Kafka’s novel “Castle» has recently fallen into my hands. My comrade advised to read it. He assured that this book was entertaining and he had not disappointed me. So this novel carried me away, and I became interested in the personality of the writer. Well, you know how it happens. When the book is not interesting to you, you absolutely do not care about the author. I think you are not interested in the biography of the sports columnist. I hope so.))
But in this case it stirred me up and I really wanted to know: who is this sad gentleman wearing jacket? What can make a man to describe the fantastic events so stirring and fascinating? What kind of people can invent such stories?
Tormented by these questions, I looked through the available sources and found…
… Franz Kafka was born, grew up, spent half a lifetime in PRAGUE (he also was buried in Prague). Frankly, I was shocked. In my mind the words “Prague” and “Kafka” could not be in one sentence. Because I clearly remember from the course of foreign literature: Franz Kafka, the German-speaking writer, Austro-Hungary, modernism, existentialism and so on. For some reason it immediately calls up the associations with white whiskers, Franz Josef, Vienna and other things. I confess that I cannot remember more…)) I was captured by the titles, labels and stereotypes.
Somehow it slipped out of my head that: a) the Czech Republic was a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire right up to its breakdown happened after World War I; b) there are a lot of different languages and peoples in Prague.
Kafka (“a culturally influential German-language novelist. Contemporary critics and academics regard Kafka as one of the best writers of the 20th century” – quote from wiki) was a Jew who didn’t know Jewish, but knew German, Czech and French.
But let’s go back to Prague.
I know that there is Kafka’s museum in Prague; I have even passed it by couple of times. But to my surprise it turned out that this is not the only place in Prague connected with this remarkable writer. There are four houses (around the Old Town Square in the busy tourist area of the city), on which you can hang such signs «a great writer lived here.» It is due to the fact that Kafka’s family was gradually becoming richer, so the family several times moved to new decent apartments. This relocation ended when they finally moved to the house, which is located directly opposite the town hall. Now there is a bookstore named after Kafka and a permanent exhibition of the National Gallery. At those times there was a German high school, in which Franz had studied.
And now we are becoming closer to the time, which strongly influenced on the work of the future writer. To his childhood. It seems that the non-poor family with a constantly rising incomes, nice house, a governess, nurse and house full of servants. With such living conditions child is usually very spoilt. But all this bliss had the other side of the coin.
Herman (father of Franz) was a very authoritarian and even despotic man. In addition, Franz was the first child and as it often happens, the parents tried out all methods of upbringing. So, the boy got a lot of troubles. Many literary critics agree that only because of pressure of his father, Kafka fatally could not resist somebody’s will. Of course, all this was poured out into mental anguish, doubt, uncertainty, nervous system diseases and other troubles.
Therefore it is not a surprise that since childhood, barely finding the opportunity at least briefly slipping out from under parental care, Franz liked travels to the magical streets of old quarters, visits to synagogues and churches, and sitting between the plates of the ancient Jewish cemetery.
Having read history books and stories, he imagined a meeting with the ghosts of bygone creatures and inhabitants of these places, which were frightful even for him.
Kafka as Greene or Stevenson is a typical example of the situation when difficulties on one hand and imagination on the other hand help to create masterpieces.
Hometown inspired and at the same time antagonized Kafka. On the one hand Kafka constantly uses his images in his novels, but on the other hand, he tries to leave it and to escape from parental care. Then he returns and leaves again.
In general, Franz Kafka (that is what I have found about him) always doubted. For example, during his life he wrote more than 200 different works. But he published only several short stories. The rest of his works he ordered to hide or destroy after his death. Thanks to his friends, who dared to break the will, people had known about his talent.
Kafka in Czech Republic is as like Gogol in Ukraine. It is hard to understand whose writer he was. Maybe he is native, or maybe is foreign. It is clear that Kafka is world-renowned and brilliant fellow-countryman. But there is something wrong with that. Maybe that is why so Kafka monument in Prague is weirder than Yaroslav Hasek monument. Apparently the Czechs did not understand their great countryman… or maybe it is me who don’t understand the Czechs.
So, my dear friends, if you have not read any of Kafka’s works, you should do it immediately. Attention! In addition to the novels, Kafka wrote a lot of other things. But it is better to start with the novels. And if you have “Letters to his father”, read it without fail. But only in case if you liked novels.
Kafka is very cool, isn’t he?)))