It’s difficult to separate Franz Kafka from Prague and Prague from Franz Kafka. I’ll admit I haven’t really read his work since college when I argued with a college professor about the type of insect into which Gregor Samsa metamorphosed. I downloaded collected works to my Kindle with the hope of reading some en route to Prague. That didn’t happen, but I still found the aura of Kafka to be a perfect muse.
My first view of Franz Kafka was during a walking tour on my second day in Prague. We quickly passed his birthplace, now named Namésti Franze Kafky (Franz Kafka Place). It’s not the same house, since the Jewish ghetto was replaced at the turn of the 20th century and he was born in 1883. At the corner is a kind of exhibit. Tour guides mentioned it wasn’t worth much and that it was too kitsch. In fact, somehow someone made Kafka a kohane, which I found very confusing.
I elected to participate in a Literary Walking Tour and the professor teaching Czech Lit in our Prague Summer Program showed us several places of Franz Kafka interest. We started at Kafka’s birthplace. Then we ambled closer to Old Town Square and saw this house where Kafka once lived, Dům u Minuty. He lived his whole live essentially in the vicinity of Old Town Square.
From 1912-1918, his father’s wholesale business occupied the ground floor of Kinsky Palace in Old Town Square.
The day after the field trip to Terezin, a classmate and I went to the Prague Castle and to Golden Lane. In 1916, Franz rented a medieval cottage there with his sister Ottla. He wrote here in the evenings, eager to find “real rest.”
Our Jewish Studies class had a session called “Franz Kafka and the Arconauts.” Our instructor had titled this cleverly, because Franz and his Prague Circle had hung out at the Kavárna Arco, no longer in business. To celebrate Franz, we went to the art nouveau Café Imperial and toasted his memory with a drink of our choice. I could just imagine him in this place with his writing buddies and wondered if my view out the window would have been the same as his. I could imagine him with his uncle’s motor bike careening through the city.
Here’s to you, Franz Kafka – ein Prosit, na zdraví…