Kafka and the Law
The Trial is a novel published posthumously in German as Der Prozess by Max Brod for the first time in 1925, based on Kafka’s messy manuscripts. It starts by announcing that “Someone must have been telling tales about Josef K., for one morning, without having done anything wrong, he was arrested” (Kafka, 1925 , p. 3), and then goes on to narrate the process whose motives K. ignores and how K. gets into a tangle by desperately and unsuccessfully trying to find out what those motives are. Josef K. gets trapped in a bureaucratic maze, with unhelpful clerks, endless levels, and incomprehensible rules, and he can never have access to the judge in charge of his trial or to the court where it will be conducted. The law and justice appear incomprehensible, which eventually makes him hopeless and leads him to plead guilty, give himself up, and die like a dog.
As we can read about Kafka—from the introduction to his novel written by Miguel Vedda—he himself could show, through a special sensitivity, the experience of jouissance as something that is not recognized as one’s own and is felt as foreign.
As a Jew, he was not himself in the Christian world. As an indifferent Jew, (…) he was not himself among the Jews. As one who spoke German, he was not himself among Czechs. As a Jew speaking German, he was not himself among Germans. As a Bohemian, he was not quite Austrian. As an employee of the workman’s insurance office, he did not fully belong to the bourgeoisie; as the son of a solid burgher, not fully to the workers. And he was not at home at work, because he felt himself to be a writer. But he was not a writer, because he devoted all his strength to the family. “I live in this family stranger than the strangest foreigner.” (Vedda, 2005, p. 89)
Kafka, as they say, was an outsider (Vedda, 2005, p. 21), not to social bonds, but an exile in his relationship with the law that structures jouissance, which allowed him to become a thinker who was sensitive to the state of emergency in the face of the law. “… Kafka’s discovery is that the law is not regulated by the Name-of-the-Father. That’s the superego, in addition, a law that is not regulated by the Name-of-the-Father” (Alemán, 2008).
Just like Freud (1939-1934,1938 ) in Totem and Taboo, Kafka elucidates that the law is founded by its exception, and that without its visage of sense, it can lead to the worst. If jouissance is extimate for the neurotic clinical structure, it becomes definitely foreign for psychosis. Josef K. becomes the subject who takes going off track in relation to his jouissance to the utmost expression and finds himself lost in the face of the tyrannical and terrifying law that makes use of his body. “Where was the judge he had never seen? Where was the high court he had never reached?” (Kafka, F. 1925, p.249). He is so off track that he ends up giving in to the law, exhausted, hoping that some shame, some trait of his humanity will outlive him, since the segregative operation crushes humanity.
Gregor Samsa and Josef K., like other characters created by Kafka, end up reduced, segregated, marginalized, excluded, and are eventually annihilated physically. In his novels, Kafka was able to interpret that there is a structural mainspring that makes us prone to segregation, in our own individual relationship with the law and, therefore, with jouissance, and this may come to ravage.