10 Great Books: Franz Kafka,
The Trial (1927)

Bringing the 10 Great Books 2020 season to a close is Associate Professor Heather Benbow with Franz Kafka's unfinished novel, The Trial.

Associate Professor Tim Lynch, convener of 10 Great Books, will introduce you to our speakers each month and facilitate audience questions following their presentation.

Associate Professor Heather Benbow's  presentation on The Trial
Our audience Q&A with Associate Professor Heather Benbow and Associate Professor Tim Lynch

Franz Kafka, a German-speaking Czech Jew, has been called the greatest literary expert on power

His unfinished novel The Trial is his long-form study of the topic. True to Kafka's literary modernism, the novel presents us with a weak hero, a deeply flawed man whose baffling choices and lack of self-control and understanding are deeply frustrating for readers.

Unfinished in Kafka's lifetime, rescued and published by his literary executor Max Brod, the novel contains a mini masterpiece, the parable "Before the Law", and inspired a filmic masterpiece in Orson Welles' remarkable adaptation.

We will give due attention to these other lives of Kafka's novel. In order to understand Kafka’s irreverent perspective on power we will visit turn-of-the-century Prague and regard the situation of German-speaking Jews such as Kafka at that tumultuous time. While Kafka's themes have been declared timeless, they surely could only have originated here.

Extra resources

Associate Professor Heather Benbow
Associate Professor Heather Benbow

About Associate Professor Heather Benbow

Associate Professor Heather Benbow is Associate Professor of German Studies at the University of Melbourne. She has published scholarly books and articles on a range of topics, including the work and life of Franz Kafka.

She is especially fascinated by intercultural encounters and representations in literary and screen cultures. She has been a visiting fellow at the University of Tübingen, Germany, the Free University of Berlin and the University of Cambridge.

Teaching Kafka in German to undergraduate students is one of her greatest joys. She is currently also the Director of the Hansen Scholarship Program.

10 Great Books: a Melbourne Masterclass

The Faculty of Arts proudly presents the book club to end all book clubs: 10 Great Books, a Melbourne Masterclass. Each month, hear leading academics and experts give their take on a text that has shaped the way we see the world.

We ask the big questions about how our selected books captured the zeitgeist and shifted the culture. The ten diverse texts will become our window into politics, art, love, death, and everything in between. Now in its seventh year, 10 Great Books has traversed the broad history of the written word, exploring great novels, non-fiction, plays, poetry, pamphlets and more.

Visit the 10 Great Books website for this year's program and speaker information.

Learn more