Wandering through Prague we bumped on the poster of Kafka as displayed in the header of this blog. Actually a very alluring poster for the art lover. We decided to visit the Kafka museum. Even though not a connoisseur of his books the memory of reading the Metamorphosis at the age of 17 was still vivid. The uneasy feeling I got while reading this story, even though at the time I probably had no clue about the deeper meaning of it, never left me. Whenever reminded of Kafka this uneasy feeling came back. Therefore a) he must be a fantastic author, b) I must have been quite vulnerable to the atmosphere of the story and c) it was imperative I visit the Kafka museum.
I must say I also was a little apprehensive. This feeling of unease was nothing but a foreboding of the gloomiest museum I ever visited.Upon arrival we were surprised by the work of ‘art’ in front of the museum: a little pond with two men in it, peeing..
The entrance of the museum. So far so good. A huge K indicating this was it. We entered. Once again it was very quiet. No tourists around yet. When we were at the Mucha museum we purchased the tickets for the Kafka museum. This way we would not have to stand in line and we got a 50% reduction. There was no line. We were the only ones there. The girl at the desk gave us directions and urged us to keep our coats on since it was very cold upstairs..
It was very cold indeed, and very dark. The windows had been blackened to create a dark atmosphere. Everything was black. The cold spread out from physical cold to emotional cold after reading Kafka’s life’s story which is being told in pictures. The more one reads, the more uneasy one gets.
Kafka according to Wikipedia:
Kafka was a culturally influential German-language author of short stories and novels. Contemporary critics and academics, including Vladimir Nabokov,regard Kafka as one of the best writers of the 20th century. The term “Kafkaesque” has become part of the English language.
Kafka was born to middle class German-speaking Jewish parents in Prague, Bohemia, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The house in which he was born, on the Old Town Square next to Prague’s Church of St Nicholas, now contains a permanent exhibition devoted to the author.
Kafka was born into a middle-class Ashkenazi Jewish family in Prague (now the Czech Republic). His father, Hermann Kafka (1852–1931), was described as a “huge, selfish, overbearing businessman”and by Kafka himself as “a true Kafka in strength, health, appetite, loudness of voice, eloquence, self-satisfaction, worldly dominance, endurance, presence of mind, [and] knowledge of human nature”.Hermann was the fourth child of Jacob Kafka, a shochet or ritual slaughterer, and came to Prague from Osek, a Czech-speaking Jewish village near Písek in southern Bohemia. After working as a traveling sales representative, he established himself as an independent retailer of men’s and women’s fancy goods and accessories, employing up to 15 people and using a jackdaw (kavka in Czech) as his business logo. Kafka’s mother, Julie (1856–1934), was the daughter of Jakob Löwy, a prosperous brewer in Poděbrady, and was better educated than her husband.
Franz was the eldest of six children.He had two younger brothers: Georg and Heinrich, who died at the ages of fifteen months and seven months, respectively, before Franz was seven; and three younger sisters, Gabriele (“Elli”) (1889–1944), Valerie (“Valli”) (1890–1944) and Ottilie (“Ottla”) (1892–1943). On business days, both parents were absent from the home. His mother helped to manage her husband’s business and worked in it as many as 12 hours a day. The children were largely reared by a series of governesses and servants. Kafka’s relationship with his father was severely troubled as explained in the Letter to His Father in which he complained of being profoundly affected by his father’s authoritarian and demanding character.
During World War II, the Nazi Germans deported Kafka’s sisters with their families to the Łódź Ghetto and they died there or in extermination camps. Ottla was sent to the concentration camp at Theresienstadt and then on 7 October 1943 to the death camp at Auschwitz.
Some sources have claimed that Kafka possessed a schizoid personality disorder– rather a rare type/trait according to some authors. His work, they claim, not only in The Metamorphosis, but in various other writings, appear to show medium to low-level schizoid characteristics which explain much of his surprising work. However, a study of Kafka’s family and early life by psychoanalyst Alice Miller in her book Thou Shalt Not Be Aware offers a different angle on the sources of Kafka’s psychological anguish and his expression of his painful early life in his writings.
There are speculations regarding Kafka’s sexuality and a possible eating disorder. In a 1988 paper published by the Psychiatric Clinic of the University of Munich “evidence for the hypothesis that the poet Franz Kafka had suffered from an atypical anorexia nervosa is presented.”
After visiting this museum the term Kafkaesque makes much more sense to me ..
My portrait in pencil of the tormented author…