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May 08, 2017
Book on Franz Kafka and his Novel The Trial
By Bellanwilla O.T.Perera
Bellanwila O.T. Perera although based in London publishes a book whenever he goes on holiday to his motherland, Sri Lanka. His contributions, after he emigrated to England in 1977, include A collection of short stories named Bidhunu Pighana (Broken Plate ), A critical assessment of Albert Camu and Franz Kafka', 'Life and Works of Satyajit Ray', 'Biography of Rabindranath Tagore' and 'Ethera Sita Liyu Lipi' which is a collection of his published newspaper articles.

Hence he is no stranger to Sri Lankan readership. While these five publications are in Sinhala, Mr Perera's latest addition is in English. 'Franz Kafka and His Celebrated Novel The Trial: A Study' is the name of his latest offering and it is a Sarasavi Publication. Most critics agree that Franz Kafka is one of the greatest literary enigmas of the twentieth century. They also agree that his novel The Trial is one of the greatest novels in World literature.

The first chapter of Mr Perera's new book contains Kafka's complete life story from birth to death with some eye-catching photographs starting with infant Kafka and ending with the last photograph of Kafka taken in 1923 or 1924. The second chapter includes, in brief, the story of the novel The Trial starting with the famous ‘arrest’ of the hero Josef K. to his death at the hands of two thugs sent in by an anonymous authority. The third chapter deals with the interpretations of the novel. At the start of this chapter Mr Perera says that a piece of Writing becomes a classic when it can be interpreted in various Ways. As readers would know, this novel, ie. The Trial, is one of the most difficult novels in World literature to interpret. However, in order to help the reader, Mr Perera has included a number of interpretations to the novel. He has also invited the readers to give their own interpretations. However, he warns in his 'Foreword' to the book that no one systematic interpretation has been able to pin down all the possible meanings of Kafka's work. In chapter four author Perera discusses the problems the reader has to face when interpreting Kafka's stories. Chapter five which is named as 'The World of Franz Kafka' deals with Kafka's religious views and also the religious meaning of 'Kafka's world'. According to Mr Perera Kafka's central theme was the gulf between the human and divine worlds. Majority of critics thought, according to Mr Perera, that Kafka was tortured by the absence of God in the post Neitzschean age. Mr Perera concludes chapter six, which is the last chapter, with the following thought provoking remarks:

'Kafka longed for a system of thought or belief that would transcend the distinctions between the various compartments of life. It may be that he sensed but would not accept, the limitations of reason, and knew in his heart that only faith, which he thought was denied him, could answer his longing. He gives not an interpretation of the World but a reflection of a World in which there is desperate need for a synthesis of many interpretations, each of which is doubted. He exposes the apparent absurdity of reality, and equally the absurdity of the human mind that judges it to be absurd.

Author Perera also mentions in his book that it is impossible to convey the impression which this novel leaves with the reader. According to him it is a fantasy which is partly humorous, partly mad, yet incomparably sane and deadly serious, a fantasy in which rather common place Josef K. plays his baffling role against a backdrop of circumstances which is unsurpassed in literature for its muted terror.
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