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Stories from our Travelers

Franz Kafka Museum, Prague

Prague, Czech Republic
by Susan Begy

[From Spring-Summer 2008]

Prague in winter is quiet and haunting, and an ideal backdrop for a visit to a museum dedicated to one of the city’s native sons. Tucked along the west bank of the Vltava River is the small museum that contemplates the life of Franz Kafka, arguably Prague’s most internationally well-known writer. The best approach to the museum is via the 14th-century Charles Bridge, a remarkable example of medieval artistry and engineering. From the bridge, meander through cobblestone streets lined with perfectly preserved baroque buildings before reaching the modest structure that houses the exhibition. Before setting foot into the museum, be sure to take notice of the unusual and whimsical verdigris figures flanking the entrance (more on these later).

The long-term exhibition, The City of K. Franz Kafka and Prague, which in 2005 arrived in Prague after shows in Barcelona and New York’s Jewish Museum, consists of two parts. The first, Existential Space, chronicles the events of his short life as well as the controlling influence that 20th century Prague had on his art and life. The second part, Imaginary Topography, is an imaginative display of audio and visual effects, which reflects his distinct form of metaphorical imagery and distortion of reality. Here, the interplay of light, eerie music and misleading mirrors draws the visitor into Kafka’s world of ambiguity and alienation; in other words, an intellectual funhouse.

This comprehensive exhibition includes most of the first editions of Kafka’s work, as well as his letters, diaries, manuscripts and photographs. Fortunately for the world (and visitors to the museum), Kafka’s closest friend, Max Brod, did not carry out his dying friend’s wishes that all his works be burned.

But back to those verdigris figures feeding the fountain; you won’t want to miss the opportunity to reflect on what Kafka might have thought of them!

Details: The Franz Kafka Museum is located at Hergetova Cihelna, Cihelna 2b; across the river via the Charles Bridge from the landmarks of Old Town Square and the Astronomical Clock. Tickets may be purchased at the shop across the street, which also sells a complete range of Kafka’s work. Admission is approximately $7.40 (at 16.19 CZK to the US$). For more information, please visit www.kafkamuseum.cz

Susan Begy is a fine artist whose compelling work in contemporary realism has been exhibited in group and solo exhibitions across the country, and in several corporate and private collections. Her artist’s eye on Prague drew her to the newly opened Franz Kafka Museum. Always seeking new challenges in both her life and work, Susan this Fall will begin an MFA program at New York’s School of Visual Arts. She currently lives with her family in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

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