Czech Republic: Prague – The Franz Kafka museum

Franz Kafka museum is dedicated to the life and works of one of the 20th century’s leading literary figures

Franz Kafka was born in Prague to a middle-class Jewish family, in what was then the Kingdom of Bohemia a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. His passion was writing and he penned many novels and short stories in his short life and became widely recognized as a major figure in 20th- century literature. His work, which fuses elements of realism and the fantastic, typically features isolated protagonists facing bizarre or surrealistic predicaments and incomprehensible socio-bureaucratic powers and has been interpreted as exploring themes of alienation, existential anxiety, guilt, and absurdity.

He trained as a lawyer and after completing his legal education was employed full-time by an insurance company, forcing him to relegate writing to his spare time. Over the course of his life, Kafka wrote hundreds of letters to family and close friends, including his father, with whom he had a strained and formal relationship. He never got married but had some tempestuous relationships with women and got as far as getting engaged on more than one occasion. He died in 1924 at the age of 40 from tuberculosis..

The Museum

Address: Cihelná 2b, 118 00 Prague 1 – Lesser Town
Opening hours: Daily 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Admission fees: CZK 260. Reduced fees for children, seniors and students
Map:
Google Map

Guided tour prices: entrance fee + CZK 800

The Kafka Museum is set in a small courtyard in the centre of which is the most unusual of statues – which as far as I can tell is nothing to do with Kafka, apart from being a homage to his anti-establishmentarianism.

Created by the artist David Cerny’s and installed in 2004 the sculpture consist of two bronze men who waggle their manhood around to spell out messages with their pee. The figures are made of rippling, serrated bronze, looking as though they were crafted from stacked slices of metal. Whilst the figures look to be going aimlessly about their business, they are actually programmed to spell out Czech literary quotes. Bringing this installation into the 20th Century they have enabled anyone to send their own quotes to be peed out by sending a  message via text message to a number (+420 724 370 770) on a plaque near the statue. The statues will interrupt their programmed movement and spell out the words sent to them.

While it might be hard to look away from the swaying metal genitals, the basin the figures relieve themselves into is itself worth noting, as it is shaped like a map of Czechia. These guys aren’t just peeing into a fountain, but onto the country itself. Provocative – yes!

The museum is dedicated to life and works of the legendary Kafka. The first gallery really helps set his life into context with a timeline of his short life and a family tree. There is also a short multimedia film that tells the story of Prague in the early 20th century and the role the Jewish community played in it.

The rest of the exhibits tell the story of Kafka’s education as a lawyer and his time working for the insurance company and how this experience paved the way for the development of his major works, including “The Metamorphosis”. Many of Kafka’s first editions and his letters, manuscripts, photographs and drawings are housed in the museum.

Whether you are a fan of Kafka, a lover of literature or simply interested to find out about a major figure in Prague’s artistic community then this museum is worth a visit. The displays are simple but informative and the galleries are well laid out and captivating. It took us about 90 minutes to work our way through and we were taking our time to read all the pieces on show and spending time with each of the five main multimedia exhibits. It is also centrally located in the Lesser Town close the St Charles bridge – so getting there is a doddle.

One thing to note photography in the museum is not allowed. The photographs below are from the tourist websites for Prague (hence no one is in them!)

 

 

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