What makes something “Kafkaesque”?

You can always tell employees of the government by the total vacancy which occupies the space where most other people have faces

— John Kennedy Toole, A Confederacy of Dunces

[t]he bewildering mechanisms of power in stories such as The Trial also “point to something much more sinister”—the idea that arcane bureaucracies become self-perpetuating and operate independently of the people supposedly in power, who are themselves reduced to functionaries of mysterious, unaccountable forces. Tavlin quotes Hannah Arendt, who studied the totalitarian nightmares Kafka presciently foresaw, and wrote of “tyranny without a tyrant.”

Kafka’s comic vision, I think, ultimately partakes in what Miguel de Unamuno called “the tragic sense of life.” But he does not fully deny his characters all freedom of choice, even if they frequently have no idea what it is they’re choosing between or why.