Had Franz Kafka’s dying wish been honored, ‘The Castle’ would be nothing more than a pile of ashes. Instead, one of Kafka’s buddies decided to publish the unfinished novel so that generations of readers could read way too much into it. There’s an aura of mystery surrounding the book’s mid-sentence ending, but there shouldn’t be. ‘The Castle’ ends in mid-sentence because Kafka got bored and quit writing.
All of the summaries I heard or read about ‘The Castle’ boiled down to “K. is looking for something,” whether it’s God or the meaning of life or whatever. That’s a theme I can get excited about, but my enthusiasm crashed and burned when I realized that the story isn’t about searching at all. The main character tries to get to the titular castle once, at the very beginning of the book, and then he wanders around gabbing with villagers for three hundred pages. (As I read, I couldn’t help comparing Kafka to Dostoevsky, but for all my whining about the Russian, he at least picked a topic to ramble about in his books.)
I wanted to like ‘The Castle,’ but Kafka was determined not to let me. Critics call his desultory style “dreamlike”; I call it frustrating. I support Kafka’s decision not to finish the book. The abrupt ending was a relief— it saved me from yet another