Back to the Blog and Franz Kafka

It’s back to the blog for me, having just returned from the very sunny Costa Blanca where I finished a book I’ve been meaning to read for years: “The Trial” by Franz Kafka.

It’s an eerie, unsettling story, written almost a hundred years ago, but like George Orwell’s “1984″ it still has relevance. I won’t reveal too much and spoil the plot, but it’s about a man accused of a crime who doesn’t know the identity of his accusers or even the nature of the crime itself. Somehow, someone has passed information to his accusers and they’ve decided to put him on trial. But what is this information? How was it obtained? How can he clear himself if he doesn’t know the nature of his offence? Suppose the information was wrong or malicious? He descends into a nether world of strange people and places, groping his way through a fog of obscure utterances and unseen obstacles.

I see a parallel amongst the revelations of Edward Snowden, the whistleblower who’s been given temporary asylum in Russia. He spilled the beans about the US surveillance network. It’s hardly surprising the US and other countries spy on each other, but the extent of the US surveillance is a real eye-opener. The network tentacles even extend to EU officials, whose offices have been bugged in an apparent attempt to anticipate what their negotiating tactics will be in the US-EU trade talks.

How is all this information used? Who polices this shadowy world of surveillance? Suppose one of the snoops takes a dislike to you and hacks your personal data, or plants false information? Who do you trust? It could be a nightmare situation, truly Kafkaesque, no matter what country you’re a citizen of.