Table of Contents
K. was informed by telephone that there would be a small hearing concerning his case the following Sunday. He was made aware that these cross examinations would follow one another regularly, perhaps not every week but quite frequently. On the one hand it was in everyone's interest to bring proceedings quickly to their conclusion, but on the other hand every aspect of the examinations had to be carried out thoroughly without lasting too long because of the associated stress. For these reasons, it had been decided to hold a series of brief examinations following on one after another. Sunday had been chosen as the day for the hearings so that K. would not be disturbed in his professional work. It was assumed that he would be in agreement with this, but if he wished for another date then, as far as possible, he would be accommodated. Cross-examinations could even be held in the night, for instance, but K. would probably not be fresh enough at that time. Anyway, as long as K. made no objection, the hearing would be left on Sundays. It was a matter of course that he would have to appear without fail, there was probably no need to point this out to him. He would be given the number of the building where he was to present himself, which was in a street in a suburb well away from the city centre which K. had never been to before.
Once he had received this notice, K. hung up the receiver without giving an answer; he had decided immediately to go there that Sunday, it was certainly necessary, proceedings had begun and he had to face up to it, and this first examination would probably also be the last. He was still standing in thought by the telephone when he heard the voice of the deputy director behind him - he wanted to use the telephone but K. stood in his way. "Bad news?" asked the deputy director casually, not in order to find anything out but just to get K. away from the device. "No, no," said K., he stepped to one side but did not go away entirely. The deputy director picked up the receiver and, as he waited for his connection, turned away from it and said to K., "One question, Mr. K.: Would you like to give me the pleasure of joining me on my sailing boat on Sunday morning? There's quite a few people coming, you're bound to know some of them. One of them is Hasterer, the state attorney. Would you like to come along? Do come along!" K. tried to pay attention to what the deputy director was saying. It was of no small importance for him, as this invitation from the deputy director, with whom he had never got on very well, meant that he was trying to improve his relations with him. It showed how important K. had become in the bank and how its second most important official seemed to value his friendship, or at least his impartiality. He was only speaking at the side of the telephone receiver while he waited for his connection, but in giving this invitation the deputy director was humbling himself. But K. would have to humiliate him a second time as a result, he said, "Thank you very much, but I'm afraid I will have no time on Sunday, I have a previous obligation." "Pity," said the deputy director, and turned to the telephone conversation that had just been connected. It was not a short conversation, but K., remained standing confused by the instrument all the time it was going on. It was only when the deputy director hung up that he was shocked into awareness and said, in order to partially excuse his standing there for no reason, "I've just received a telephone call, there's somewhere I need to go, but they forgot to tell me what time." "Ask them then," said the deputy director. "It's not that important," said K., although in that way his earlier excuse, already weak enough, was made even weaker. As he went, the deputy director continued to speak about other things. K. forced himself to answer, but his thoughts were mainly about that Sunday, how it would be best to get there for nine o'clock in the morning as that was the time that courts always start work on weekdays.
The weather was dull on Sunday. K. was very tired, as he had stayed out drinking until late in the night celebrating with some of the regulars, and he had almost overslept. He dressed hurriedly, without the time to think and assemble the various plans he had worked out during the week. With no breakfast, he rushed to the suburb he had been told about. Oddly enough, although he had little time to look around him, he came across the three bank officials involved in his case, Rabensteiner, Kullich and Kaminer. The first two were travelling in a tram that went across K.'s route, but Kaminer sat on the terrace of a café and leant curiously over the wall as K. came over. All of them seemed to be looking at him, surprised at seeing their superior running; it was a kind of pride that made K. want to go on foot, this was his affair and the idea of any help from strangers, however slight, was repulsive to him, he also wanted to avoid asking for anyone's help because that would initiate them into the affair even if only slightly. And after all, he had no wish at all to humiliate himself before the committee by being too punctual. Anyway, now he was running so that he would get there by nine o'clock if at all possible, even though he had no appointment for this time.
He had thought that he would recognise the building from a distance by some kind of sign, without knowing exactly what the sign would look like, or from some particular kind of activity outside the entrance. K. had been told that the building was in Juliusstrasse, but when he stood at the street's entrance it consisted on each side of almost nothing but monotonous, grey constructions, tall blocks of flats occupied by poor people. Now, on a Sunday morning, most of the windows were occupied, men in their shirtsleeves leant out smoking, or carefully and gently held small children on the sills. Other windows were piled up with bedding, above which the dishevelled head of a woman would briefly appear. People called out to each other across the street, one of the calls provoked a loud laugh about K. himself. It was a long street, and spaced evenly along it were small shops below street level, selling various kinds of foodstuffs, which you reached by going down a few steps. Women went in and out of them or stood chatting on the steps. A fruitmonger, taking his goods up to the windows, was just as inattentive as K. and nearly knocked him down with his cart. Just then, a gramophone, which in better parts of town would have been seen as worn out, began to play some murderous tune.
K. went further into the street, slowly, as if he had plenty of time now, or as if the examining magistrate were looking at him from one of the windows and therefore knew that K. had found his way there. It was shortly after nine. The building was quite far down the street, it covered so much area it was almost extraordinary, and the gateway in particular was tall and long. It was clearly intended for delivery wagons belonging to the various warehouses all round the yard which were now locked up and carried the names of companies some of which K. knew from his work at the bank. In contrast with his usual habits, he remained standing a while at the entrance to the yard taking in all these external details. Near him, there was a bare-footed man sitting on a crate and reading a newspaper. There were two lads swinging on a hand cart. In front of a pump stood a weak, young girl in a bedjacket who, as the water flowed into her can, looked at K. There was a piece of rope stretched between two windows in a corner of the yard, with some washing hanging on it to dry. A man stood below it calling out instructions to direct the work being done.
K. went over to the stairway to get to the room where the hearing was to take place, but then stood still again as besides these steps he could see three other stairway entrances, and there also seemed to be a small passageway at the end of the yard leading into a second yard. It irritated him that he had not been given more precise directions to the room, it meant they were either being especially neglectful with him or especially indifferent, and he decided to make that clear to them very loudly and very unambiguously. In the end he decided to climb up the stairs, his thoughts playing on something that he remembered the policeman, Willem, saying to him; that the court is attracted by the guilt, from which it followed that the courtroom must be on the stairway that K. selected by chance.
As he went up he disturbed a large group of children playing on the stairs who looked at him as he stepped through their rows. "Next time I come here," he said to himself, "I must either bring sweets with me to make them like me or a stick to hit them with." Just before he reached the first landing he even had to wait a little while until a ball had finished its movement, two small lads with sly faces like grown-up scoundrels held him by his trouser-legs until it had; if he were to shake them off he would have to hurt them, and he was afraid of what noise they would make by shouting.
On the first floor, his search began for real. He still felt unable to ask for the investigating committee, and so he invented a joiner called Lanz - that name occurred to him because the captain, Mrs. Grubach's nephew, was called Lanz - so that he could ask at every flat whether Lanz the joiner lived there and thus obtain a chance to look into the rooms. It turned out, though, that that was mostly possible without further ado, as almost all the doors were left open and the children ran in and out. Most of them were small, one-windowed rooms where they also did the cooking. Many women held babies in one arm and worked at the stove with the other. Half grown girls, who seemed to be dressed in just their pinafores worked hardest running to and fro. In every room, the beds were still in use by people who were ill, or still asleep, or people stretched out on them in their clothes. K. knocked at the flats where the doors were closed and asked whether Lanz the joiner lived there. It was usually a woman who opened the door, heard the enquiry and turned to somebody in the room who would raise himself from the bed. "The gentleman's asking if a joiner called Lanz, lives here." "A joiner, called Lanz?" he would ask from the bed." "That's right," K. would say, although it was clear that the investigating committee was not to be found there, and so his task was at an end. There were many who thought it must be very important for K. to find Lanz the joiner and thought long about it, naming a joiner who was not called Lanz or giving a name that had some vague similarity with Lanz, or they asked neighbours or accompanied K. to a door a long way away where they thought someone of that sort might live in the back part of the building or where someone would be who could advise K. better than they could themselves. K. eventually had to give up asking if he did not want to be led all round from floor to floor in this way. He regretted his initial plan, which had at first seemed so practical to him. As he reached the fifth floor, he decided to give up the search, took his leave of a friendly, young worker who wanted to lead him on still further and went down the stairs. But then the thought of how much time he was wasting made him cross, he went back again and knocked at the first door on the fifth floor. The first thing he saw in the small room was a large clock on the wall which already showed ten o'clock. "Is there a joiner called Lanz who lives here?" he asked. "Pardon?" said a young woman with black, shining eyes who was, at that moment, washing children's underclothes in a bucket. She pointed her wet hand towards the open door of the adjoining room.
K. thought he had stepped into a meeting. A medium sized, two windowed room was filled with the most diverse crowd of people - nobody paid any attention to the person who had just entered. Close under its ceiling it was surrounded by a gallery which was also fully occupied and where the people could only stand bent down with their heads and their backs touching the ceiling. K., who found the air too stuffy, stepped out again and said to the young woman, who had probably misunderstood what he had said, "I asked for a joiner, someone by the name of Lanz." "Yes," said the woman, "please go on in." K. would probably not have followed her if the woman had not gone up to him, taken hold of the door handle and said, "I'll have to close the door after you, no-one else will be allowed in." "Very sensible," said K., "but it's too full already." But then he went back in anyway. He passed through between two men who were talking beside the door - one of them held both hands far out in front of himself making the movements of counting out money, the other looked him closely in the eyes - and someone took him by the hand. It was a small, red-faced youth. "Come in, come in," he said. K. let himself be led by him, and it turned out that there was - surprisingly in a densely packed crowd of people moving to and fro - a narrow passage which may have been the division between two factions; this idea was reinforced by the fact that in the first few rows to the left and the right of him there was hardly any face looking in his direction, he saw nothing but the backs of people directing their speech and their movements only towards members of their own side. Most of them were dressed in black, in old, long, formal frock coats that hung down loosely around them. These clothes were the only thing that puzzled K., as he would otherwise have taken the whole assembly for a local political meeting.
At the other end of the hall where K. had been led there was a little table set at an angle on a very low podium which was as overcrowded as everywhere else, and behind the table, near the edge of the podium, sat a small, fat, wheezing man who was talking with someone behind him. This second man was standing with his legs crossed and his elbows on the backrest of the chair, provoking much laughter. From time to time he threw his arm in the air as if doing a caricature of someone. The youth who was leading K. had some difficulty in reporting to the man. He had already tried twice to tell him something, standing on tip- toe, but without getting the man's attention as he sat there above him. It was only when one of the people up on the podium drew his attention to the youth that the man turned to him and leant down to hear what it was he quietly said. Then he pulled out his watch and quickly looked over at K. "You should have been here one hour and five minutes ago," he said. K. was going to give him a reply but had no time to do so, as hardly had the man spoken than a general muttering arose all over the right hand side of the hall. "You should have been here one hour and five minutes ago," the man now repeated, raising his voice this time, and quickly looked round the hall beneath him. The muttering also became immediately louder and, as the man said nothing more, died away only gradually. Now the hall was much quieter than when K. had entered. Only the people up in the gallery had not stopped passing remarks. As far as could be distinguished, up in the half-darkness, dust and haze, they seemed to be less well dressed than those below. Many of them had brought pillows that they had put between their heads and the ceiling so that they would not hurt themselves pressed against it.
K. had decided he would do more watching than talking, so he did not defend himself for supposedly having come late, and simply said, "Well maybe I have arrived late, I'm here now." There followed loud applause, once more from the right hand side of the hall. Easy people to get on your side, thought K., and was bothered only by the quiet from the left hand side which was directly behind him and from which there was applause from only a few individuals. He wondered what he could say to get all of them to support him together or, if that were not possible, to at least get the support of the others for a while.
"Yes," said the man, "but I'm now no longer under any obligation to hear your case" - there was once more a muttering, but this time it was misleading as the man waved the people's objections aside with his hand and continued - "I will, however, as an exception, continue with it today. But you should never arrive late like this again. And now, step forward!" Someone jumped down from the podium so that there would be a place free for K., and K. stepped up onto it. He stood pressed closely against the table, the press of the crowd behind him was so great that he had to press back against it if he did not want to push the judge's desk down off the podium and perhaps the judge along with it.
The judge, however, paid no attention to that but sat very comfortably on his chair and, after saying a few words to close his discussion with the man behind him, reached for a little note book, the only item on his desk. It was like an old school exercise book and had become quite misshapen from much thumbing. "Now then," said the judge, thumbing through the book. He turned to K. with the tone of someone who knows his facts and said, "you are a house painter?" "No," said K., "I am the chief clerk in a large bank." This reply was followed by laughter among the right hand faction down in the hall, it was so hearty that K. couldn't stop himself joining in with it. The people supported themselves with their hands on their knees and shook as if suffering a serious attack of coughing. Even some of those in the gallery were laughing. The judge had become quite cross but seemed to have no power over those below him in the hall, he tried to reduce what harm had been done in the gallery and jumped up threatening them, his eyebrows, until then hardly remarkable, pushed themselves up and became big, black and bushy over his eyes.
The left hand side of the hall was still quiet, though, the people stood there in rows with their faces looking towards the podium listening to what was being said there, they observed the noise from the other side of the hall with the same quietness and even allowed some individuals from their own ranks, here and there, to go forward into the other faction. The people in the left faction were not only fewer in number than the right but probably were no more important than them, although their behaviour was calmer and that made it seem like they were. When K. now began to speak he was convinced he was doing it in the same way as them.
"Your question, My Lord, as to whether I am a house painter - in fact even more than that, you did not ask at all but merely imposed it on me - is symptomatic of the whole way these proceedings against me are being carried out. Perhaps you will object that there are no proceedings against me. You will be quite right, as there are proceedings only if I acknowledge that there are. But, for the moment, I do acknowledge it, out of pity for yourselves to a large extent. It's impossible not to observe all this business without feeling pity. I don't say things are being done without due care but I would like to make it clear that it is I who make the acknowledgement."
K. stopped speaking and looked down into the hall. He had spoken sharply, more sharply than he had intended, but he had been quite right. It should have been rewarded with some applause here and there but everything was quiet, they were all clearly waiting for what would follow, perhaps the quietness was laying the ground for an outbreak of activity that would bring this whole affair to an end. It was somewhat disturbing that just then the door at the end of the hall opened, the young washerwoman, who seemed to have finished her work, came in and, despite all her caution, attracted the attention of some of the people there. It was only the judge who gave K. any direct pleasure, as he seemed to have been immediately struck by K.'s words. Until then, he had listened to him standing, as K.'s speech had taken him by surprise while he was directing his attention to the gallery. Now, in the pause, he sat down very slowly, as if he did not want anyone to notice. He took out the notebook again, probably so that he could give the impression of being calmer.
"That won't help you, sir," continued K., "even your little book will only confirm what I say." K. was satisfied to hear nothing but his own quiet words in this room full of strangers, and he even dared casually to pick up the examining judge's notebook and, touching it only with the tips of his fingers as if it were something revolting, lifted it in the air, holding it just by one of the middle pages so that the others on each side of it, closely written, blotted and yellowing, flapped down. "Those are the official notes of the examining judge," he said, and let the notebook fall down onto the desk. "You can read in your book as much as you like, sir, I really don't have anything in this charge book to be afraid of, even though I don't have access to it as I wouldn't want it in my hand, I can only touch it with two fingers." The judge grabbed the notebook from where it had fallen on the desk - which could only have been a sign of his deep humiliation, or at least that is how it must have been perceived - tried to tidy it up a little, and held it once more in front of himself in order to read from it.
The people in the front row looked up at him, showing such tension on their faces that he looked back down at them for some time. Every one of them was an old man, some of them with white beards. Could they perhaps be the crucial group who could turn the whole assembly one way or the other? They had sunk into a state of motionlessness while K. gave his oration, and it had not been possible to raise them from this passivity even when the judge was being humiliated. "What has happened to me," continued K., with less of the vigour he had had earlier, he continually scanned the faces in the first row, and this gave his address a somewhat nervous and distracted character, "what has happened to me is not just an isolated case. If it were it would not be of much importance as it's not of much importance to me, but it is a symptom of proceedings which are carried out against many. It's on behalf of them that I stand here now, not for myself alone."
Without having intended it, he had raised his voice. Somewhere in the hall, someone raised his hands and applauded him shouting, "Bravo! Why not then? Bravo! Again I say, Bravo!" Some of the men in the first row groped around in their beards, none of them looked round to see who was shouting. Not even K. thought him of any importance but it did raise his spirits; he no longer thought it at all necessary that all of those in the hall should applaud him, it was enough if the majority of them began to think about the matter and if only one of them, now and then, was persuaded.
"I'm not trying to be a successful orator," said K. after this thought, "that's probably more than I'm capable of anyway. I'm sure the examining judge can speak far better than I can, it is part of his job after all. All that I want is a public discussion of a public wrong. Listen: ten days ago I was placed under arrest, the arrest itself is something I laugh about but that's beside the point. They came for me in the morning when I was still in bed. Maybe the order had been given to arrest some house painter - that seems possible after what the judge has said - someone who is as innocent as I am, but it was me they chose. There were two police thugs occupying the next room. They could not have taken better precautions if I had been a dangerous robber. And these policemen were unprincipled riff-raff, they talked at me till I was sick of it, they wanted bribes, they wanted to trick me into giving them my clothes, they wanted money, supposedly so that they could bring me my breakfast after they had blatantly eaten my own breakfast in front of my eyes. And even that was not enough. I was led in front of the supervisor in another room. This was the room of a lady who I have a lot of respect for, and I was forced to look on while the supervisor and the policemen made quite a mess of this room because of me, although not through any fault of mine. It was not easy to stay calm, but I managed to do so and was completely calm when I asked the supervisor why it was that I was under arrest. If he were here he would have to confirm what I say. I can see him now, sitting on the chair belonging to that lady I mentioned - a picture of dull-witted arrogance. What do you think he answered? What he told me, gentlemen, was basically nothing at all; perhaps he really did know nothing, he had placed me under arrest and was satisfied. In fact he had done more than that and brought three junior employees from the bank where I work into the lady's room; they had made themselves busy interfering with some photographs that belonged to the lady and causing a mess. There was, of course, another reason for bringing these employees; they, just like my landlady and her maid, were expected to spread the news of my arrest and damage my public reputation and in particular to remove me from my position at the bank. Well they didn't succeed in any of that, not in the slightest, even my landlady, who is quite a simple person - and I will give you here her name in full respect, her name is Mrs. Grubach - even Mrs. Grubach was understanding enough to see that an arrest like this has no more significance than an attack carried out on the street by some youths who are not kept under proper control. I repeat, this whole affair has caused me nothing but unpleasantness and temporary irritation, but could it not also have had some far worse consequences?"
K. broke off here and looked at the judge, who said nothing. As he did so he thought he saw the judge use a movement of his eyes to give a sign to someone in the crowd. K. smiled and said, "And now the judge, right next to me, is giving a secret sign to someone among you. There seems to be someone among you who is taking directions from above. I don't know whether the sign is meant to produce booing or applause, but I'll resist trying to guess what its meaning is too soon. It really doesn't matter to me, and I give his lordship the judge my full and public permission to stop giving secret signs to his paid subordinate down there and give his orders in words instead; let him just say "Boo now!," and then the next time "Clap now!".
Whether it was embarrassment or impatience, the judge rocked backwards and forwards on his seat. The man behind him, whom he had been talking with earlier, leant forward again, either to give him a few general words of encouragement or some specific piece of advice. Below them in the hall the people talked to each other quietly but animatedly. The two factions had earlier seemed to hold views strongly opposed to each other but now they began to intermingle, a few individuals pointed up at K., others pointed at the judge. The air in the room was fuggy and extremely oppressive, those who were standing furthest away could hardly even be seen through it. It must have been especially troublesome for those visitors who were in the gallery, as they were forced to quietly ask the participants in the assembly what exactly was happening, albeit with timid glances at the judge. The replies they received were just as quiet, and given behind the protection of a raised hand.
"I have nearly finished what I have to say," said K., and as there was no bell available he struck the desk with his fist in a way that startled the judge and his advisor and made them look up from each other. "None of this concerns me, and I am therefore able to make a calm assessment of it, and, assuming that this so-called court is of any real importance, it will be very much to your advantage to listen to what I have to say. If you want to discuss what I say, please don't bother to write it down until later on, I don't have any time to waste and I'll soon be leaving."
There was immediate silence, which showed how well K. was in control of the crowd. There were no shouts among them as there had been at the start, no-one even applauded, but if they weren't already persuaded they seemed very close to it.
K was pleased at the tension among all the people there as they listened to him, a rustling rose from the silence which was more invigorating than the most ecstatic applause could have been. "There is no doubt," he said quietly, "that there is some enormous organisation determining what is said by this court. In my case this includes my arrest and the examination taking place here today, an organisation that employs policemen who can be bribed, oafish supervisors and judges of whom nothing better can be said than that they are not as arrogant as some others. This organisation even maintains a high-level judiciary along with its train of countless servants, scribes, policemen and all the other assistance that it needs, perhaps even executioners and torturers - I'm not afraid of using those words. And what, gentlemen, is the purpose of this enormous organisation? Its purpose is to arrest innocent people and wage pointless prosecutions against them which, as in my case, lead to no result. How are we to avoid those in office becoming deeply corrupt when everything is devoid of meaning? That is impossible, not even the highest judge would be able to achieve that for himself. That is why policemen try to steal the clothes off the back of those they arrest, that is why supervisors break into the homes of people they do not know, that is why innocent people are humiliated in front of crowds rather than being given a proper trial. The policemen only talked about the warehouses where they put the property of those they arrest, I would like to see these warehouses where the hard won possessions of people under arrest is left to decay, if, that is, it's not stolen by the thieving hands of the warehouse workers."
K. was interrupted by a screeching from the far end of the hall, he shaded his eyes to see that far, as the dull light of day made the smoke whitish and hard to see through. It was the washerwoman whom K. had recognised as a likely source of disturbance as soon as she had entered. It was hard to see now whether it was her fault or not. K. could only see that a man had pulled her into a corner by the door and was pressing himself against her. But it was not her who was screaming, but the man, he had opened his mouth wide and looked up at the ceiling. A small circle had formed around the two of them, the visitors near him in the gallery seemed delighted that the serious tone K. had introduced into the gathering had been disturbed in this way. K.'s first thought was to run over there, and he also thought that everyone would want to bring things back into order there or at least to make the pair leave the room, but the first row of people in front of him stayed were they were, no-one moved and no-one let K. through. On the contrary, they stood in his way, old men held out their arms in front of him and a hand from somewhere - he did not have the time to turn round - took hold of his collar. K., by this time, had forgotten about the pair, it seemed to him that his freedom was being limited as if his arrest was being taken seriously, and, without any thought for what he was doing, he jumped down from the podium. Now he stood face to face with the crowd. Had he judged the people properly? Had he put too much faith in the effect of his speech? Had they been putting up a pretence all the time he had been speaking, and now that he come to the end and to what must follow, were they tired of pretending? What faces they were, all around him! Dark, little eyes flickered here and there, cheeks drooped down like on drunken men, their long beards were thin and stiff, if they took hold of them it was more like they were making their hands into claws, not as if they were taking hold of their own beards. But underneath those beards - and this was the real discovery made by K. - there were badges of various sizes and colours shining on the collars of their coats. As far as he could see, every one of them was wearing one of these badges. All of them belonged to the same group, even though they seemed to be divided to the right and the left of him, and when he suddenly turned round he saw the same badge on the collar of the examining judge who calmly looked down at him with his hands in his lap. "So," called out K, throwing his arms in the air as if this sudden realisation needed more room, "all of you are working for this organisation, I see now that you are all the very bunch of cheats and liars I've just been speaking about, you've all pressed yourselves in here in order to listen in and snoop on me, you gave the impression of having formed into factions, one of you even applauded me to test me out, and you wanted to learn how to trap an innocent man! Well, I hope you haven't come here for nothing, I hope you've either had some fun from someone who expected you to defend his innocence or else - let go of me or I'll hit you," shouted K. to a quivery old man who had pressed himself especially close to him - "or else that you've actually learned something. And so I wish you good luck in your trade." He briskly took his hat from where it lay on the edge of the table and, surrounded by a silence caused perhaps by the completeness of their surprise, pushed his way to the exit. However, the examining judge seems to have moved even more quickly than K., as he was waiting for him at the doorway. "One moment," he said. K. stood where he was, but looked at the door with his hand already on its handle rather than at the judge. "I merely wanted to draw your attention," said the judge, "to something you seem not yet to be aware of: today, you have robbed yourself of the advantages that a hearing of this sort always gives to someone who is under arrest." K. laughed towards the door. "You bunch of louts," he called, "you can keep all your hearings as a present from me," then opened the door and hurried down the steps. Behind him, the noise of the assembly rose as it became lively once more and probably began to discuss these events as if making a scientific study of them.