by Franz Kafka
The Trial Art and Culture Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph). We used Breon Mitchell's translation.
It was a snapshot: Elsa was caught at the end of her whirling dance of the sort she enjoyed performing at the tavern, her dress still swirling about her, her hands on her hips looking off to the side and laughing, her throat taut; the person at whom her laughter was directed couldn't be seen in the picture. (6.3)
The photograph of Elsa, coming so soon after K.'s viewing of the painting, invites us to consider the similarities between the two, between K.'s mistress and the judge. Both use visual imagery and theatrics to establish their control (erotic for Elsa, judicial for the judge) over K.
For instance the following story is told, and has every appearance of truth. (7.2)
Huld introduces the story of the lawyers being flung down the stairs by a judge with this little phrase, which tells us a lot about stories. Stories are fictional, yet have the "appearance of truth." The paradoxical nature of stories is that, even though they're not factual, they can tell us a lot about the human condition.
"Yes," said the painter, "I'm commissioned to do it that way, it's actually Justice and Victory in one." "That's a poor combination," said K. smiling, "Justice must remain at rest, otherwise the scales sway and no just judgment is possible." (8.23)
K.'s discussion of the painting neatly shows how a painting can reveal a deeper truth. Even though the painter's image of Justice melded with Victory is supposed to be just a decorative touch on a judge's portrait, K. realizes that it actually reveals the problem with the court, which is that it has no interest in justice, just its own power.