By Shazia Anwer Cheema
Kafkaesque is one of the adjectives applied to all types of intolerable or hopeless situations.
Today I met Kafka in the dark corridors of a museum that was named after him, my first thought was; is he the same Kafka I know for years by reading his books or am I going to meet a different person?
It was the same Kafka with all his surrealism, his pains and agonies, his sharp sightedness, his wit, and endurance, even in some points I got to know him better today in Kafka Museum Prague.
I saw his handwriting his handwritten letters to his father his manuscripts the first additions of his work his pictures his acquaintances his peers and his Prague. In one of his letters to his father, he wrote:
“Sometimes I imagine the map of the world spread out flat and you stretched out diagonally across it. And what I feel then is that only those territories come into question for my life that either are not covered by you or are not within your reach. And in keeping with the conception that I have of your magnitude, these are not many and not very comforting territories, and above all marriage is not among them”.
In the display section of “Café Arco at Hibernergasse 16”, information is given that it was the meeting place for young German-Speaking Prague writers, known as “the arconauts”.
Perhaps it was Kafka who best defined their situation in a letter to his friend Max Brood.
“they Jewish writers live beset by three impossibilities: the impossibility of not writing, the impossibility of writing in German and the impossibility of writing differently, and we could add a fourth impossibility: the impossibility of writing at all”.
Kafka’s relation with Prague is eternal, the entire cityscape in his writings is on the backdrop of Prague, although Kafka does not name the place he describes in his novels and stories, quite often we can observe attempts to prove that Kafka’s fictional work takes place in Prague, if we consider that correct than Prague was his house; once he wrote: “your house is protected and self-sufficient, you live in peace, warm, well-nourished, master of all your manifold passages and rooms”.
Kafka had the comfort and protection of a home “Prague” discomfort of existential crisis nurtured by his father, distrust of humanity, and the idea of prevalent pain and suffering being a Jew in the wrong period in history. I think these three factors crafted the Kafka I know the same Kafka I have seen today via, his handwritten letters, his very first editions of the literary master peace we know today, and the journey of his genius.
The trauma of the Holocaust, in which millions of Jews were killed, undoubtedly had a profound impact on Kafka and his writing. Kafka died in 1924 before the Holocaust occurred, but his works, which often deal with themes of oppression, powerlessness, and isolation, have been interpreted as reflecting the experience of Jewish people during this time. Kafka’s works have been associated with surrealism because of their dreamlike quality, their focus on the unconscious mind, and their exploration of the bizarre and the absurd.
Kafka’s experiences growing up in Prague, his difficult relationship with his father, and the trauma of the Holocaust certainly influenced his writing and contributed to his unique style. However, it is worth noting that Kafka himself did not identify as a surrealist and did not consider his work to be part of any particular movement or school of thought. His writing can be seen as a reflection of his own personal struggles and his attempts to make sense of the world around him, rather than as a deliberate attempt to align himself with any artistic movement.
Coming back to the museum, the pictures of Prague, his school, and his house feels like waking through memory lane, the letters to his girlfriends and sister all were there. Like all other European museums, Kafka Museum also utilized the theatricality of a display by providing a narrow corridor having drawers at both sides, dark corners where the psychoanalytical aspect of his writings was displayed in augmented reality, mirrors and screens showing his stories, the inner conflict, helplessness via 3D projection. A hanging net displaying his letter via projectors, his book’s first editions, and hand-corrected manuscripts in a cozy sitting area.
For all Kafka’s fans out there it could be an emotional experience, a person whom we just know by his fictional characters, all of a sudden pulsated like real, I am still thinking about the blue ink and slightly yellowish page and tilted handwriting, it was Kafka for real.
We are created in order to live in Paradise, and Paradise was ordained for us has been changed; it is not said that this has also happened with what was ordained for Paradise.