Franz Kafka Monument
I’ve written about the sculptor Jaroslav Rona and I’ve written about Franz Kafka so what about a post that links them. People might be confused because there will be references to two different Franz Kafka monuments in Prague. If you are looking for the huge shining Franz Kafka head which rotates then read my Modern Art of David Cerny post. If you are looking for the official Franz Kafka monument paid for by the city of Prague then read on. The Franz Kafka Monument is on the route of my Old Town and Jewish Quarter Walking Tour.
When he was alive Franz Kafka was well known in the Prague literary scene and German speaking community (he wrote in German). But when he died in 1924 very little of his writing had been translated into anything other than Czech so we can say that he was not internationally famous in his lifetime at least not outside of Germany.
It’s not until the post World War Two translations into French and English begin to spread his works and ultimately his fame but then events take a turn. In 1948 Czech became ruled by a Communist regime that had no intention of commemorating a dead Jewish writer.
The Recognition of Franz Kafka
The year 2000 marked 10 years after the Velvet Revolution and 9 years since the Communists were removed from power. Obviously there were things to take care of in that time, not least the separation of Czechoslovakia in the 1993 Velvet Divorce and a banking crisis in 1997. By now Franz Kafka’s works including novels, short stories, letters and diaries had been published in 30 different languages and he was internationally known. So the city of Prague decided it was time to honour the man with a monument.
The Franz Kafka Monument
The following year two things were decided. First that the monument should be in place before the 80th anniversary of the death of Franz Kafka which meant before June 2004. Secondly that a competition would be held to decide what the monument would look like and several of the country’s finest artists and sculptors were invited to submit designs. The competition was won by a guy called Jaroslav Rona who was 44 years old at the time.
Back in 1905 when Franz Kafka was at university he wrote a short story (later he shortened it even more) called Description of a Struggle. In this story told in the first-person Kafka meets a character called his “acquaintance”. There is no physical description of the character other than “somewhat dishevelled and out of shape”. Later in the story, actually right at the start of chapter two, Kafka jumps onto the shoulders of the “acquaintance” and tells him to walk forward across Charles Bridge.
Where Is It?
On any tourist map just look for the Spanish Synagogue and you’ll find it’s right outside the front door.
You’ll be drawn to take a picture of the main statue. So many people have held onto the front of Kafka’s shoes that they have become shiny. But take a look at the cobbles under the base of the statue and in amongst the red cobbles are many black ones which make the shape of a “gigantic insect” which is a reference to the opening line of Kafka’s short story called The Metamorphosis.