“We photograph things in order to drive them out of our minds.” Kafka

5 Jan

Ask anyone who is the most recognizable author in Prague, and many will surely answer Franz Kafka.  Kafka, from a wealthy German-speaking Jewish Family, was raised in Prague; the city which he is quoted as saying, “Prague never lets you go… this dear little mother has sharp claws.”

Prague made him, owned him, and one is never quite sure when walking through the streets if Kafka was the surrealist, or if it is just Prague.  I mean, Prague is Kafkaesque, but really, there is no Kafka without Prague.

I visited the Kafka museum in December and had very little expectations because how much can you do with a museum about an author, right?  I mean, people go see Hemingway’s home, but you’re really just paying to keep some six toed cats alive.  But this, this was something entirely different.  This museum is truly Art divided into two parts: Existential Space and Imaginary Topography and is heavy on audio-visual stimulation.

In Existential Space, you see what shapes young Kafka, and what in turn drives him into despair   You walk in and the first thing I heard was a loud cat meow. WTF?  Then what sounds like a car crash, a pop sound, and then somewhere louder in the distance, guiding you toward it is strange, what I can only describe as “absinthy,” music.  You follow and you are struck with a screen that morphs landscapes from the city around you as you look at pictures of the town, it’s people and Kafka’s relations.

prague 1050Keep following hypnotically on to a striking display of the women in Kafka’s life; their transparent images containing the last of their worldly possessions.  He never married.

You learn about him becoming a lawyer then having a successful, but miserable career in Insurance.  Slowly and physically, you begin to spiral into madness with him; all the while following the light and music.




prague 1055Next you are hit with the oppressive labyrinth of floor to ceiling filing cabinets.  Before it, a looped video of drawings Kafka made of a man at his desk; afflicted. And you begin to feel it too, because you know the sentiment.  Trapped in a cage, making money for some asshole.  Devastating.

We transition sometimes simultaneously into Imaginary Topography as landmarks in Prague melt away and become allegorical place.  He wrote, “We photograph things in order to drive them out of our minds.  My stories are a way of shutting my eyes.”  He was tortured by writing and not writing all at once, and it is no different for many of us today.

The museum ends with an installation that starts with a bright white light and ends with a man trudging along.  It is so simply beautiful that I watched it several times.


Like the book you at first can’t put down, only to wait a month to read the last chapter; I never wanted it to end.


Where does your wanderlust take you?

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Rachel Louise Martin, Ph.D.

“‘It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwards,’ says the White Queen to Alice” ― Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass

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