pointed out above, The Castle is also an existentialist
novel written by Franz Kafka
This unfinished novel is a story about a land surveyor named K. who arrives in an unnamed village which has this huge imposing castle overlooking it.
From the minute K. arrives in the village to ostensibly take up the offer of employment to be the villageLand Surveyor he notices that the village people have a strong dislike towards outsiders. K.'s attempts to meet with his employer, namely The Count, or his proxy, a man named Klamm, who resides in the castle, prove fruitless as he becomes entangled in a web of bureacracy and pettiness. It is this web of bureacracy which alienates K. from the reason of him being in the town, which forms the backdrop of the message the novel is trying to convey.
The novel is richly populated with absurdity, a strong and common feature of Kafka's writing. It is also richly filled with a metaphor for just about everything the average Joe Soap contends with - on a philosophical level. On the one hand the story is about K.,and the trouble he goes through with trying to define the purpose for his being in the village, and on the other hand the story is an examination of just how absurd an individual's understanding about the nature of authority can become when he notices another person lost in the hierarchy of Things. The novel accurately touches on themes of abandonment, existential angst and quite possibly our very definition of madness/strangeness(?) as Kafka runs amock with sketching a complex world within a world where nothing is ever what it seems?
The castle, and the invisible authority it wields over the villagers is also a metaphor for the Judeo-Christian idea of heaven. And K.'s vain attempts at drawing the attention of his superiors, let alone with certainty identify them, is a metaphor for religious experience. (Note what happens when K. tries to use a telephone to call someone at the castle). Of course, the castle itself becomes The Garden of Eden, and K.'s troubles as expressed throughout the novel simulate man's endless quest for meaning and identity within the framework of a costruct of reality which apparently is married to absurdity. Perhaps Kafka naming the mysterious Klamm's messanger Barnabas is a reference to the (disputed) Gospel of St. Barnabas
Throughout the novel the village people are painted as copies of foolishness personified. They are slow, stupid, fickle, full of exagerration and for the most part are depicted as beer-guzzling peasants. Everyone even remotely connected to the castle, however, dresses lavishly, speaks differently and attaches an exagerrated sense of value to their illusory authority over others, based on the simple idea that they are well, connected to the castle.
Througout the novel you will also find that cronologically that the time of day is always described as being close to dark. In fact the novel begins with K. arriving in the village at close to midnight. And on several occasions he remarks at how quickly the night has arrived. Once the evening arrives it seems to last forever.
Kafka's portrayal of the women in the story is perhaps a reflection of the prevailing view his society had of women at the time he wrote the novel. Frieda, the uneviable woman whom K. marries, is introduced as Klamm's mistress, but after a one-night-stand behind a bar-counter amid rotten vegetables and filth she declares her undying duty towards K. and leaves Klamm. She pities K.'s (highly irritating) assistants, finds it acceptable to move in with him at the school where K has been forced to become a caretaker and generally shares in the troubles K. is forced to endure at the hands of the faceless system.
For me, the most hilarious and absurd scene in the book is what happens at the school. The school is a two-roomed building, and K. and Frieda, and K.'s assistants, make house in one of the classrooms. One morning, having overslept, K. awakes to find the pupils of the school crowded around his bed, laughing. The schoolmaster comes across this scene and proceeds to give K. an extremely humiliating and merciless thrashing with a ruler. All the while K.'s assistants are running about the classroom like monkeys with their tails on fire.
The other woman of note in the story, is the landlady. The landlady considers herself a proud ex-mistress of Klamm, even though Klamm 'called for her' twice, over twenty years ago. She still harbours the idea that Barnabas might come summoning her. Note how her disposition towards K. becomes friendly upon learning that K.'s attempts to meet Klamm might prove succesful after all.
I read somewhere that K.'s two assistants, and if I'm not mistaken in all of Kafka's (unfinished) novels we find 2 odd men hanging around a protagonist (also quite incidently named K.), are in fact symbols of Kafka's own sexual neurosis. ie his qualms about the fact of having and and being unable to relate to his testacles. It's easy to fall for this idea, because in each scene where K. shows even the slightest affection towards Frieda, the assistants are mentioned as hovering around somewhere depicted in a light which questions their personal maturity and suitability as assistants.
This novel rocks, but beware you'll be lonesome if you tried discussing its plot and deeper meaning by a fireside unless, and only unless, your friends already think you're a rather entertaining pseudo-intellectual. Quite possibly boring as well.