Crop of Charles Bridge (2009), by Paul Cook. Charles Bridge (Karlův most) lies over the Vitava River in Kafka's hometown of Prague.
Franz Kafka (1883-1924)
Kafka Museum is situated a stone's throw away from Charles Bridge, alongside Vlatva River in the Lesser Quarter. It was open in 2005 and boasts a vast collection of historical photographs and film recordings, manuscripts, diaries, drawings, sketches, newspaper cuttings, original letters, documents and publications relating to Franz Kafka's literary works, life, and cultural surroundings.
The exhibition comprises of two sections: Existential Space and Imaginary Topography. The first part examines the impact Prague had on Kafka's literary imagination and writing. "Prague contributes myth, obscure magic and provides a magnificent backdrop" as the exhibition informs us. The second part of the exhibition, seeks to establish connections between Prague and its literary represantions in writer's novels. For example, there is a possibility that the anonymous cathedral which appears in the key chapter of The Trial, could have its origin in St Vitus Cathedral or that the mysterious river which flows in The Judgement narrative could have corresponded to Vlatva River. Kafka was rather enigmatic about the locations he incorporated in his creative discourse. He was not interested in producing an accurate portrayal of Prague. As the museum suggests, he sought to transform Prague into an "Imaginary Topography". He wanted to transform it beyond its physical self. Enigmatic descriptions of the urban architecture in Kafka's novels render the locations anonymous. His characters are not encircled or confined to a particular region, location or a city. They are confined to stifling emotional states, oppressive processes and inescapable situations. They are the states and processes everyone experiences and can identify with at a certain stage of one's life.
As mentioned before, the museum is arranged around Kafka's literary themes. Diverse items as photographs, audiovisual installations, letters, and music allow the exhibition space to simulate Kafka's or K.'s existential space. "Key passages from Kafka's diaries, novels, and short stories written in white block letters on dark, "muddy" walls, wooden pallets, or an ascending staircase leading nowhere interrupt the eye as one passes from exhibit to the next"(source: a review of "The City of K.: Franz Kafka and Prague," The Jewish Museum, New York, August 11, 2002 to January 5, 2003,Victor E. Taylor, York College of Pennsylvania, click on here to read the whole article).
Franz Kafka (1883-1924) was a Czech-born German-language writer whose surreal fiction vividly expressed the anxiety, alienation, and powerlessness of the individual in the 20th century. Kafka's work is characterized by nightmarish settings in which characters are crushed by nonsensical, blind authority. Thus, the word Kafkaesque is often applied to bizarre and impersonal administrative situations where the individual feels powerless to understand or control what is happening. The first recorded appearance of "Kafkaesque" in English was in 1946 (Merriam-Webster Dictionary).