Random House was nice to send me a copy of this unfinished work by Franz Kafka, along with notes to aid my reading. I accepted this book, because Kafka is one of the authors whose works scare me a bit. I have heard so much about his literary importance that I feel that I am not ready to read his thoughts.
Well, this novel left me confused. Kakfa never left Prague but seems to want to escape his confines by writing about moving to the US in the early 20th century. There is already evidence of electricity and telephone service in New York City, so it's not so shocking to Karl Rossman, the protagonist of the novel.
First, let me present the facts that I need to quibble about in Kafka's world: the Statue of Liberty holds up a sword, there is a bridge to connect New York City to Boston, and Ramses is an important city in the Eastern Seaboard. Would being correct about these facts change my view of the novel? Maybe not.
Karl runs into the craziest immigrants and US citizens that I have ever read about. Before he gets off the boat, he manages to meet his rich uncle, who is a little off. He gets beaten up several times (even by a rich girl!). The conversation seems a bit forced. There is something that doesn't ring true with the writing.
Karl the immigrant tries to survive in the New World, but isn't having much luck. He finally goes through a nutsy job interview process and decides to take a change with a theater group in Oklahoma.
The novel has no true ending. Kafka never finished it, and there are portions where he skipped several chapters, so your imagination has to fill it in.
I had to stop reading it for a few days at a time, before picking it up again, and then I would have to go back a few pages to pick up the thread of the narrative. There were so many people in the work and such crazy interactions, that I just couldn't keep it straight.