The Trial

The novel’s protagonist. Josef works as the chief clerk of a bank and appears poised for success—until an unexplained arrest and protracted trial consume his life, and eventually leads to his execution. Though Josef is an arrogant, calculating, and judgmental man, his failed struggle to understand a byzantine justice system provokes the reader’s sympathy.

Josef K. Quotes in The Trial

The The Trial quotes below are all either spoken by Josef K. or refer to Josef K.. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Justice vs. The Law Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Oxford University Press edition of The Trial published in 2009.
Chapter 1 Quotes

Someone must have been telling tales about Josef K., for one morning, without having done anything wrong, he was arrested.

Related Characters: Josef K.
Page Number: 5
Explanation and Analysis:

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What kind of people were they? What were they talking about? Which department did they belong to? After all, K. had rights, the country was at peace, the laws had not been suspended—who, then, had the audacity to descend on him in the privacy of his own home?

Related Characters: Josef K.
Page Number: 7
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 2 Quotes

He [Josef] went out, grasped her [Fraulein Burstner], kissed her on the lips and then all over her face, like a thirsty animal furiously lapping at the water of the spring it has found at last. Finally he kissed her on the neck, over the throat, and left his lips there for a long time.

Related Characters: Josef K., Fraulein Burstner
Page Number: 26
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 3 Quotes

He was annoyed that he hadn’t been told precisely where the room was, the manner in which he was being treated was strangely negligent or offhand, a point he intended to make loudly and clearly. Finally he went up the first staircase after all, with the memory of something the guard Willem had said going through his mind, namely that the court was attracted by guilt, so that logically the hearing should be held in a room on the staircase K. happened to choose.

Related Characters: Josef K.
Page Number: 30
Explanation and Analysis:

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The woman really did tempt him and, however much he thought about it, he could find no plausible reason why he should not yield to the temptation. He easily dismissed the cursory objection that she would tie him to the court. In what way could she tie him? Would he not still remain free enough to crush the court at one blow, at least insofar as it affected him? Could he not have confidence in himself to do that small thing? And her offer of help sounded genuine and was perhaps not to be discounted. Could there be any better revenge on the examining magistrate and his entourage, than to deprive them of this woman and take her to himself?

Related Characters: Josef K.
Page Number: 45
Explanation and Analysis:

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He felt as if he were seasick, as if he were on a ship in a heavy sea. It was as if the water were crashing against the wooden walls, as if a rushing sound came from the far end of the corridor, like water pouring over, as if the corridor were rocking to and fro and as if the people sitting on either side were going up and down. It made the calm of the young woman and the man who were helping him to the exit all the more incomprehensible.

Related Characters: Josef K.
Related Symbols: The Court’s Oppressive Air
Page Number: 56-57
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 5 Quotes

He felt anguish at having been unable to prevent the thrashing, but it wasn’t his fault. If Franz hadn’t screamed—true, it must have hurt a lot, but a man should be able to control himself at decisive moments—if Franz hadn’t screamed then K. would, at least very probably, have found some means of winning the thrasher over.

Related Characters: Josef K., Franz and Willem, The Cane-Wielder
Page Number: 61
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 6 Quotes

Please don’t ask me for names, but stop making this mistake, stop being intransigent, no one can resist this court, you just have to confess. Confess at the next opportunity. It’s only then there’s a possibility of escaping, only then, though even that’s not possible without outside help. But you needn’t worry about that, I’ll provide the help myself.

Related Characters: Leni (speaker), Josef K.
Page Number: 77
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 7 Quotes

It was very important, because the first impression the defence made often determined the whole course of the trial. Unfortunately he [Herr Huld] had to point out to K. that it sometimes happened that first submissions to the court were not read at all. They were simply filed, and the officials declared that hearing and observing the accused was more important than any written material. If the petitioner was insistent they would add that, once all the material had been gathered and before a decision was reached, all the files, including the first submission, would naturally be reviewed as a whole. Unfortunately, he said, that too was mostly incorrect, the first submission was usually mislaid or completely lost, and even if it was kept right to the end it was hardly read, though he, the lawyer, had only heard rumours to that effect.

Related Characters: Josef K., Herr Huld
Page Number: 81
Explanation and Analysis:

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‘Yes,’ said the painter, ‘it was in the commission that I had to paint her like that, it’s actually Justice and the Goddess of Victory at the same time.’ ‘That’s not a good combination,’ said K. with a smile, ‘Justice has to be in repose, otherwise the scales will wobble and a just verdict will not be possible.’ ‘I’m following my client’s wishes,’ the painter said. ‘Yes, of course,’ said K., who had not intended to offend anyone with his remark. ‘You’ll have painted the figure as it is on the chair.’ ‘No,’ said the painter, ‘I’ve never seen either the figure or the chair, but I was told what I was to paint.’

Related Characters: Josef K. (speaker), Titorelli (speaker)
Related Symbols: Titorelli’s Painting of the Judge
Page Number: 104
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 9 Quotes

Then the priest shouted down at K., ‘Can’t you see even two steps in front of you?’ It was shouted angrily, but at the same time as if by a person who can see someone falling and shouts out automatically, throwing caution to the winds because he is horrified himself.

Related Characters: The Prison Chaplain (speaker), Josef K.
Page Number: 152
Explanation and Analysis:

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The court does not want anything from you. It receives you when you come and dismisses you when you go.

Related Characters: The Prison Chaplain (speaker), Josef K.
Related Symbols: The Prison Chaplain’s Parable
Page Number: 160
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 10 Quotes

Then Fräulein Bürstner appeared in the square, coming up a small set of steps from a lower street. It wasn’t quite certain that it was her, though the similarity was great. But K. wasn’t bothered whether it was definitely Fräulein Bürstner or not, it was just that he immediately became aware of the futility of his resistance. There was nothing heroic about his resistance, about making things difficult for the two men, about trying to enjoy the last semblance of life as he defended himself.

Related Characters: Josef K., Fraulein Burstner
Page Number: 162
Explanation and Analysis:

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I’m grateful that I’ve been given these two half-mute, uncomprehending men to accompany me on my way and it’s been left to me to tell myself everything that is needful.

Related Characters: Josef K. (speaker)
Page Number: 163
Explanation and Analysis:

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His eye fell on the top storey of the house beside the quarry. Like a flash of light, the two casements of a window parted and a human figure, faint and thin from the distance and height, leant far out in one swift movement then stretched its arms out even farther. Who was it? A friend? A kind person? Someone who felt for him? Someone who wanted to help? Was it just one? Or all of them? Was help still possible? Were there still objections he’d forgotten? Of course there were. Logic may be unshakeable, but it cannot hold out against a human being who wants to live. Where was the judge he had never seen? Where was the high court he had never reached?

Related Characters: Josef K.
Page Number: 164
Explanation and Analysis:

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‘Like a dog!’ he said. It seemed as if his shame would live on after him.

Related Characters: Josef K. (speaker)
Page Number: 165
Explanation and Analysis:

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Josef K. Character Timeline in The Trial

The timeline below shows where the character Josef K. appears in The Trial. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Justice vs. The Law Theme Icon
The Unknowable and Interpretation Theme Icon
One morning, Josef K.’s breakfast does not arrive at the usual time. He is surprised by this unprecedented... (full context)
Justice vs. The Law Theme Icon
The Absurd Theme Icon
The Unknowable and Interpretation Theme Icon
Alienation and Control Theme Icon
Josef exits his room anyway, hoping to speak to his landlady, Frau Grubach. He finds a... (full context)
Justice vs. The Law Theme Icon
The Absurd Theme Icon
The Unknowable and Interpretation Theme Icon
Alienation and Control Theme Icon
The policemen continue to talk, and Josef tries to analyze his position, calculating the costs and benefits of each possible response. Because... (full context)
Justice vs. The Law Theme Icon
The Absurd Theme Icon
The Unknowable and Interpretation Theme Icon
Alienation and Control Theme Icon
Josef asks the men to produce an arrest warrant. The men respond that they cannot answer... (full context)
Justice vs. The Law Theme Icon
The Absurd Theme Icon
The Unknowable and Interpretation Theme Icon
Suddenly, the men yell to Josef that their supervisor wants to see him. The police insist that Josef put on his... (full context)
Alienation and Control Theme Icon
The supervisor tells Josef that he may leave for his job at the bank. They tensely part ways, and... (full context)
Alienation and Control Theme Icon
After work, Josef usually takes a walk and goes to a pub with his colleagues; once a week,... (full context)
Alienation and Control Theme Icon
Sex and Seduction Theme Icon
On his way out of Frau Grubach’s room, Josef asks about Fraulein Burstner’s whereabouts. Grubach tells him that the young woman hasn’t yet returned... (full context)
Alienation and Control Theme Icon
Sex and Seduction Theme Icon
Josef waits until 11:30, when Fraulein Burstner arrives. She invites him into her room, where Josef... (full context)
Alienation and Control Theme Icon
Sex and Seduction Theme Icon
Josef comforts Fraulein Burstner, who is concerned about the disturbance he has caused. Impulsively, he showers... (full context)
Chapter 2
Justice vs. The Law Theme Icon
Alienation and Control Theme Icon
At work, Josef receives a phone call informing him that the first of many frequent cross-examinations of his... (full context)
The Unknowable and Interpretation Theme Icon
That Sunday, Josef awakes groggily; he had been out drinking the past night. Though he does not know... (full context)
The Absurd Theme Icon
The Unknowable and Interpretation Theme Icon
Alienation and Control Theme Icon
The building itself is a sprawling complex. There are many stairwells to choose from, and Josef is irked that he was not given more precise directions to the room of his... (full context)
The Absurd Theme Icon
The Unknowable and Interpretation Theme Icon
Josef works his way up the stairs, walking through a group of children at play. As... (full context)
Justice vs. The Law Theme Icon
The Absurd Theme Icon
The Unknowable and Interpretation Theme Icon
Alienation and Control Theme Icon
Josef knocks on a door, and a young woman washing children’s clothing motions him into a... (full context)
Justice vs. The Law Theme Icon
The Absurd Theme Icon
The Unknowable and Interpretation Theme Icon
Alienation and Control Theme Icon
The man, who appears to be a judge, informs Josef that he no longer has an obligation to hear his case, but that he will... (full context)
Justice vs. The Law Theme Icon
The Absurd Theme Icon
The Unknowable and Interpretation Theme Icon
Alienation and Control Theme Icon
Josef tells the judge that his uninformed question suggests that the proceedings against him are careless... (full context)
Justice vs. The Law Theme Icon
The Absurd Theme Icon
The Unknowable and Interpretation Theme Icon
Alienation and Control Theme Icon
Sex and Seduction Theme Icon
In response to Josef’s insolence, the judge rocks back and forth in his chair. The previously divided crowd has... (full context)
Justice vs. The Law Theme Icon
The Absurd Theme Icon
The Unknowable and Interpretation Theme Icon
Alienation and Control Theme Icon
Josef jumps down from the podium. He looks at the crowd anxiously and begins to doubt... (full context)
Chapter 3
The Absurd Theme Icon
The Unknowable and Interpretation Theme Icon
Alienation and Control Theme Icon
Josef spends the next week waiting for another court summons, and is aghast when none arrives.... (full context)
Justice vs. The Law Theme Icon
The Absurd Theme Icon
The Unknowable and Interpretation Theme Icon
Sex and Seduction Theme Icon
The woman flirtatiously offers to help Josef with his trial. He asks her to show him the judge’s books, and she obliges,... (full context)
Justice vs. The Law Theme Icon
Alienation and Control Theme Icon
Sex and Seduction Theme Icon
The woman then warns Josef that the amorous law student, Berthold, is watching them. Sure enough, the man stands in... (full context)
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Josef lingers in the room while the woman and the student talk. After some time, the... (full context)
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The student carries the woman away. Josef understands this altercation as the first genuine setback he has suffered thus far, and realizes... (full context)
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The court usher enters the room and introduces himself to Josef, whom he recognizes as a defendant. The usher confesses that his superiors constantly abuse his... (full context)
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The usher has to report to the law office, and asks if Josef would like to join him. Josef comes along, and the usher leads him into a... (full context)
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Josef continues along the corridor, with the usher following behind him. Suddenly, he begins to feel... (full context)
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The woman tells Josef that he cannot stay sitting where he is, and asks a well-dressed man to bring... (full context)
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The woman introduces the man as the official information-giver, and together, the two lead Josef out of the offices. On the way, the woman explains to Josef that neither she... (full context)
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Finally, they reach the door to the outside, and Josef is so weak that he hardly realizes that he can leave. He is revitalized by... (full context)
Chapter 4
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Josef goes to great lengths to find Fraulein Burstner, but is unsuccessful. He even writes her... (full context)
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Sunday marks the fifth day since Frau Grubach angered Josef, and he has not spoken to her since. That morning, Frau Grubach brings Josef his... (full context)
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The maid informs Josef that Fraulein Montag has sent for him. He goes to Montag’s room, and she tersely... (full context)
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Josef thanks Fraulein Montag and gets up to leave. Just as he reaches the door, Frau... (full context)
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After he leaves Fraulein Montag and Captain Lanz, Josef realizes that he has an opportunity to confront Fraulein Burstner alone. He checks to see... (full context)
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The room is empty, and has been completely rearranged. As he leaves Fraulein Burstner’s room, Josef notices Fraulein Montag and the Captain conversing in the dining room. They glance at him... (full context)
Chapter 5
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Several days later, Josef prepares to return home after staying at the office well into the evening. As he... (full context)
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Franz and Willem explain to Josef that they are being punished because Josef condemned their behavior during his hearing. Josef counters... (full context)
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Willem protests against the cane-wielder’s words, saying that he is only being punished because of Josef’s complaints. Moreover, Willem adds, Josef has ruined the policemen’s career prospects. Willem’s interruption is punished... (full context)
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Josef offers to pay the cane-wielder not to hit the policemen, but the man declines on... (full context)
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Franz begins to make horrible noises as he suffers under the cane, and Josef promptly leaves the room. He tells a coworker not to worry about the noise, and... (full context)
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Josef stews with anxiety about the policemen’s predicament, but convinces himself that Franz’s screaming forced his... (full context)
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The next day, Josef’s thoughts are dominated by the anguished policemen. That evening, he revisits the room where they... (full context)
Chapter 6
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Josef is visited at work by his uncle Karl, a landowner from the country. Josef had... (full context)
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...possibility that it will disgrace the family. Karl offers to help however he can, but Josef dismisses his uncle’s concerns calmly. This nonchalance only agitates Karl further. (full context)
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Karl takes Josef to meet his friend, a defense lawyer named Herr Huld. At Huld’s house, his maid,... (full context)
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The office director enters the conversation but speaks only to the older men, ignoring Josef completely. Josef thinks he recognizes the director from the front row of his hearing. (full context)
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Suddenly, the conversation is interrupted by the sound of shattering porcelain. Josef leaves to investigate the noise. He finds Leni, who confesses that she destroyed a plate... (full context)
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Leni asks Josef if he has a lover, and he shows her a picture of Elsa. Leni criticizes... (full context)
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When Josef leaves, Leni gives him a key and tells him to return whenever he wishes. Outside,... (full context)
Chapter 7
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On a winter morning, Josef worries that his lawyer, Herr Huld, is doing nothing to help him. Josef has come... (full context)
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Although Josef is extremely tired, he realizes that he must play a more decisive role in his... (full context)
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As Josef grows more disheartened and more distracted, he realizes that he has kept a number of... (full context)
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The deputy director of the bank enters Josef’s office. The manufacturer criticizes Josef’s unwillingness to conduct business, and Josef can only stare pathetically... (full context)
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Now alone, Josef worries about the burden he has assumed by taking responsibility for his own defense in... (full context)
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Josef accepts a letter of recommendation and Titorelli’s address from the manufacturer. He decides to visit... (full context)
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Josef makes his way to Titorelli’s neighborhood, which is located near the courts. The painter’s building... (full context)
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Titorelli reads the letter from the manufacturer, but still does not seem to understand why Josef has come. The painter asks Josef if he is interested in buying paintings, and Josef... (full context)
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Titorelli explains his knowledge of the court. If Josef is to be acquitted, the painter says, it can happen in one of three ways:... (full context)
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As Josef grows increasingly uncomfortable in the stifling air of the poorly-ventilated apartment, Titorelli explains the apparent... (full context)
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Josef is disappointed to hear that it is essentially impossible for a defendant to regain his... (full context)
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To avoid the girls outside, Titorelli leads Josef out the back door. Josef is shocked to discover that this door leads to a... (full context)
Chapter 8
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After much deliberation, Josef decides that he will no longer retain his lawyer. Late that night, Josef goes to... (full context)
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...bearded man introduces himself as Block. He is a tradesman and a client of Huld’s. Josef’s control of this conversation makes him feel like he is speaking with an inferior person... (full context)
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The men come upon Leni making soup in the lawyer’s kitchen. Josef interrogates Leni about her relationship to Block, but she flatteringly assures him that he has... (full context)
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In the kitchen, Josef asks Block about his case. Block begins to prattle about his business and his trial.... (full context)
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...states that a defendant’s verdict can be ascertained by looking at his lips, and that Josef’s lips indicated a swift conviction. Block, however, thinks this superstition is nonsense. (full context)
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Leni returns to the kitchen to tell Josef that Huld is waiting for him. Josef presses Block to continue speaking, but he seems... (full context)
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Leni shows Josef the cramped room that Block sleeps in, and the merchant’s pathetic presence is suddenly too... (full context)
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In his office, Huld chastises Josef for keeping him waiting. Josef responds coldly. Noticing his maid’s behavior, Huld tells Josef that... (full context)
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Josef announces his plan to withdraw Huld’s representation. The lawyer is taken aback and even gets... (full context)
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Josef asks Huld what action he would take if Josef retained him. Huld simply replies that... (full context)
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Josef protests Huld’s treatment of Block, but Block is insulted and lashes out at Josef. Block... (full context)
Chapter 9
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An important Italian partner of the bank is visiting the city, and Josef is assigned to show him around. Though this would ordinarily be an honor to Josef,... (full context)
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The day before the tour, Josef reviews Italian grammar late into the night. The next morning, Josef arrives early, hoping to... (full context)
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Through the morning, Josef struggles to learn the vocabulary he will need to tour the cathedral. He receives a... (full context)
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Josef is worried that he may arrive late, but reaches the cathedral at the stroke of... (full context)
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As Josef studies a small pulpit in the corner, he notices a priest preparing to give a... (full context)
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The priest reveals that he is the prison chaplain, and that he had Josef summoned to the church in order to speak with him. The chaplain tells Josef his... (full context)
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Josef asks the chaplain to descend from the pulpit, and the priest agrees, having fulfilled his... (full context)
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Josef responds that the man has clearly been cheated, and the chaplain tells him this conclusion... (full context)
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After extensive discussion, the chaplain asks Josef if he wants to leave. Though Josef hadn’t considered leaving, he remembers his position at... (full context)
Chapter 10
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On the eve of Josef’s thirty-first birthday, two men in coats pay an unexpected visit to Josef’s apartment. Josef inexplicably... (full context)
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The men reach an empty town square, decorated with flowers. Just as Josef makes up his mind to walk no further, he spots Fraulein Burstner, or a woman... (full context)
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The group passes over a bridge and Josef glances nostalgically at some benches where he had once rested. He is quickly embarrassed when... (full context)
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A policeman approaches Josef and his escorts. Josef forces his escorts to continue walking, and even breaks into a... (full context)
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The men prop Josef on a rock by the quarry and remove his coat and shirt. They behave bizarrely... (full context)
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Josef raises his arms, but one of the men clasps his throat while the other thrusts... (full context)