Extract from Mike Mitchell's translation

Franz Kafka's The Trial

The Arrest

Someone must have been telling tales about Josef K. for one morning, without having done anything wrong, he was arrested. Frau Grubach's cook, who brought him his breakfast at around eight every day, did not appear. That had never happened before. For a while K. waited — from his pillow he saw the old woman who lived opposite watching with, for her, quite unusual curiosity — but then, both perplexed and hungry, he rang. Immediately there was a knock at the door and a man he had never seen in the apartment came in. He was slimly yet solidly built and was wearing a close-fitting black suit which, like an outfit for travelling, was equipped with a variety of pleats, pockets, buckles, buttons and a belt that made it appear especially practical, without its precise purpose being clear. ‘Who are you?’ K. asked, immediately half sitting up in bed. But the man ignored the question, as if his presence there had simply to be accepted, and merely said, ‘You rang?’ ‘Anna's to bring me my breakfast,’ said K., then tried to work out who the man actually was by observing him in silence and racking his brains. However he didn't expose himself to K.'s scrutiny for very long, but turned to the door and opened it slightly to say to someone who was obviously standing just behind it, ‘He wants Anna to bring him his breakfast.’ Brief laughter in the neighbouring room ensued; from the sound it was unclear whether there were several people joining in or not. Although he could not have learnt anything he didn't know already, the stranger now said to K., as if reporting someone else's words, ‘It's not possible.’ ‘It's the first time that's happened,’ said K., jumping out of bed and quickly putting his trousers on. ‘I want to see who these people in the next room are and what explanation Frau Grubach has for this disturbance.’ It did immediately occur to him that he should not have said that out loud, that in a way it was recognizing the stranger's right to keep him under surveillance, but that didn't seem important to him at that moment. That was certainly the way the stranger interpreted it, for he said, ‘Wouldn't you prefer to stay here?’ ‘I have no desire to remain here, nor to be spoken to by you, as long as you have not introduced yourself.’ ‘It was well meant,’ the stranger said, opening the door without being asked.