Literature at the University of Oxford

Producer: Luke Mulhall.

Available now

43 minutes

Last on

Thu 27 Nov 2014 21:30

Join in the Q&A

Elizabeth Boa, Ritchie Robertson and Steve Connor will be answering questions in a live Facebook chat here: To join in, you don't need a Facebook account, but you do need a question you'd like to ask.  It begins at 10 and will continue until approx 10.30.  

Listener Week on In Our Time

Links and Further Reading

Steve Connor at the University of Cambridge

Ritchie Robertson at the University of Oxford

Oxford Kafka Research Centre

Franz Kafka - Wikipedia

Franz Kafka - The Trial - BBC Radio 4 Extra



Mark Anderson, Kafka’s Clothes: Ornament and Aestheticism in the Habsburg fin de siècle (Oxford University Press, 1992)

Harold Bloom (ed.), Franz Kafka’s The Trial (Chelsea House, 1991)

Elizabeth Boa, Kafka: Gender, Class and Race in the Letters and Fictions (Oxford University Press, 1996)

Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Kafka: Towards a Minor Literature (University of Minnesota Press, 1986)

William Dodd, Kafka’s Prozess (University of Glasgow, 1991)

William Dodd (ed.), Kafka (Longman, 1995)

Franz Kafka, John Williams (trans.) The Essential Kafka (Wordsworth Classics, 2014), which includes The Trial

Franz Kafka, Mike Mitchel (trans.), The Trial (Oxford World Classics, 2009)

Franz Kafka, Letters to Felice, (Penguin, 1978), especially the essay ‘Kafka’s Other Trial’ by Elias Canetti

Eric Marson, Kafka’s ‘Trial’: The Case against Josef K (University of Queensland Press, 1975)

Julian Preece (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Kafka (Cambridge University Press, 2002)

Ritchie Robertson, Kafka: Judaism, Politics and Literature (Clarendon, 1985)

Walter Sokel, Franz Kafka (Columbia University Press, 1966)

John Zilkosky, Kafka’s Travels: Exoticism, Colonialism, and the Traffic of Writing (Palgrave, 2003)



Role Contributor
Presenter Melvyn Bragg
Interviewed Guest Elizabeth Boa
Interviewed Guest Steve Connor
Interviewed Guest Ritchie Robertson
Producer Luke Mulhall


  • Thu 27 Nov 2014 09:00
  • Thu 27 Nov 2014 21:30

Featured in...

In Our Time podcasts

In Our Time podcasts

Every episode of In Our Time is available to download.

The In Our Time Listeners' Top 10

The In Our Time Listeners' Top 10

If you’re new to In Our Time, this is a good place to start.

Arts and Ideas podcast

Arts and Ideas podcast

Download the best of Radio 3's Free Thinking programme.