As synchronicity would have it, just four days earlier, I had been discussing Franz Kafka’s The Trial with the
The Trial is the story of Josef K, who goes through very strange proceedings within a surreal court system without ever being told what it is he has been charged with. Begg went through “proceedings” (abduction, rendition, torture) that would have been unimaginable to us just a few years ago, also without ever being told what he had been accused of.
While I was looking for information that would add extra value to the book club meeting, I came upon a reference to Jean-Paul Sartre’s Anti-Semite and Jew: An Exploration of the Etiology of Hate. In this book, Sartre discusses the ordeal of the Jew born into a world where anti-Semitism flourishes. Sartre presents the argument that this was Josef K’s world, and perhaps Kafka’s world too. It was an angle I had not thought of, especially because neither religion nor ethnic background is mentioned in The Trial, and because I had never perceived any of Kafka’s work as having particularly Jewish themes. I had, however, thought of The Trial as a possible metaphor for life, i.e. while everything seems to be going along well, one suddenly loses control, realises he has no idea what is going on or what it is all about, and then can do nothing more than grasp at straws to try to get through the trial that is life.
This is perhaps one of the meanings of The Trial by the Jew, Kafka. Like the hero of that novel, the Jew is engaged in a long trial. He does not know his judges, scarcely even his lawyers; he does not know what he is charged with, yet he knows that he is considered guilty; judgment is continually put off -- for a week, two weeks -- he takes advantage of these delays to improve his position in a thousand ways, but every precaution taken at random pushes him a little deeper into guilt. His external situation may appear brilliant, but the interminable trial invisibly wastes him away, and it happens sometimes, as in the novel, that men seize him, carry him off on the pretence that he has lost his case, and murder him in some vague area of the suburbs.
Upon pondering them all together - Kafka, Sartre and Begg - I have come to the conclusion that the Muslim now shares the position of the Jew in the western world. That is, while he is supposedly assimilated (to varying degrees), he is also often irrationally disliked, distrusted or hated, although he may be doing nothing more than trying to get through life like his counterparts of any other religion, ethnicity or nationality. No matter what he does or how he lives his life, he will always be guilty by virtue of who he is.
What a lovely world we live in.