I haven’t hated a novel so much in a long time. Amerika is quite possibly the most frustrating novel I’ve ever read – even more than Kafka‘s other novels. It’s considered one of his three principal novels - The Trial, The Castle, and this one (The Metamorphosis evidently doesn’t count because it’s a novella) – and it’s not even finished. I bet I can tell you why, too: Kafka knew it sucks, and he knew the plot couldn’t go anywhere worthwhile. It would just have to be an endless loop, so he gave up. Which is kind of what his novels are, anyway. They’re certainly frustrating. I’m beginning to wonder why I like the other two (and The Metamorphosis) so much. Maybe it depends on my mood. But I hated this one almost from the beginning. I’m not even sure why I finished it.
And what made it worse: I was done when I realized that it’s unfinished. I dislike unfinished novels, and I rarely read them. Not only am I predisposed to dislike it on that basis, but it just isn't any good. MEH.
It’s about Karl Rossman, who is sent to America by his parents because he got a girl pregnant, and they don’t want to have to pay. And Karl trusts everyone, even if they’re obviously out to get him, so he ends up in trouble pretty quickly. He takes the side of one of the ship’s employees who thinks he’s being treated unfairly even though he (Karl) has just met the employee. As things go south, a businessman asks Karl to repeat his name then claims to be his long-lost American uncle, there to rescue him. Thus ensues lots of creepiness, and trusting ol’ Karl gets into trouble again, though he doesn’t mean to, and his uncle is entirely unreasonable. I really don’t understand the situation. It’s a ridiculous situation that only Kafka could pull off, and this time he does it badly. Then Karl ends up on his own and works in a hotel for a while, then becomes a kind of slave, and then on and on and on.
I seriously wanted to throw this book across the room when I finished it. I hated it that much. The last book I hated that much was Chinua Achebe‘s Things Fall Apart, but I probably shouldn’t have mentioned that because he just died. Except I did.
ANYWAY, Amerika is, as I said, Kafka’s first novel. And it’s not good. And I almost wish I hadn’t bothered to finish reading it just to find out that even Kafka couldn’t finish it. On to greener pastures.
Check it out if you're curious.