Hector Ortega’s stage adaptation of Franz Kafka’s The Trial is eerily pertinent to our times. Accused of some unknown crime and put through a wacky, illogical judicial system, Joseph K. feels the strange uncertainty of having his fate in the hands of simple-minded power trippers. What makes this The Comic Trial of Joseph K. is Ortega’s ability to pick up on Kafka’s humor latent in the original. It’s this humor that makes the gravity of Joseph’s circumstances easier to swallow and it breathes a sharp wit into the stage version. The book includes essays analyzing Ortega’s adaptation, giving the reader a better understanding of Joseph’s character and the importance of the comic element. The most beautiful is Ortega’s own essay in which he expresses a genuine passion for Kafka, his personal character, and his work. Here are some excerpts from Ortega's essay:
Ortega also writes about the common misconception that Kafka had a dire attitude. The truth was that he held out hope for mankind, something so beautiful that we all need to inspire passion and action in us -not from fear- but from a source of love."The truth is that the 'Kafkaesque' situation in which we continuously see ourselves involved in the offices of bureaucracy keep on making us experience feelings of impotence; we feel controlled by superior authoritarian forces that manipulate our lives."
"Kafka, like all prophets, is a man full of rage and pain, but, in spite of all commonplaces, like all prophets of desperation he is a man full of love for mankind, with hope in humanity. From him I have received the most hopeful and desolate phrase I have ever heard; it is a phrase from his diary: 'Even if there is no redemption in this world, we should all live as if there were.' It is the most beautiful example I have found of human dignity."It's with that same Kafka attitude that we face things like the Supreme Court saying that corporations are people and Congress passing next year's defense spending bill. Hector Ortega's The Comic Trial of Joseph K. can be inspiring now more than ever. Ortega brings out Kafka's view that no matter how far authority imposes injustice we must keep in mind that there are no "others," we work against injustice all while knowing that eventually everyone will be reminded of the things that make us human. Franz Kafka's convictions are the kind that can help shift the trajectory of mankind for the better.
Purchase a copy of Hector Ortega's The Comic Trial of Joseph K.: Text and Context from SDSU Press.